When the Newhouse School’s Bandier program for recording and entertainment industries director Bill Werde first published “Full Rate No Cap” last spring, the audience for his online newsletter consisted solely of students. Now, it boasts 50-100 subscriptions per week. Werde, the former editorial director at Billboard magazine, began the newsletter as a tool for his students to gain a collective understanding of music news. It’s now making major waves in the industry at large.
This actually all started because of the Bandier program. Every week the program gets together to discuss trends in the music business, but students’ focus was often scattered. I started this newsletter to focus on a few stories that I thought were the most important and to help cut through the clutter of what to focus on. The music industry, like most creative industries, is changing so rapidly and substantially that it can feel like there’s 20 new things to read every day. So by picking the top five or six stories each week, my hope was that students would show up better prepared to have a great discussion about the music industry.
When I first started publishing it last spring, my students were the only people reading it. Once I made it public, it kept growing. Friends from the business began reading it and forwarding it to others. Subscriptions have generally kept growing at about 50 to 100 per week. There’s executives from almost every major company in the music industry reading it.
I am really happy to say that Newhouse students have been involved from day one. When we first conceived of this idea, it was actually some audio arts students that really helped me get moving with initial strategizing and planning. This year, Bandier student Michael DiVestea has really taken the lead on managing marketing efforts and production. Another student James Xu launched “Full Rate, No Cap” on Weibo and Wechat, two Chinese social media sites. So now it’s being read by some folks in China. I’ve got some additional students, Grace Malone and Anjali Engstrom, who helped with marketing efforts. Students who help out get experience in a low pressure environment, and they’re also helpful in getting the word out.
One of the most important things it does is it forces me to really be on my A-game. It’s showing up in the classroom in the sense that I’m just way more dialed in to the week by week developments of the business and to the granularities of what these developments mean. It creates much more familiarity for the students with a lot of the issues that we discuss.
I think in a lot of ways every editorial director at Billboard puts their own stamp on that brand. For me, I always wanted to have a tough love approach. Finding that right balance is something I always tried to do when I was at Billboard, and it’s a similar voice that I think I’m applying here. It’s the idea that we’re creating content for a small, smart, passionate community of people that have been fortunate enough and crazy enough to live a life in and around music.
I love the discipline of writing. Some weeks I’m really feeling it and it all comes flying out of me. Other weeks, I stare at a blank screen for hours hating my life wondering why I ever made this decision. When I look back, I know that both from an industry knowledge perspective and as a writer putting the newsletter out there in the public for scrutiny every week, has made me stronger on both fronts. Every time I send out one of these, I’ve really appreciated hearing from folks in the business agreeing and disagreeing with me. Being part of this music industry community and hearing from it has been really gratifying. My personal mission is just to leave the business better than I found it. I do that by graduating all the great humans that leave the Bandier program. And now I do it by directly engaging with the industry via “Full Rate No Cap.”
I tend to be focused on two primary areas in the music industry, emerging tech and emerging markets, because I’m always interested in what’s next. I’m leading a trip with a dozen students to Southeast Asia. We’ll be going through Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh and conducting meetings in all of these cities with the folks that are running the music industry locally, trying to understand these emerging markets. I am passionate about finding out what’s happening in this market. Questions like who are the talents? What are the trends? Are there artists here that should be exported and have a bigger opportunity in the world? Are there opportunities for Western executives or companies to support what’s happening here? And how can we learn from this in a non-imperialist way? That’s such a big part of my focus.
Hopefully, insights on whatever the most important stories that week. You know, it keeps people grounded and the trends that matter most keep people focused on the stories behind the stories that everyone’s talking about. And just making sure people understand the true dynamics of this rapidly changing business.
Sarah Torres is a first-year student in the magazine, news and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School and the political science program at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.