By Andy Fram & Molly Greenhood
It’s a chilly day in mid February as we navigate the persistently humid halls of the music building. We arrive at a door at the end of the hallway on the second floor, knock and wait. A few seconds later the door swings open, and music industry professor Joseph “Ojo” Taylor invites us in.
“You guys the interviewers?” he asks, as we tiptoe around boxes. “Sorry about the clutter, I’m just switching offices.”
Besides the piano sitting in the center of the room, there are stacks of boxes, various recording devices and shelves full of books and music CDs.
Joseph Taylor teaches several music industry classes including Marketing of Recorded Music and Artist Management, and the ever-popular elective History of Rock. During the summer he teaches Music Marketing Distribution and Retail at Cal State Fullerton.
He and best friend Jim Nicholson got their musical start in the ‘70s, forming rock band Undercover after various experimental bands with mutual friends.
“The first time we started writing original music was terrible—awful music, just awful. This is…just as punk and new wave were coming in, we thought there was a whole lot more interesting stuff going on there than the major ‘70s band.”
Taylor’s musical influences stem from progressive rock bands like Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Yes, although he has his list of classical composers as well.
Taylor also founded Brainstorm Artists International/Innocent Media, a record label distributed by Sony Music and Word Records that distributed over 120 records.
“It’s nice to make stuff like that happen,” he says. “It’s the artist that creates the stuff, and if I can have a part in getting them heard where they might not have been heard before, that’s pretty good.”
Personal experiences aside, Ojo sees the direction of the music industry shifting to a different focus in performance as well as serious changes to the way people are accessing music.
“I saw Lady Gaga’s show [at the Grammy’s],” Taylor begins. “For her it’s so much the visual thing and choreography—it’s theater. Which isn’t to say that it’s not art, because it is. But at some point, I’m not sure that I would just call that music in its rawest most pure state.”
The music distribution system is forever changed, says Taylor, which is primarily a good thing.
“It levels the playing field—there’s all sorts of distribution options now, you don’t need a record label…there’s no question in my mind that electronically is the way we listen to music. The days of selling a physical commodity like a record…that’s gone.”
As for advice for students wishing to pursue a career in the music industry?
“Be true to yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it…Learn as much as you can on the technical side of things…it can only help. I think there’s this false notion that if you learn skills, somehow that’s antithetical to art. It’s not. The best artists know what they’re doing.”