Andrew Schindler

Music production senior Kelsey Harper records a trombone track for her recording class. The Butler School of Music cut the music recording technology and business programs because of budget cuts.

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

The Butler School of Music is discontinuing its music recording technology and music business programs because of University-mandated budget cuts to the school and a deficit in the school’s budget.

Butler School director Mary Poole could not disclose the exact amount of the budget cut or deficit, but called the financial circumstances of the Butler School “dire” in an email sent to students in the programs on Nov. 21. According to Poole’s email, faculty members were not involved in the decision to stop admission to the programs.

“It was a painful decision indeed to suspend admission to the music business and recording technology emphases within the music [bachelor of arts degree], and I am acutely aware that it must seem ironic,” Poole said. “I very much hope that one day soon, UT will be able to support programs exploring all aspects of the music industry with the facilities and resources our brilliant students deserve.”  

The programs, which Poole said have about 60 students enrolled in them, instruct students in the production and business aspects of the music industry and focus on areas outside of classical music.

“I think that ours holds a lot of merit, in that it’s extremely useful in mainstream jobs that are related to music, because it’s not solely focused on classical music or preforming it,” music production senior Kelsey Harper said. “It’s more of the industrial side of things.”

The programs will continue as normal, until students currently enrolled in the programs have graduated, according to Ed Fair, music business adjunct professor and music attorney.

“In the short-term, those who are in the program will certainly be fine,” Fair said.  

Music production senior Andrew Schindler said he wishes the decision had been discussed with students prior to it being made.

“There’s never been any sort of connection between the administration at the Butler School and the students,” Schindler said.  “As far as who to blame, there’s not anyone to blame. It’s more of a situation where students are pretty apathetic about the school because they’re just there to study their instrument.”

Fair said he is disappointed to see the program go.

“I’m especially sad for students who are in the program and have recently gotten out of the program,” Fair said. “Because it’s a little uncomfortable that the program you’ve just completed no longer exists.”

Harper shared this concern and said she and her classmates are worried the degree will decrease in merit and be less marketable for jobs now that it is being discontinued.

Schindler said he thinks the Butler School of Music is trying to be more like a traditional music conservatory.

“To be a prosperous musician, you have to understand business and how to record music,” Schindler said. “The fact that they are closing those two programs, I feel you’re disenfranchising a lot of students.”

In an email, music production senior lecturer Gary Powell said he would like to see the Butler School look at areas like music business and production again in the future.

“The Butler School has made a decision in line with its academic pursuits,” Powell said. “My hope is that, in time, in a different economy, and even with the same leadership, we will see these pursuits broaden.”

Music recording majors Thomas Cardwell and Dashon Moore run InfiniD, their own independent record label. Out of their apartment, Cardwell and Moore record and promote artists, as well as produce original backing tracks and scores.

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

As the first notes of “Stairway to Heaven” play from the speakers at Spider House Cafe, the members of Avenue F Records stop what they’re doing to fully appreciate the Led Zeppelin song. The independent record label’s three founders, all UT students, take a special interest in creating a label that emphasizes personal connections between artists.

InfiniD Music, another UT student-run label, takes a similar approach, with a goal of working closely with artists to develop their brand. Although both labels are small and new to Austin, they hope their shared focus on producing authentic music will give them a break in the industry.

Andrew Schindler, music production senior, Michael Gonzales, drum set performance senior, and Zeke Levine, bass performance junior, run Avenue F. The label is located, not surprisingly, on Avenue F. Schindler was inspired to start the record label after attending a music business convention. After listening to one of the speakers, Schindler said he realized that, in order to have a chance of making it in today’s industry, he needed to have a more DIY approach.

“The biggest thing that pushed all of this was the idea that anyone who wants to innovate has to do it themselves,” Schindler said. “Austin is the live music capital, but there really aren’t the kind of labels you’d find in New York or L.A.”

The group works with several different types of artists whose genres span from indie to R&B. The group hopes to build a citywide community by working with multiple artists and making an attempt to become more involved with their careers.

“We’re trying to create a sense of value for music,” Levine said. “Labels used to invest in their artists and see them through albums, but now they make most of their money through commercials and licensing, which has completely changed the kind of music labels are willing to produce. We want to make good music and promote it as much as we can.”

The group believes that, because they each specialize in different instruments and come from different musical backgrounds, they can provide their artists with a sound that will set them apart. This is something each of Avenue F’s members agreed upon in order to make a name for their label. 

“You see a lot of artists out there today, and you realize that it’s not even about the music anymore, it’s about so much more,” Schindler said. “We’re trying to make music the most important thing again. We want to create music that’s so good people will be willing to pay for it, even if they don’t have to.”

The growing popularity of music streaming is something that labels like Avenue F and InfiniD Music have to take into consideration because they believe many people now turn toward streaming services like Spotify rather than actually purchasing their music. 

Music recording technology sophomore Dashon Moore, who later teamed up with classmate and fellow music recording senior Thomas Cardwell, started InfiniD Music, which, like Avenue F, provides services that many other record labels do not. 

“Sometimes the artists that come in need help with music videos or promotional videos,” Cardwell said. “We’re kind of all encompassing in what we provide them. We want to help build their vision with them instead of just outsourcing it to other people like other record labels might.”

The group prides itself on providing a collaborative space that will help artists create as freely as possible.

“Our mission statement is helping people make the music that they want to make,” Moore said. “We just want to have an honest and open space for them to create. I don’t think music should just be a business, but it should be something that lets artists develop and get their message out.”