• Production still from SERSE
  • french horns
  • choir and orchestra
  • pianist, clarinetist, and violinist
  • violin section of orchestra
  • wind orchestra
  • Jazz Band on stage

Student-Run Record Label Hopes to Find Music’s Next Big Thing

March 6, 2019

sound mixing room
Nic Morreale and Julian Krisch from VOVE's Production Team working with a sound engineer, and two members of the band Tokyo Gold, saxophonist Tyler Johnson and guitarist Jon Aparicio in a local recording studio. Photo by Lee Choo.


Reposted from CSUN TODAY

In a dimly lit studio the size of a small office, two California State University, Northridge music industry studies students huddled around the sound board with a professional sound engineer and the saxophonist for the local band Tokyo Gold. The band’s guitarist had just finished a take, but they asked him to try again — they wanted his playing, which was polished, to sound “dirtier.”

The band and sound engineer recorded the guitar section of the track, mixing it with the rest of the instruments and vocals. The students recorded multiple takes while adjusting the amps and the reverb of the guitar, and trying to find the perfect tone for the song.

Thus began the recording session for Tokyo Gold’s EP, a short collection of songs. The band is managed by CSUN’s practicum class, Five of Five Entertainment. The class goes by the acronym VOVE, as in Roman numeral V for five. This upper division course is offered as part of CSUN’s Bachelor of Arts in Music – Music Industry Studies Option. Founded in 1994, the program offers a combination of traditional music classes and a foundational understanding of business and how it operates in the music industry.

In the practicum class, over the course of a school year, students do everything they would do as industry professionals: discovering, promoting and developing a local performer, who will record an album under their supervision and perform as CSUN’s Artist of the Year for their Annual Showcase. The Showcase, which is funded by the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication, was held in December to unveil the chosen artist.

“It’s been exciting to see Tokyo Gold grow,” said Daryl Dillaunty, VOVE’s Director of Marketing. “We have an actual relationship with them which benefits them and the music. We get to watch people enjoy their music and know we’re behind it.”

The class consists of teams managing events, creative production, marketing, artist management and business affairs.

“The way the class is set up, we try to imitate the teams at a record label,” said Jeffrey Izzo, professor and chair of music industry studies. “The students do everything themselves. They’re negotiating with studios and vendors. It gets them to take control.”

Applicants to the class are required to pass a three-part audition that includes a performance (musical instrument or voice), an interview and an essay. The popular music industry studies program accepts 30-40 percent of its applicants. There are approximately 125 students enrolled in the program currently, and this year there were about 70 applicants. The practicum class is capped at 40 students for the school year.

During the fall semester, the class searches for their ideal artist and records an EP with them over CSUN’s winter break. The band or artist can be any genre, but they must perform original music, have live performance experience and be a free agent with no prior management or record deal. During the spring semester, the teams focus on promoting the artist and organizing their Annual Showcase.

The student teams behind VOVE pick an artist during class. Their classroom in Cypress Hall is filled with busy students huddled into groups, watching submission videos from artists. The students get into an animated back-and-forth creative discussion, debating which genre of artist to pick and why each stands out musically.

The group’s goal is to make sure the artist can build a fan base and fill local venues. The artist’s message also must be appropriate for representing CSUN.

This year, the class chose Tokyo Gold, a band with a jazz roots, and a rhythm and blues sound.

“We had to find an artist that wasn’t too polished but wasn’t bad,” Izzo said. “They had to be at a stage where they could use our help, and the students [could] learn from them. We have to find that happy medium.”

The next step in their process is to record. The class rented out a Laurel Canyon home studio owned by a chart-topping classic rock musician, where the students were joined by a professional sound engineer. The CSUN group had access to the studio for a week, with sessions running from noon to midnight.

Once recording is complete, the class works on marketing and promoting the band. The students mix a song or two to release as a single. Then, the EP gets published to Spotify, SoundCloud and other major music streaming platforms.

The marketing team manages social media, graphics and other promotional material to help Tokyo Gold represent their selves and their music. The team creates a social media plan and presents it to the artist, adjusting it to their style and image.

“At the end of the day it’s more about making the artist happy,” said Dillaunty. “The artist has to like what music they’re putting out. We come up with a strategy that helps us meet them in the middle.”

Their main goal is to help Tokyo Gold reach their target audience, a diverse group of college-age kids. They are focused on building the band’s presence on campus by partnering with CSUN clubs and events.

The events team negotiates with venues and vendors for supplies, space and other resources to put together their Annual Showcase and smaller events along the way.

“I like the fact that I can watch [the students] blossom and do their thing,” Izzo said. “If they fail, it’s a good thing it’s happening now because they’ll be prepared for it in the real world. They’re learning the business aspect of the industry and applying those skills. They’re putting into practice the skills they’ve learned in other classes.”

The Annual Showcase is open to the entire CSUN and wider community. The EP release will be in April. For more information on these events and the music industry studies program, visit