The list of alum speaks for itself. Boasting names like Phoebe Ryan, Maggie Rogers, ARCA, Kiah Victoria, their credentials speak for themselves…music royalty Pharrell Williams even dropped by to teach a master class. The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music is one of the trendiest music schools on the scene, drawing many eyes and ears to look and listen for the next big thing to emerge from its hallways. But what really goes on behind the walls of this legendary institution?
Your Tonemamas donned our finest all black spy outfits, put on our old-school detective glasses and fedora hats (think Sherlock Holmes) and decided to investigate the matter. We walked into our imaginary police office holding takeaway black coffees and stepped inside the darkened interrogation chamber.
“Who’s the first suspect?” we asked the trembling assistant waiting dutifully with our donuts at the door.
“Sabrina Song,” she whispered back, dropping the donuts on the table in the room and scrambling back to the doorway.
“Bring her in,” we replied quietly, gesturing our hands like Italian mafia-style bosses. (Spies or Italian mafia? Pick a character, Tonemamas!)
In walks 21-year old indie-pop singer-songwriter and producer Sabrina Song with all the understated flair and subtle confidence of a rising star. Suddenly your Tonemamas remember we’re not actually in an unfolding murder myster/ Italian mob film and quickly rip off our detective costumes to resume our professional interviewer’s stance.
“Welcome Sabrina!”, we start while quickly wiping off a fake beautify spot on our chin (your Tonemamas really do have an overactive imagination).
As the topic of today is fancy music schools, we get right into it: are they worth it?
Song is adamant that going to a fancy school, or any music school for that matter does not necessarily boost your chances for success.
“You could be going to school anywhere, or not going to school and your chances of success are still the same,” she explains.
Song admits it took her a while to arrive at this realization.
“I was waiting for this moment in the beginning where I was like, ‘when am I going to be discovered?’” she giggles sheepishly.
Song is in her final year, and we ask her whether she feels her time at the Clive Davis Institute has prepared her for the music industry . She tells us that everything that happened in the program, whether good or bad, prepared her for the reality of the industry beyond school.
“You’re not going to get every opportunity you apply for, or feel like things are handled fairly,” she tells us.
Essentially, the music industry isn’t fair. (Also, if you didn’t know this, what blissfully unaware cave are you quarantining in, and can we join you please?)
However, Song credits the institute as helping her see music as a profession versus a hobby. She recalls a professor telling her, “Not being inspired is not an excuse…this is your profession.”
Song was one of the lucky students who got to study abroad at the Clive Davis Institute’s European base in Berlin. She saw the music scene there as enlightening her about the different ways in which music can exist in the world.
“I don’t think I’d fit in there, but I loved being a consumer,” she remembers. “It’s the opposite of New York – people aren’t creating for the purpose of succeeding, it’s just a constant creation of art but no one is trying to make a name for themselves in that way.”
Wait…people are making music and not stressing daily about the number of Grammys they need to win by the age of nineteen? What is this place? Your Tonemamas continue listening to Song speak while doing a quick Google search on how expensive one-way tickets to Berlin are.
“In New York it’s different,” she goes on. “If you’re not doing something every second of the day, you’re a failure. It’s refreshing to see another way in which art can operate.”
“It is indeed,” we murmur back while selecting a flight leaving tonight with Lufthansa (we’re coming for you Berlin, you beautiful, organic and pure city!)
“There is no branding or marketing,” she continues. “It’s cool to see how you can be famous on the scene versus a Google search.”
As the interview comes to an end, we ask her how her experience at school has changed her outlook on the music industry in general. Song speaks about her realization that there is no one way to make a living as a musician.
“You can have multiple streams of income, and hone all of the skills that can provide you with the ability to pursue music…there is no upwards, straight path.”
There you have it, Tonemillers. There are no job openings on Indeed for “Famous Artist, working 9-5” but when that happens, we’ll let you know. For now, we will just continue feeding your minds with the insight of people walking the walk and talking the talk, like our very own Sabrina Song!
Sabrina Song released her first EP in 2019 entitled Undone. She is set to release new music at the end of the year.