The 2022 NCEG Tournament
A New Plan for the Music Industry
This document is designed to form the basis of understanding for why we, as an organization, have decided to take on the task of creating an intercollegiate music tournament. Here, we will look at the history of NCEG, its mission, and how our processes have evolved. As the author, I sincerely hope that all readers will take from these pages the evidence and motivation that they need to support us on our journey.
The Founder(s) History
The formal creation of NCEG, in December of 2016, is a mere snapshot in the overall history of the organization. To truly understand the reason “why” we created this program. You have to refer back to the early 2000s; specifically Fall of 2006.
By this point, Atlanta had become a well known hub for urban music and black culture. Kids born in the early 1990s grew up bearing witness to Atlanta becoming “hip hop’s center of gravity” [New York Times — 2009]. For years, we watched our idols being born from this place we called home. Kris Kross, TLC, Toni Braxton, Monica, Usher, Outkast, Lil Jon, Ludacris, Ciara, D4L, T.I., and Young Jeezy all reached the top of the charts between 1992 and 2006.
I was born in 1992. By Fall of 2006, I was a freshman in High School. I loved music because of my city. I loved to dance because of music videos and the film You Got Served (2004). And the moment I got to high school, I joined the drum line because of the movie Drumline (2002). But more importantly, I wasn’t the only one. Most of the friendships that I have to this day are with people that I met during my teenage years with whom we shared common interest in the music industry. Between middle school and high school, I had found hundreds of other kids just like me, and by the time we all got to high school, all of our minds were already made up.
We spent years following our passions as adolescents; countless hours investing our time and energy in the things we loved. We found success: we released music, we threw parties, we formed companies, and most importantly, we made money.
So, imagine our shock when the support that we had enjoyed for years came to a screeching halt whenever the topic of college came up. In our minds, we were forming businesses. We understood, through experience, that the music industry couldn’t be contained within a single discipline. It was service, hospitality, music, management, finance, marketing, film, photography, and graphic design all rolled up into one. It took interconnectivity to make things happen, and despite having made significant advancements with entrepreneurship and music business programs since then, universities are not designed to build businesses; Especially not music businesses.
The College Years
We understood then, as we do now, that college is the single most accessible tool for upward social mobility in this country. So, for many students of color, it doesn’t really seem like a choice. We go for education, for careers, for the network, and for status. That being said, after spending our first year in college, we realized that it was up to us to merge all of these external motivators with our own internal one: passion. Thus, once again, we started organizing.
We spent the next year connecting with more students who had interests in the music industry. Only this time, they were college students. Collectively, we contacted and interviewed as many industry professionals as we could. We took on internships to conduct additional research. We consulted with university professors across various disciplines, and eventually, one professor, Steve Jones, took special interest in our vision. He informed us that forming a chartered student organization was indeed the answer to our question, and it just so happened that he was the faculty advisor of one such group.
We discovered that charted student organizations have certain unalienable rights under the United States Constitution’s First Amendment: Freedom of Assembly. “Assembly” being a derivative of the right to free speech, in which students have the right to organize and form groups for either professional or social reasons. The most notable use of this law was seen in the NAACP’s expansion throughout colleges and universities during the Civil Rights Movement. Thus, surely, such a law would allow students to form a network for aspiring music entrepreneurs and award said students access to campus resources as a result.
Our organization was Panther Entertainment Group (PEG) of Georgia State University. It is from this origin that the National Collegiate Entertainers Group (NCEG) gets its name. After meeting Steve Jones, we’d spend the next year within PEG, advancing to leadership positions and conducting further research. Further internships, interviews, and panels led to our ultimate conclusion: the music industry needed its own version of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA); an incubation program to facilitate the growth of students to the very highest levels of the professional music industry. In other words, we needed a system to provide students with real experience utilizing real fans and real opportunities.
Phase 1: Surveying
We derived a plan. It would take years to carry out, much longer than we would have as students, but it would happen in three (3) phases.
Phase one was all about establishing social proof. We needed to prove to our peers that success was not synonymous with fame. Fame is far fetched and arguably brings more issues than it does benefits. Success, as we defined it, was about being able to spend your life doing what you love. Fame is subjective: “Does it take one thousand people to know your name, or one million?” Success is about goals: “How do I get one hundred people to give me $50 every month?”
Additionally, parents play a huge role in how many college students would define success. The drama of fame and the lifestyle of the famous is more than enough reason for parents to recommend that their children steer clear of the entertainment industry. So, we knew that we’d need to demonstrate a drastically different story of success. One that students and parents could both support.
Finally, we needed to debunk the myth that outrageous degrees of talent is what enables success in the music industry. After interviewing so many well established industry veterans, we knew that an artist’s talent was only a very small part of what made them successful. We knew that the team backing them, whether it be their label, producer, or manager, was a much more important factor.
We took a data driven approach. The average D1 university has somewhere between 20,000–30,000 undergraduate students enrolled in any given year. Of these, many of them consider themselves to be recording artists. Some of them are extraordinarily talented. But, how many of them have a substantial fan base that they could profit from?
Utilizing our access as PEG, we held open auditions for student artists. We promised that we’d help students get opportunities to perform at campus events if they were chosen. Our first year doing this meant that no one had any reason to believe us. We were able to audition 23 students. We chose 5.
Then, before doing any events of our own, we spent weeks conducting a survey. We asked random students on campus about their favorite genres of music, top 5 artists, favorite lesser known artist, and favorite artist on campus. Unbeknownst to them, the last question was the most important to us, because we found out about many artists on campus that we didn’t know about. We heard a couple of names that auditioned with us and didn’t make it, a couple mentions of three that did, and two of the artists that we had chosen weren’t mentioned at all, but by and large no significant patterns or outliers emerged. Every campus artist that was mentioned had between one to three random students mention their name in the survey.
Then, we did a series of campaigns, including events, highlighting the artists that we had chosen. We promoted the release of new music, set up public performances, and even coordinated some collaborations with other organizations to provide additional exposure.
The results were clear. Towards the end of the semester, when the same survey was conducted again, artists on our roster were named an average of six (6) times more than the artists not on our roster. Our artists were gaining fans and starting to become recognizable on campus, and as a result, so was our organization.
We conducted the same survey every semester for two years after that, with predictable results. The only thing that changed was the number of artists auditioning with us every year. When we started, only 23 students were interested in auditioning. Our current record for the most students auditioned in a single semester is 213.
Phase 2: Institutional Buy-In
We spent three (3) years in Phase 1. Every semester, we would repeat the cycle of auditioning artists, training them, and cross branding them with PEG. Eventually, we began to attract the attention of other organizations on campus, and it wasn’t long before both students and staff were reaching out to us for access to our roster.
We provided full, end-to-end, event support for any campus group seeking to entertain the student body. Combine that with a time-tested track record of producing professionally trained student performers with fan bases, and we were doing everything from coffee shop performances to homecoming tailgates.
It wasn’t long after that that university staff started requesting private meetings with our members and its founders. Entrepreneurship resources were becoming a bigger demand among students seeking a university education, specifically in both the media and tech sectors. So, we were interviewed multiple times and gave numerous presentations about how our program worked and its ideology.
We consider the completion of Phase 2 to have occurred on Thursday, October 19, 2017, when the Creative Media Industries Institute (CMII) at Georgia State University was formally opened. This $22.8 million dollar facility represents GSU’s commitment to investing in the future of media entrepreneurship, and our organization was chosen to represent the collective interest of the student music entrepreneurs and oversee the management of the facility’s recording studio.
This level of buy-in and trust by such a large academic institution means that there is a true recognition of the value that our members bring. We have the full backing of a multi-million dollar institution that has funded a recording studio for the sole purpose of enabling us to continue our work.
However, although this accomplishment may seem like a result of our work, it’s considered Phase 2 because it was a part of our plan dating back to 2012; two years before Georgia State got the money to fund CMII, and 5 years before we’d be invited to participate in it.
It was predictable because our deliberately public actions were designed to drive a conversation around the role that music entrepreneurship could play on a college campus. We found artists, promoted them, produced events, and partnered with other student groups for the sole purpose of forcing institutional buy-in as more students began requesting the very same resources that we were putting to use.
Our actions created an active and happy student community. We added to the college experience which both increases tuition dollars, and saves on the cost of entertainment. In theory, we knew that Georgia State, like most other schools, spends over $1.5 million dollars entertaining students every year. So we knew that our ability to have such a large impact at a fraction of the price would eventually bear fruit. It just took 5 years to prove it.
Phase 3: Funding the Program
Phase 3 is where we are today. It’s the final nail in the coffin to spark a never ending feedback loop of innovation and success within the music industry.
From the perspective of academia, Phase 1 was about establishing our constitutional right to exist (why they can’t stop us), Phase 2 was about proving our institutional worth (why they shouldn’t want to stop us), and Phase 3 is about creating undeniable financial incentives (why they’ll invest in us).
The launch and execution of the NCEG Tournament represents the final phase of our plan.
It is the lens by which everything that we have done, and will do, will begin to drive the general public to support our cause. Put simply, it’s how we pay for staff salaries, music promotion, awards shows, and most importantly: scholarships.
Scholarships are the great equalizer which will enable us to fast track the public’s understanding of what our mission is. Almost overnight, we’ll be able to change the narrative surrounding what options are available to young people seeking to enter into the music industry. Parents and students can both take solace in knowing that they can study whatever they want and still pursue their dreams. They can choose to look at music as an extracurricular that has the ability to pay for their education just like any other sport.
This funding comes from us being the second catalyst to allow corporations to invest large sums of money into universities. The first of which is the NCAA, which helped schools generate $18.9 billion in 2019 alone. As a result $3.6 billion went to scholarship programs at over 1,100 universities. We believe that this level of investment is the exact reason why U.S. athletes are some of the best globally.
The NCEG Tournament has the opportunity to generate $50,000 in scholarships across 5 schools in our very first year, and by the time students start enrolling in colleges and universities solely because our organization is present there, universities stand to generate a lot more.
Phase 3. to be continued….