The Sound Recording and Music Technology Master Classes offer students personal insight into the music business by welcoming professionals from all sides of the industry. On Wednesday, Sept. 25, Merch Cat founder, Vanessa Ferrer, visited the Mix Room at Montco for the first Master Class of the Fall 2019 semester.
Music Assistant Professor Michael Kelly thinks it is important for students to learn and think about the business elements of working in the music industry, not just the production.
“This is exactly what our students are looking to do,” he said. “We are teaching students about all aspects of the music industry including business and merchandising.”
While Ferrer works in commercial real estate, she has always had a creative mind and a passion for music. In 2009, she connected with an artist who was signed for an Indie music label in New York City. In that conversation, she asked questions about the artist’s marketing and branding strategies and gave advice that [was similar to artist management]. Inspired to learn more, Ferrer took music management classes online through Berklee College of Music, and eventually formed InFocus Artist Management, an independent musician management company.
As a manager, Ferrer noticed that artists were using outdated and disorganized methods to track their merchandise sales. Merchandise is a crucial component of any musician’s career. Merchandise allows an artist to create a brand identity and acts as a source of income for rising musicians. Artists receive approximately $0.006 per stream of their music from online streaming services. A song would have to be streamed nearly 3,000 times to earn $15, while an artist can earn $15 from selling one shirt at a concert.
Ferrer took advantage of this open market to develop Merch Cat. Merch Cat is a merchandise management app that helps emerging artists organize inventory, track sales and get real-time reports in one streamlined service. She expanded her business with Merch Cat FAN, a place where fans can purchase merchandise and artists can capitalize on the artist-fan connection that is made at live shows.
Ferrer is happy to share her experiences with the students in the Master Classes and hopes to work with the next generation of the music industry.
“My journey has been long and complicated, but I feel like I’m doing what I was meant to do with my life,” she said. “I am a big supporter of mentoring and mentorship, which is why I wanted to speak at a college. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help. Once you start building your network, reach out if you need help with something.”
The students in the class were excited to learn about another side of the music industry. SRT major Jessica Blaney learned about the importance of merchandise and management.
“I feel like the business side of music is usually overlooked,” she said. “This class showed more of the merchandising and business aspects, and it opened my eyes to how it can get messed up and how we need people like Vanessa to manage it.”
Another student was grateful for the opportunity to get first-hand information from members of the music industry.
“When we see these artists and managers, it inspires us,” he said. “With every master class, I know there will be interesting insights and information that will help us.”
Hosted by the Sound Recording and Music Technology Program, Master Classes are free, open resource for Montco students and community members to meet with and learn from professionals in the music industry.