creative:impact - A session with record label exec Jeremy Peters
Who knew Ann Arbor had record labels? Jeremy Peters knows! He's the co-founder of Quite Scientific Records and former director of music publishing Ghostly International. Sample this crossover music professional who is also a singer, a professor of music business, and arts advocate when he jams with "creative:impact" host Deb Polich of Creative Washtenaw.
Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy. In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.
ABOUT JEREMY PETERS:
Jeremy Peters, FRSA, MBA (Cantab), is an Assistant Professor of Music Business in the Department of Music at Wayne State University and is a co-founder of Quite Scientific Records. He maintains an active teaching, performing, researching, and publishing practice and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.
Previously, he was the Director of Music Publishing for Ghostly International, having built the division at the company. At Ghostly, he worked on projects for film, television, advertising, and video games with brands such as Nike, Microsoft, HUMMER, Apple, Lincoln, Motorola, Ford, Adult Swim, major television networks, and Sony PlayStation. As well, he was the music supervisor for the EMMY Award-winning documentary film, “MEDORA.”
Jeremy previously held lecturing positions with the University of Michigan Law School and School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, teaching coursework on copyright, problem-solving, entrepreneurship, and the music industry. He has present papers at conferences for the Society of Arts Entrepreneurship Educators, International Association of Arts and Cultural Management, IUPUI-NEA Arts, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation Lab, and the Creativity, Knowledge, Cities conference. Additionally, he spoke at conferences such as Iceland Airwaves, Reeperbahn Festival, by:Larm, South by Southwest, CMJ, A2IM Indie Week, Billboard Film & TV Summit, Future of Music Summit, and the Michigan Ross School of Business’ Entrepalooza Conference.
Jeremy graduated with an MBA (concentrating in Strategy with courses in Creative, Arts and Media Management) from the University of Cambridge Judge Business School. He is a life member of Clare Hall College, where he was the recipient of the Culture, Arts, and Media, Boak Research, Clare Hall, and Mellon Bursaries to support studies of the intersection of culture and business practice. He holds an undergraduate degree with dual concentrations in Music and Political Science from the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts.
He is a voting member of The Recording Academy (the GRAMMYs), the Society of Arts Entrepreneurship Educators, Music and Entertainment Industry Educators Association, Academy of Management, Music Industry Research Association, Americans for the Arts, and the US Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship. He currently serves as an advisor to the Detroit Sound Conservancy and as President of the Board of Directors for Detroit’s professional choral ensemble, Audivi. Previously, he held positions with the American Association of Independent Music (Governmental Relations Committee), 826michigan (Vice-President of the Board of Directors), and Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce (Board of Directors).
Deb Polich: This is creative:impact on WEMU, eighty nine point one FM. I'm Deb Polich, president and CEO of Creative Washtenaw, and while David Fair is out on medical leave, your solo host for the show. I invite you to join me for the next few weeks as we continue to welcome creative guests and explore the impact the arts and creative industries in Washtenaw County. You know, a comment I often hear from WEMU listeners after a creative:impact show is "I never knew that" about one of our guests or businesses. So I'm going to prompt that question now. Did you ever know that Ann Arbor is where a number of record labels were founded and operate? Dexter resident Jeremy Peters is connected to two of them: Ghostly International and the one he co-founded, Quite Scientific Records. He is also a musician and a music professor at Wayne State University. Welcome to creative:impact, Jeremy.
Jeremy Peters: Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Deb Polich: Yeah, so where to start? So much. I think we'll begin with your tenure at Ghostly. Sam Valenti the fourth started in 1999 while a student at U of M. How and when did you get involved?
Jeremy Peters: I got involved right as I was finishing college about 2003 or so as an intern, and then that turned into about a 14-year career.
Deb Polich: Wow. 14 years. So, how do a bunch of inexperienced college students create a label? Did you guys have mentors, or did you have to figure it out by trial and error?
Jeremy Peters: Kind of trial and error. For me, it was a lot of reading and trying to figure out what to do, starting up the the music publishing part of it. But. Yeah, I think most of it was a lot of trial and error.
Deb Polich: Yeah. So. The music publishing, which you became the director of, through that you worked on film, television, advertising, and video games with brands like Nike, Microsoft, and major television networks. And you were also the music supervisor for the Emmy Award winning documentary film Medora. So, were you having the time of your life?
Jeremy Peters: Yeah, I mean, it was a lot of experiences I'd never thought I would ever have coming out of college. Sort of could have gone into politics, but made the choice that, you know, probably wasn't going to get the chance to work in the music industry ever again. So, I followed the path less traveled, if you will.
Deb Polich: So, Quite Scientific Records, a label you co-founded came on line around 1999. What prompted you to go out on your own and start your own label?
Jeremy Peters: So, my brother and a friend of ours, we're taking a look at some of the independent rock music in the area. Stuff that Ghostly didn't really focus on as much. Ghostly is a little bit more of an electronic leftfield, pop-focused. And Quite Scientific was really started to try to publicize some of these amazing musicians who kept hearing about and seeing at shows that we felt needed a little bit more of a voice. And so, we put ourselves together to try to maybe match our skills and try to push the music that we felt was so amazing here.
Deb Polich: This is creative:impact on 89 one WEMU. Our guest is Jeremy Peters, a musician, music professor at Wayne State University, and co-founder of Quite Scientific Records right here in Ann Arbor. So, Quite Scientific is an interesting label. Does that describe your artist and your portfolio of artists?
Jeremy Peters: I think we tried to focus on mainly Midwestern music, from artists, from independent artists, who are maybe doing left field folk music or indie rock, who are really interested in trying to build out their career and do it in a partnership with the label. We try to, you know, one of the mantras of the label is "No jerks."
Deb Polich: No jerks.
Jeremy Peters: So, we tried to really work there and try to get this music that we really loved a little bit further from artists like Chris Bathgate, Tunde Olaniran, and our newest signing, Lipstick Jodi, whose album is just out recently.
Deb Polich: So, do you find the artist, or do they find you?
Jeremy Peters: It's a little bit of both. We do our searching. A lot of times, artists are suggested to us by other artists. That was the case with Lipstick Jodi and Tunde Olaniran was like, "You have to listen to this music." And so, that's obviously a good vote of confidence. But we go out to shows, and we're trying to, you know, hear as much as we can. As much as that is possible, I guess.
Deb Polich: So as if running a label and being a lecturer at U of M didn't keep you busy enough, you decided to go to the University of Cambridge for your MBA with a focus on creative arts and media management. I'm curious. What difference, if any, did you find when you compared your creative business experience here in the states to what you were learning at Cambridge in England?
Jeremy Peters: Oh, that was one of the reasons I actually went over there. To get a little bit more of an international focus and get a sense of what was going on over there. The support for the arts is a little bit different in the UK and the EU. So, there was an interesting bit of sort of comparative analysis, especially for creative businesses. We tend to focus more on the nonprofit sector in the arts here in the states, and it was interesting to see, especially from a business standpoint, this study of how the creative industries work over in the UK.
Deb Polich: Yeah, I often find that they're light years ahead of us in various ways, but we have, you know, mostly on the nonprofit side, as you said, we're better. We're ahead of them.
Jeremy Peters: Yes.
Deb Polich: So, you're teaching now at Wayne State. What are your students most interested in learning about the music business?
Jeremy Peters: I think they're most interested in learning about how it's changing. So, I tend to use case studies that investigate where things have been. Some of the decisions that were made by the principals or protagonists in those cases for companies like Spotify or Live Nation, for that matter, and then using those learnings to try to chart a course in the future. They understand how fast things have shifted recently in the music industry toward low performance and that even shifting in the midst of COVID most recently and then going forward trying to figure out how to capture the value for songwriters and topics like that.
Deb Polich: This is creative:impact on 89 one WEMU. Our guest is Jeremy Peters, a musician, music business professor at Wayne State, and co-founder of Quite Scientific Records. So, you and I first met over a public art ballot resolution. You mentioned your interest in politics. How do you weave politics, political activism into your teaching and instill a need for your students to be advocates for the arts and creative industries?
Jeremy Peters: I'm not necessarily shy about it. I don't know about professing my personal politics necessarily. But what I do is I try to let them know that one of the ways of making change happen is to be vocal and to be an advocate. So I've got the, you know, I've got materials up at my door that show the side of the creative industries in the state of Michigan that Americans for the Arts have put together that are helpful sort of teaching tools, but also tell a political story as well and encourage them to reach out to their city leaders, to their Congresspersons, to their local leaders and emphasize the amount of impact that we do have and can have if we're more.
Deb Polich: So, speaking of voting, you are also a voting member of the Recording Academy, also known as the Grammys. That's pretty fun. Tell our listeners about that whole process of voting.
Jeremy Peters: So, every year, they send out both the nominee ballot and a final ballot. The nomination ballot is a huge line list of musicians and albums that are suggested and nominated by folks in the industry. And then, a little bit later on in the process, we vote from a sort of whittled down list of nominees. And so, for as much as is publicized about the process being not very transparent, it actually, I feel, sort of is. You have to have worked on or sang on or performed on a number of albums to be a member. But, after that, you can, after you meet that level, anyone can apply to be a member of the recording industry.
Deb Polich: Have you ever gone to the Grammys?
Jeremy Peters: I have not.
Deb Polich: Ah.
Jeremy Peters: But an artist that I worked with on Ghostly was nominated and did attend a couple of times.
Deb Polich: Well, I expect that, sooner or later, you're going to be on that stage accepting a Grammy. I certainly would vote for you if I had the ability to do that. So, one last question. We talked about political activism. Do you also...like you have done, you've given a lot back to the industry through volunteerism and otherwise and donations and support. Do you encourage your students to do that as well?
Jeremy Peters: Definitely. I unabashedly talk about industry associations like the American Association for Independent Music and other organizations and let them know that volunteering helps run those organizations and can help really push issues forward. So, I just let them know that, you know, it's one thing to learn something in the classroom, but you have to actually go in and enact that in order to sort of make that difference, to actually not just see the change but be the change.
Deb Polich: I think your students are fortunate to have you as an instructor. Jeremy, thanks so much for giving us a glimpse of your life. We appreciate you being a guest here on creative:impact.
Jeremy Peters: Thanks. It was a pleasure.
Deb Polich: That's Jeremy Peters, music professor at Wayne State University and co-founder of Quite Scientific Records, a record label right here in Ann Arbor. Learn more about Jeremy and Quite Scientific records at WEMU dot org, and please join me next week for another conversation with a creative Washtenaw guest. I'm Deb Polich, and this is your community NPR Station, 89 one WEMU and WEMU HD one Ypsilanti.
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