Facing the music
Avi Hirshbein '19 discusses his burgeoning career in the music industry.
Avi Hirshbein ’19 could have pursued his passion for music the old-fashioned way. Upon arriving at Brandeis, he might have honed his musical abilities by taking lessons in the three instruments he taught himself to play: the piano, the guitar and the ukulele. If that had gone well, he could have joined the Brandeis orchestra or a student ensemble. Instead, realizing the odds of fame and success as a musician were remote, he decided to create his own record label called Basement Records.
Basement Records was founded as a music label designed to provide resources to student artists and promote their work beyond the Brandeis campus. Four years ago, before Basement Records became a chartered club, Hirshbein told the Justice that he would work with everyone who came to him, and that’s still true. But, he says, “They have to be proactive.They have to meet me halfway. They should ask themselves, ‘Is making music something that’s fun and fulfills me or is it something I can make a career out of?’” Under Hirshbein’s leadership, Basement Records has worked with a variety of artists and musical groups. After stepping down from the label at the end of last year, Hirshbein became the manager of Late Night Thoughts, a band created by Brian Rauch ’19 and Michael Harlow ’19.
Hirshbein considers the label one of his signature accomplishments at Brandeis, but with his graduation nearing, he’s handed over the reins to Bethel Adekogbe ’20.
He sat down for an interview with the Justice to talk about his efforts to contribute to the music scene on campus. Reclining in a blue armchair in the SCC, he smiled, saying, “It’s been a grueling four years.” He explained that, at first, Basement Records was hard to get off the ground, saying, “Making people believe in your vision is sometimes the hardest part of the job.”
Once Basement Records became a chartered club, Hirshbein had to find a recording studio for the artists he had signed. He said, “The heart of any record label is the recording studio.” So, using funding for Basement Records, he teamed up with Mark Dellelo, the head of Getz Media Lab, to renovate the recording booth in the basement of the library. Today the renovated recording studio—complete with state of the art equipment—can be reserved by anyone at Brandeis, but it also serves as the home base Hirshbein had envisioned for Basement Records.
Last year, when Hirshbein wasn’t working on Basement Records, he was serving as the marketing chair on Campus Activities Board where, once again, he gravitated towards music. On CAB, he created Brandeis Entertainment for Aspiring Musicians, a digital talent search whereby the artist with the most votes is given an opportunity to open at SpringFest. Last year, the winning artist was Late Night Thoughts. Impressed, Hirshbein was quick to offer his expertise to Late Night Thoughts and soon became their manager. He said, “It just felt like a home run.” In the spring of last year, Late Night Thoughts released an EP on Spotify titled “Moonlit Memories,” which has garnered over half a million listens on the platform and helped the band secure performances across the Northeast. Hirshbein plans to continue managing Late Night Thoughts once he graduates.
Last summer, Hirshbein worked for APG, a division of Warner Music in Los Angeles, which led him to serve as the college representative for the company his junior year. “I’ve met so many people there who could potentially be mentors for me,” he said. While he’s not sure what lies in store for him after graduation, the success of Late Night Thoughts will impact whether he decides to work for a major record label, many of which are located in LA. “The band is making waves, and it’s gonna be hard to balance those two things. I’m not going all in on Late Night Thoughts just to drop them once I graduate.” Hirshbein alluded to some singles the band plans release soon as well as his plans to help them innovate. “Good songwriting is not enough,” he said; “you have to stand out from the rest.”
Hirshbein is acutely aware that he’s diving into a uniquely cut-throat industry and that any criticism he has received at Brandeis will pale in comparison to what the so-called ‘outside world’ has in store of him. But, he says he feels confident, because his time working for Warner Music as well as running Basement Records has prepared him for the next step. He has used the lessons from his business courses at Brandeis and applied them to his budding music career, buying books on music business to read outside of class. “There have been a lot of times over the years where I’ve had to do it all on my own and build the brand of Basement Records", he said, "There were a few obstacles, but also a few people that believed in the label, like Marcelo Brociner '18 who was key to bringing my vision to life.” However, he admitted that the success of the label can be unnerving at times. “I suffer from imposter syndrome,” he said, explaining that sometimes he feels his success is undeserved. Ultimately, Hirshbein knows he can’t let his anxieties get in the way of “following [his] gut.”
Wherever his career takes him, Hirshbein wants to make waves in the music industry. He sees the job of managing a music label as, “the most dynamic and entrepreneurial endeavor. It’s having a company where the product always changes and that’s exciting.”