Connecticut College Magazine · Summer 2007


Peter Som ´93: A Designing Life

Summer 2007

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Living on Rock ´N´ Roll

Living on Rock ´N´ Roll
Rebecca Rose Shapiro ´95 is director of publicity at Shore Fire Media.

Since rock ´n´ roll´s beginnings in the 1950s, competition for a career in the music industry has been fierce. The recent splintering of the major record label system, due to a decline in CD sales, has only made it more competitive. Nevertheless, four Connecticut College alumni have made their marks in this make-or-break industry.

Andy Karp ´89, executive vice president and head of A&R (artist and repertoire) for Atlantic Records, grew up playing music, progressing from piano to bass guitar and then drums and saxophone. While majoring in government at the College, he immersed himself in the campus band scene and studied music theory and production.

Classes with Noel Zahler, a former professor of music at CC, served as a source of inspiration. "He really opened my eyes to the world of music. When I started here in the record business, it was something I could talk about with artists."

It was the "musician within" that helped Karp navigate the treacherous waters of the industry. After graduation, he supported his dreams of playing music professionally by working as a studio engineer in his native New York City. But Karp quickly learned that it´s "as hard to make a living as an engineer as it is being a musician."

Following six weeks in the mailroom of a hip-hop record label, he landed a job as a runner in the promotions department of Atlantic. Now 18 years later, Karp sits atop a star-studded roster at Atlantic that includes artists from Duke Ellington to Led Zeppelin.

"It was a pretty conventional bottom-up kind of story," says the former housefellow. "The fact that I´m a [musician] and I have studio experience and can speak that language helped me have credibility with artists and producers."

His primary responsibilities include overseeing all artist signings as well as the production of each album on the label. "Essentially it´s making sure that what we are trying to sell is high enough quality for someone to want to buy it," he explains. One of his most successful signings was rap-rocker Kid Rock, who sold 10 million copies of his Grammy-nominated debut album in 1998.

Nick Stern ´99 left a position last fall as senior director of publicity for Atlantic Records to create his own company, 7-10 Music. Coincidentally, one of the artists that he still represents for his new venture is Andy Karp´s discovery, Kid Rock. Stern will be managing the press coverage for Rock´s next album, to be released this fall.

Stern´s work in the music industry started with high-school internships. Growing up in New York City, he was able to continue these internships each summer, beginning at Atlantic after his freshman year at CC.

Stern was an English major and "the geek who booked all the concerts." He brought in Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds for a rare sold-out performance at Palmer Auditorium in January 1997.

Using his experiences from industry internships, Stern worked at several record labels until a chance meeting with Atlantic President Ron Shapiro led to a job offer as a publicist. Three years later, Stern was senior director of publicity for Atlantic Records, managing press coverage for the label´s 100-plus artists.

When his friends — Alec Ounsworth ´00, Sean Greenhalgh ´01, Lee Sargent ´00, Robbie Guertin ´02 and Tyler Sargent ´00 — began creating a media buzz with their band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Stern offered to be their manager. The band members were selling CDs out of their apartments and being managed by Dave Godowsky ´02. For a time, college buddies Stern and Godowsky co-managed the group. In the summer of 2005, Stern became the band´s sole manager while still working full-time at Atlantic. "There was not a lot of sleep involved," he says. "Atlantic was supportive, but they didn´t expect [the band] to reach the levels it did."

In preparation for Clap Your Hand´s second album, Stern left Atlantic and formed 7-10 Music in October 2006. To-date, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has sold 400,000 albums worldwide, and Stern´s roster has expanded to six artists, including Page McConnell, keyboardist for the jam band Phish.

Dave Godowsky ´02 got his start in the music business in high school when he managed and booked concerts for his own band. At CC, he played in several campus rock groups but found success through a band that started as a joke — a comical Guns N´ Roses tribute band called Mr. Brownstone that also included Sean Greenhalgh ´01 of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

"It was supposed to be a one-night thing in Cro," says the English major. "But everyone was like, ´That was awesome, you´ve got to do it again for Floralia!´"

The band performed at Floralia, and before they knew it, they were playing sold-out rooms in New York City and Boston and then to 70,000 people at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Tennessee.

"We never practiced. We never promoted. We never did anything. We just showed up in really bad wigs and acted like complete morons. Somehow it worked."

A few years later, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was just beginning to play shows, and Godowsky became their first manager.

"Once you capture the eye of New York City and the attention of all the music blogs, things start moving quickly. This is a band that got big based on music alone. It wasn´t some million-dollar marketing budget. So we decided, ´Let´s just let that be what it is and grow naturally.´"

Like Stern, Godowsky managed the band on nights and weekends while working as a publicity assistant at Rounder Records in Boston, one of the top independent labels in the country with artist´s like They Must Be Giants and Alison Krauss.

Now he is director of A&R at Rounder, a position similar to Andy Karp´s at Atlantic. Although his early industry career as a publicist involved pitching journalists to write stories on his clients, Godowsky now receives pitches from artists who want to be signed by Rounder. Often visiting New York City to see up-and-coming bands, he also regularly scours more than 40 music blogs to find the next addition to the label´s eclectic roster.

Rebecca Rosen Shapiro ´95 is a director of publicity at the Brooklyn-based entertainment public relations firm Shore Fire Media. Following graduation, she moved to New York City from her hometown of Chicago determined to pursue a career in music PR.

Shapiro spent her first years in New York shuffling from firm to firm, trying to find the right fit. She eventually found her match in Shore Fire Media. Throughout her career, Shapiro has worked with a variety of artists, including the Rolling Stones, Elvis Costello, Dolly Parton and Duran Duran.

As a music publicist, she pitches stories to everyone from writers at Rolling Stone magazine to the talent bookers at "Late Show With David Letterman" and sets up interviews for her clients. "I´m constantly thinking of ways to come up with new and exciting angles, to pursue coverage of my clients in ways that you wouldn´t expect."

Shapiro decided on CC because she wanted a small, liberal arts college with a rigorous academic program "as far away from the Midwest as possible." Shapiro says her experience in New London supplied her with many of the skills she uses every day. "As an English major at Conn, I wrote several major papers each semester," she says. Now, she´s cranking out daily memos and press releases. "My undergraduate experience prepared me well for my work."

Throughout her 10-plus years in the music business, Shapiro has learned to be prepared for it all. "Whether it´s trying to calm the nerves of 30 photographers fighting for the same shot of the Strokes or running around London with Duran Duran overseeing three photo shoots in one day, there is very little that fazes me anymore."

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