Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music

The Clive Davis Institute aims to provide students with the necessary skills — business, creative, and intellectual — so that they might emerge as visionary creative entrepreneurs in the evolving music industry.

Students are encouraged to develop innovative musical ideas and envision new music business models, work collaboratively, cultivate both intellectual rigor and a willingness to experiment artistically, and to assume leadership roles in the art and commerce of creating and selling recorded music.

Recorded Music Courses

To register for the following courses, students should request our courses below using the Clive Davis Institute non-major request form.

The Basics of Social Entrepreneurship

REMU-UT 1269 | 2 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This introductory course is targeted to all students who have a strong sense of their individual purpose and are motivated to change the world through music. In this course, students learn about social entrepreneurs, how they think, the problems they address, the business tools they leverage and the strategies they employ to create social change.  

Through readings, participatory class discussions, class activities, self-reflection and occasional guest speakers, students examine current issues, opportunities and challenges that social entrepreneurs and their ventures face. In addition, they acquire skills, actionable tools, and practical approaches to help advance their social change agenda now and in the future. Ultimately, the aim is to inspire and empower students to put their ideas for social change into action and to start manifesting the change they wish to see in the world.

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Funding Your Music Venture

REMU-UT 1227 | 4 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This course targets all students who are serious about and ready to fund a project. Together, we will learn about different funding types and sources, as well as demystify how the funding process works. Through a blend of readings, class discussions, practical assignments, and guest speakers, you will have the knowledge, practical understanding, and an actionable plan to bring your project to life, now or in the future.

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The Future of Streaming

REMU-UT 1231 | 2 units | Instructor: Stein Bjelland

Streaming Economy represents a great paradigm shift in the music industry and its monetization. In 2013, digital streaming of music replaced the CD as the main source of music sales and has provided economic hope to a – commercially speaking – weakening industry. However, with artists such as Thom Yorke, The Black Keys, David Byrne and many others speaking out against the royalty of streaming services like Spotify, streaming, in its current structure, as a permanent replacement for CD and digital download sales remains a controversial subject.

Through this course the student will be guided through the history of streaming, the controversies surrounding its business model, and the technology that made it possible. Students will be introduced to the new storefront of online music and be shown how the digital marketplace is changing music marketing and artist development. Streaming offers exciting new opportunities along with serious and complex challenges. This course will examine the pros and cons of the current streaming status quo.

Students will practice techniques of releasing music online through a hands-on workshop, which will lead them through the beginning steps of registering, and releasing their own project via Phonofile and WiMP on all major platforms and services.

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Hip-Hop History, Music, & Culture

REMU-UT 1197 | 2 units | Instructor: Daniel Charnas

This will be a class exploring some of the major non-musical influencers of hip-hop (Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Richard Pryor, Bruce Lee, etc). Class will look at how these figures shaped the culture of hip-hop as it was in its infancy. Students will also learn how to write about culture at a conceptual level. The central questions of the class: How did we arrive at the contemporary state of hip-hop? Who are the icons who were shaping hip-hop before it was born?

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Popular Music & Protest in the 21st Century

REMU-UT 1157 | 4 units | Instructor: Matthew D Morrison

The aim of this course is to explore how popular music has been used as an instrument of protest, with a special focus on twenty-first century developments. Although the 1960s is often regarded as the “golden era” of protest music in the United States, many events that have occurred in and outside the nation since 9/11 have led contemporary pop musicians to accept the charge left by musician and activist Nina Simone: “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” Thinking through significant American events—including, but not limited to, September 11th, 2001 (“9/11”), the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004, Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 financial crisis, same-sex marriage debates, global warming debates, the Presidential election(s) of Barack Obama, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the nomination of Donald Trump as the 2016 Republican Presidential candidate, and—this course will consider the following questions: What constitutes “protest music” in contemporary popular culture? How do artists create music that inspires others to resist, exist within, or even recognize structures and systems that limit the freedoms of individuals and communities throughout society? How are “isms” and “phobias,” such as racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc., addressed in popular music, and what are the aesthetic, lyrical, and performative characteristics that contribute to the creation and reception of that music? How have technological developments (i.e., the Internet, social media, streaming music, etc.) impacted the way in which artists, producers, and consumers use music as a tool for social activism and protest? What are the possibilities and limitations of protest music within the global capitalist economy in which popular music circulates?

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Topics in Recorded Music: Motown

REMU-UT 1129 | 2 units | Instructor: Matthew D Morrison

Started in 1959 in Detroit by songwriter and then budding entrepreneur Berry Gordy, Motown quickly became dubbed "Hitsville USA," as it served as home to artists like The Supremes, The Temptations, Mary Wells, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas, Michael Jackson and the Four Tops, to name a few. Motown literally changed the concept of the record label and redefined the very idea of entrepreneurship in recorded music, serving as core inspiration to artists from The Beatles to Beyonce. Motown's incredible legacy of success served a crucial role in helping to integrate popular music and thereby helped to rewrite the narrative of race and class in America.

One of the greatest examples of an artist expanding the boundaries of his art, of his company's limitations, of the public's expectations, and subsequently of what it meant to be a pop artist, is the album What's Going On by Marvin Gaye, issued by Motown in spring 1971. As we narrow our focus to study this album  its roots, its creation, the difficulty with its release, its astonishing success  students will be introduced to the legacy of Motown Records. Readings, class lectures, guest speakers, video and audio clips will answer the questions, Who was Marvin Gaye? How did he get to a place where felt he needed to create this album? Why was it difficult for him to get the song and the album released? What was Motown doing politically the years before? What was company policy that created an issue around the album content? What did it mean to be an artist and a producer at Motown or not?

View Course Schedule in Albert

Recorded Music Courses Offered Through Open Arts

Non-majors may register for the following courses through Open Arts (OART-UT). Certain courses require instructor approval. Non-majors should follow all registration instructions as outlined in Albert.


REMU-UT 1250 | 2 units | Instructor: Check Albert

Anyone interested in achieving success in today's competitive entertainment industry has to be well versed in the concept of branding. A brand is the overall, distinctive "image" of a product or a service that generates loyalty, trust, and familiarity with consumers. Nearly anyone can release an album or an artist into the crowded marketplace, but those versed in branding have the savvy to bestow their projects with resonance and meaning with audiences. Record labels along with artists and producers creatively use image, values, lifestyle, attitude and moods to sell their music. Because we live in a culture defined by powerful brands, creative branding is becoming the key to longevity and global success in the entertainment industry.

This practical, hands-on course will give students the step-by-step tools to approach the art and business of branding. We'll do exercises in analyzing and developing brands, and we'll study why some brands succeed where others fail. Reading key books and articles in the field of branding, we'll consider the role of advertising, promotion, marketing, management, public relations, media commentary and creative design in building successful brands. And, as we consider debates about the ethics of living in a corporate culture defined by brands and superstars, students will learn about "brand recognition," "b2b brand marketing," "brand equity," "brandscapes," "brand architecture," "product differentiation," "attitude branding," and "lifestyle marketing."

Students interested in launching their own record labels, recording studios or music ventures, or distinguishing themselves as performers, producers, executives or engineers, will walk away from the course with a workable strategy of how to best position their work in the professional marketplace.

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Topics in Recorded Music: James Brown

REMU-UT 1128 | 2 units | Instructor: Harry Weinger

Variously referred to by such luminous titles as “the hardest working man in show business” and “soul brother number one,” James Brown may well be the most important figure in 20th century recorded music. His thrilling stage and recorded performances starting in the late 1950s helped elevate expectations for soul music. And in the 1960s he became the chief innovator behind funk music, creating the singing‐and‐dancing template that inspired later‐day luminaries like Michael Jackson, Usher and Justin Timberlake. In addition to his multi‐decade chart successes and his major contributions to the soundtrack of the civil rights movement (“Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,” for instance), Brown excelled as an entrepreneur, emerging as one of the first African‐Americans to own his own record label and retain control of his publishing income. This unique course will investigate the early career of James Brown and the changing musical and sociopolitical context of the 1950s and early 1960s that informed his celebrity. Students should walk away from the course with a more sophisticated understanding of one of the great musical innovators in the history of recorded music and a greater sense of how those innovations tied into changing musical field and identity politics of the latter half of the century.

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Topics in Recorded Music: J Dilla

REMU-UT 1158 | 2 units | Instructor: Daniel Charnas

This seven-week course explores the career, impact, and legacy of music producer/composer James Dewitt Yancey. Known variously as “Jay Dee,” “J. Dilla” or simply “Dilla,” Yancey’s professional music career was short, spanning a dozen years before his death from a rare blood disease in 2006. But his influence in that period shifted the sound of popular music; and in the decade since the passing of the Detroit-born artist, his ideas have compelled a new generation of musicians — both in the electronic and traditional realms — who have drawn inspiration from Yancey’s music and seized upon his rhythmic and compositional ideas, chief among them a unique conception of time. 

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Topics in Recorded Music: Sound Studies & Pop Music

REMU-UT 1147 | 2 units | Instructor: Matthew D Morrison

In the past few decades, “sound studies” has emerged as an official field of critical inquiry; it is best defined as the study of the production, circulation, and materiality of sound and its historical, social, cultural and political effects. Investigating sound — beyond investigating music alone — is a fascinating and rich way to engage in the power and politics of pop music performed by artists as wide ranging as the The Velvet Underground, The Smiths, Nina Simone, Sun Ra, Kendrick Lamar, and FKA twigs, and to delve into the powerful writing of scholars like Daphne A. Brooks, Alexandra T. Vazquez, Gayle Wald, and Alexander G. Weheliye. This course offers an overview of the sound studies with a focus on how the burgeoning interdisciplinary field’s diverse range of issues and methodological questions contribute to ways of writing music criticism on popular music.  Students will specifically consider how becoming more aware of our relationship to sound in its various forms creates new ways of understanding how race, gender, and sexuality are heard, felt, and experienced in popular music.  

Topics and approaches to sound studies discussed in the course include the following: how theories and concepts of listening, of the voice, of noise, and of affect and/or emotion relate to the formation and production of racial, gender, and sexual difference and vice versa; understanding sound reproduction in relation to technology and audiovisual media; and how sound or soundscapes structure everyday life. Students will be asked to experiment with their writing in weekly response papers on music that both students and the instructor will share with the class as well as with critical karaoke presentations.  At the end of the course, weekly response papers will be collected into a portfolio, which will include an introduction by students that summarizes their writing for the course. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to create their own experimental sound pieces as well as attend a music performance in New York City, for which students will write reviews that incorporate sound studies theories and concepts.

View Course Schedule and Registration Instructions in Albert

Topics in Recorded Music: The 1980s

REMU-UT 1163 | 2 units | Instructor: Check Albert

This class will analyze how specific changes in the way popular music was produced, distributed, promoted, and categorized during the 1980s led to the economic and legal challenges which began to erode existing business models within the entire multinational music industry through the 1990s and beyond.

As we listen to songs like Blondie's "Rapture"(1981), The Clash's "The Magnificent Dance," (1981), "Sweet Dreams" by the Eurythmics (1982), Talking Heads's "Slippery People" (1983), Run DMC's " It's Like That" (1983), Shannon's "Let the Music Play" (1983), Dhar Braxton's "Jump Back" (1986) and Keith Sweat's "I Want Her" (1986), students are expected to become familiar with the major changes in musical taste and production techniques that occurred during that landmark decade. That includes the innovative role that specific digital drum machines and sampling keyboards (Linn, Juno, Casio, Roland) played on breakthrough singles like Devo's "Whip  It" (1980), D Train's "You’re The One for Me" (1981), Soul Sonic Force's "Looking for the Perfect Beat" (1983),) and Janet Jackson's  "What Have You Done For Me Lately" (1986), that changed the dominant sound of '80s studio recordings and remixes.

Students are expected to assess how bedroom MIDI studios, cheap sampling technology, and the cost of commercial CDs vs. rampant bootlegging would later bring troubling new legal concerns to bear upon record companies during the 1990s.  We’ll consider how these intellectual property issues culminated in battles over the paradigm-shifting file sharing software that prefigured today's music streaming systems. From a business perspective, students will also learn about the significance of changing regional and national trends in music radio through the 1980s  (based on R&R ratings and ad rates), and will better understand how music video outlets, major label promotion strategies, and multiple recording formats (vinyl, cassette, CD) popularized new artists. (Hello, mixtape culture!) Guest speakers appearing over this 7-week course will include producer/indie label owner Aldo Marin (Cutting Records), the club-savvy mastering engineer Herb “The Pump” Powers, and veteran promotion man Bobby Shaw (MCA).

A major aim of the class — which will focus on pivotal changes in R&B and rap music — is for students to develop a greater understanding of the impact of socioeconomic factors on '80s pop music trends.  By the end of the class, students should have a greater general recognition of the volatile dynamic of systemic racism on national chart position, radio formats, and record sales. Feminist initiatives will be viewed through a more culturally inclusive Post-Colonial Womanist lens. The rising popularity of reggae and other “world music” will see us discuss issues of cultural imperialism, authenticity and appropriation. We’ll also look at the impact British post-punk and new wave artists like The Clash, The Specials, Art of Noise, Soft Cell and Adam Ant had on both classic and college rock radio in the U.S. as well as how economic damage from AIDS and drug epidemics reshaped the American dance music market. Students should be able to trace how multimedia documentation and corporate sponsorship by companies like Swatch Watches (Fresh Fest) and Budweiser (Superfest) helped mainstream the hip hop underground.  Students will recognize and appreciate how a sudden pivotal influx of black music executives facilitated more artist-owned imprints and more artist rights.

View Course Schedule and Registration Instructions in Albert