Music Industry Guru Shares Insights as Champlain College Professor
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Standing at the front of a classroom, Matt Grasso looks like any normal Champlain College professor teaching a class. What most students don’t know is that he’s anything but ordinary.
Besides his job at Champlain, Matt also works as the Operations Manager for Hall Communications at a local radio station. In other words, he’s responsible for taking care of Federal government licenses, making sure that the station is in compliance with regulations set for all radio stations nationally. Additionally, Matt picks not only the music that the DJ’s can play, but actually who the DJ’s are. In his own words, he “handles the brand” along with the designated promotions people, signing off on the company image and promotions materials. Matt also communicates with record companies day-to-day about how their artists’ songs are doing on the radio.
“I take calls from a lot of record labels about their songs…. I’m going to go home to a bunch of emails from them wanting to know why their bands weren’t put on the stations today,” Matt said, rolling his eyes.
Matt doesn’t just deal with record companies: he gets to interact directly with artists, too. While he tells many interesting anecdotes to his students in class, he’s had so many experiences that he often struggles to just pick one, especially since the majority are so unexpected and exciting. Who wouldn’t be interested in hearing about the time Green Day destroyed his office while left alone when they were visiting the company?
With such an important job, many would guess that Matt would have trouble staying humble. Instead, his role seems to keep him grounded. He worries about providing for his family most of all, and he’s extremely grateful for all of the opportunities he has received. After all, he started off in the same shoes as the students he teaches.
Matt went to school at Castleton University, but his education didn’t end there. He was recruited to find talented artists as an A&R person for a record company during college, spending his summers going up and down the east coast looking for new bands. Matt also took advantage of his time while working at The Wobbly Barn and The Pickle Barrel, two venues at Killington. There he looked for bands that had the perfect combination of covers and originals to appeal to a variety of ages. The other main goal was to find bands that had a “crowd that travels with them,” meaning a solid fanbase, which would bring in the highest profits for everyone involved.
Matt’s opportunities didn’t stop with that, as he also took advantage of a chance to be on a local radio show, then was picked up by a bigger station when they heard his talent, allowing him to continue his journey through the world of music.
Working with radio stations has given Matt a variety of unique experiences. One of his favorites was when he had the chance to start the tradition of ninety-nine cent shows at Higher Ground, making music more accessible for everyone and better spending their resources. The first was created through his connection with Jared Leto and his band, Thirty Seconds to Mars, who Matt selected because he “knew their priority was music” instead of just making money. Matt claimed that having Jared Leto “in his office, just acting normal, was awesome. Spending the day with him…. It was a really big day, a big deal”.
After Thirty Seconds to Mars, countless other bands have followed in the past ten years. Matt has done a variety of private or ninety-nine cent shows with bands including X Ambassadors, New Politics, Silversun Pickups, and Fitz and the Tantrums. “The main thing is to find a band who is really outgoing.”
Matt’s goals for the future also display the ambition he held at the start of his career. Although he has been very successful thus far, he is looking to expand his horizons by taking on more risk, starting his own company and working for himself.
“I probably passed on some really good opportunities because I was afraid that if they flopped, my children wouldn’t be able to go to college. So my future is getting into business for myself,” he said. Matt’s hard work has made two companies several million dollars, but he hasn’t seen the money that he helped earn, which is something he would really like to change.
Although Matt is still working hard for his radio station, he makes time to be a professor at Champlain as well. His students are always welcome to stay after class to chat, and many students say that he’s one of their favorite professors.
“Matt is one of the best professors ever,” Derek Mann, a first year, said. “He makes jokes all the time and tells us all about his time in the music industry, as well as being a professor here.” The first year Broadcast Media Production major is in Matt’s Audio Production class. Thanks to Matt’s teachings, Derek now knows that he wants to go into the audio field. He couldn’t speak more highly of his professor if he tried. “Matt is just a really great guy.”