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MUSIC Matters 2018: Louis the Child and an Interview with Matt Ladis

Author Name: Sam Helm | OCL Administrator  

Published On Feb 22nd, 2018

Nestled in the heart of Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan has a reputation for developing talent. Whether it be in the arts, with notable alumnus James Earl Jones, or the NFL, with 5-time Super Bowl Champion and guaranteed Hall of Famer, Tom Brady, the University of Michigan is known for putting out high quality products. Innovation and excellence are a part of the institutional DNA, and to see that in the campus entertainment world look no further than MUSIC Matters, a student-run nonprofit organization that produces a one of a kind social impact lifestyle festival.

MUSIC Matters began in “one of the older buildings” on Michigan’s campus, where Founder, Alumnus, and now Board Member, Phil Schermer, and nine others saw a gap in the University of Michigan experience. The opportunity lead to what would become SpringFest: MUSIC Matters’ major campus-wide festival. SpringFest is a free day-long event that consists of showcases highlighting student achievements, live music, brand activations, a pitch competition, and more, with a ticketed evening benefit concert. Proceeds from the show help fund student-designed social ventures.

To date, MUSIC Matters has hosted acts like Migos, J. Cole, Ben Folds, 2 Chainz, and Lil Yachty, donated $50,000 to endow a first-of-its kind student-for-student scholarship, and recently launched their inaugural summer program MOvE: Michigan Overnight Experience, in which 32 Detroit-area high school sophomores are brought on campus to explore opportunities offered by higher education.

To learn more about the efforts at the University of Michigan, oncampus.live was able to hop on a call with current President, Matt Ladis.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

What are core pieces of MUSIC Matters?

Our identity is centered around the idea that you can use the power of music and entertainment to bring the community together and enact positive social impact, which is embedded in our name: “MUSIC” represents Michigan Undergrads Serving in the Community. SpringFest is the annual flagship event, held every April. We go all in on the event, and as soon as it ends we start planning for the next year. It started with Phil’s class and it has evolved each year as it scales up, and produces new content. We cap off SpringFest with a large-scale concert, where we work to bring in great musical talent to meet the desires of members of our community. The next pillar is the Social Ventures, where we help fund, design, and showcase innovative student-led projects using revenue driven by the evening benefit concert. Throughout the year we also showcase local talent, highlighting them with open mic nights, battle of the bands, a fashion show, and much more.

What’s different this year?

We just launched a summer camp for Detroit high schoolers in August of 2017. We bused in and housed 32 sophomores, and the program – coined “MOvE: Michigan Overnight Experience” – is geared around understanding the greater purpose of college. There are a lot of educational theories being studied by leading psychologists that suggest that people can’t see their future selves if they don’t have an example of that in their lives. We took that theory, called the “Possible Selves Theory,” and integrated it into our program to help the students explore possibilities. We conclude the experience with a tour of the football stadium, giving them a feel for Michigan, and for opportunities after high school. Now that we have year one under our belt, we look forward to growing and improving the program for years to come.

And is that funded by University of Michigan or SpringFest?

Summer camp is funded in full by SpringFest. The day long festival format is free, funded by sponsors, and the ticketed concert at night generates the revenue for summer camp. We just moved to the Crisler Center with the help of Universal Music Group to scale our event, increase our ability to generate funding, and produce greater impact in the community.

Where do you see MUSIC Matters in 10 years?

At University of Michigan we have all types of students interested in music, business, and the arts, but almost none are going into the entertainment business. We have a lot of alumni in banks and financial firms, but student shy away from the commercial side of entertainment. We’re trying to integrate a program or curriculum to allow [students] to discuss, talk to, and learn from professionals first hand in the business. We want to create a program that acts as a glide path to music business programs and big entertainment cities like L.A., New York City, and Nashville. We’d like to see formal classes, and that’s where we see this going.

We’ve been able to workshop with different folks that will video in or engage in person for hands on learning. SpringFest is a dynamic festival, which has continued to grow each year, and we want to continue to grow the caliber of artists we bring, student attendance, brand activation and engagement, and our event’s overall brand awareness.

Can MUSIC Matters be adapted to other campuses?

College campuses are a great place for this kind of program, but the immediate focus is on improving our event. I think there’s a place for SpringFest on every college campus, and many campuses already have student-run festivals, but none are integrating social impact into their mission. In the short run, it must be our priority to focus on SpringFest at UofM. In seven years, we’ve seen tremendous growth and verticals to make it more engaging, but we’re not near done. We want to improve on what we can. That’s a conversation for down the line.

 

As part of its continued development, MUSIC Matters made headlines in early December, when the creation of a Board of Advisers was announced. Members of the Board include Gary Gersh, global president of talent at AEG Presents; Scott Heydt, CEO of HeydtAir and former chief financial officer of VaynerMedia; Sherrie Schwartz, chief human resources officer at CAA; Mike Muse, Barack Obama's "My Brother's Keeper" Millennial Entrepreneur champion and co-host of Sway in the Morning on Sirius XM and ABC's Real Live; Jason Schulweis, VP at MediaLink and formerly VP Marketing Solutions at Live Nation; Peggy Burns, Senior VP of Philanthropy at the Henry Ford Health System; Phil Deloria, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg Collegiate Professor of American Culture and History at the University of Michigan; Dave Bartlebaugh, VP at Aerial Productions; and Phillip Schermer, founder of Music Matters and associate in the Office of the Vice Chairman at BlackRock. The members of the board have been selected strategically, to develop rigor and structure for the various operations of MUSIC Matters, with each member bringing their knowledge, networks, and expertise into play on behalf of the organization.

 

What role does the Board of Advisers play in MUSIC Matters moving forward?

Matt: Moving forward, the Board's role is to support our students' efforts by providing guidance and bringing expertise to the table, which enables sustainable growth for MUSIC Matters. While the students fully manage day-to-day operations of MUSIC Matters, having a Board of well-rounded, seasoned professionals helps guide us to become strategic thinkers. In addition to helping us strategize, the Board has opened doors for us, whether that be through sharing new connections for our annual trip to LA, advising on the types of workshops we should be organizing for our membership, or introducing us to potential sponsors. Overall, the Board helps us keep focused and advance our core mission.

 

In closing, Matt shared his feelings about entertainment as a whole. “Entertainment, as a field, has real power. Anything that can bring people together in some way, can lead to social impact.”

This year, MUSIC Matters SpringFest will feature Louis the Child, with proceeds going to the CoMMunity Partnership. The event will take place on April 4, 2018, in Hill Auditorium. Tickets are available at umichmusicmatters.com/tickets.

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