University Professor.

Musician’s Advocate.


Paul Young is head of the Music Industry Program at California State University, Chico. Young was a transformative force at USC, having served as Chair, Director of the minors program, and founder of a new Master of Science degree in Music Industry, which launched Fall 2018. Young was the recipient of the 2015 Steven B. Sample Teaching & Mentoring Award and the 2016 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Outside of USC, Young is a professional musician with an impressive resume of film, television and recording industry credits, a member of the Grammy-winning John Daversa Big Band, a published music rights advocate, and formerly Director of Licensing and Contract Administration for major label, Universal Music Group.

Music Is Not All The Same

Music is an emotional experience. Whether you are recording for a major label, playing for a crowd of 15 people, or focused elsewhere while it floats in the background, music is important. The new abundance of music available today, joyously crafted irrespective of the experience and investment it required, has an inherent value for its creators and listeners. From premium to DIY, its delivery is a significant commercial enterprise, involving powerful industries. The industries that rely upon it to promote their products and services should not treat all music as if it’s worth decimals of pennies. Because of the differences between hobby music and professional music, commercial music necessitates a price much higher than the modern digital industry has valued it. Just one song can go from songwriter to artist to studio musicians to producers to engineers to managers to agents and promoters, before the public may become aware of this high-quality, developed music that is worth paying for. Indeed, there is a battle over the reasonable revenue and shares between disruptors and an industry of professional creators. Here, too many creators lose, while the “innovators” side-stepping the typical channels take advantage, dictating to the public what someone else’s product should be worth to meet their own bottom line. Instead of this paradigm where the lowest price sets the bar for all works of music, the value of intellectual property, which we happily pull out our credit cards for at the box office or on Amazon, should dictate the price of these quality goods.

Music Is Our Industry

Should modern career musicians and music industry professionals (the creative class) determine its value? Or, should music suppliers and advertising hosts, focused on their own bottom line? Do we seek music or its platform? My role is not to change the industry, but to change how you think about it. If you did not accept the status quo, how would you approach the value of music? You experienced it: you danced, you cried, you felt something real. You remembered it: you have a soundtrack to every meaningful moment of your life. Do you remember that one performance that changed your life? The song that you played on repeat and couldn’t get out of your head? That’s not a free download. That’s not a file. That’s an experience. That’s meaning. Artists should get paid for that feeling.

The Solution Is In the Value

The public does not want to hear about how much it cost you to give them that feeling –they just want to feel it. While they’re experiencing that visceral reaction is the time that we can shine a light on all the important personnel involved in creating these moments. Great music comes from a team, and when credit is shared accordingly, then the amount of work and talent that went into that moment can become clear. If the creators control the value narrative in these emotions, then the suppliers cannot re-adjust that price. Any good advertiser tries to create an emotion around an unemotional product, but music has that emotional pull built in. This is how we need to value our product, but if you stop there, when the moment is over, and it’s time for them to pull out their credit card, the supplier’s message overshadows the memory of the moment. To counteract this, you must determine: How can you make the unique, value-shifting impact of your music permanent?

Newest Articles

Paul Young Argues Against Unauthorized Music Uploads

USC Thornton Music Industry faculty member Paul Young recently penned an editorial for the Washington-based newspaper The Hill regarding the lack of fair pay for musicians whose copyrighted work is uploaded to digital streaming services such as YouTube. In the piece, titled ”Upstream without a payment,“ Young argues that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) […]

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Paul Young of Music Industry Program Provides Insight Into ”Blurred Lines“ Verdict

ABC7 Eyewitness News sat down with USC Thornton professor Paul Young, director of the music industry minors program, for an expert analysis of the legal battle between Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and the family of Marvin Gaye. Young, a former executive and producer with Universal Music Group, provided insight into the business implications for the […]

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Paul Young Wins 2014 Steven B. Sample Teaching & Mentoring Award

Paul Young, USC Thornton faculty and director of the Music Industry Minors program, has been selected as one of this year’s recipients of the 2014 Steven B. Sample Teaching & Mentoring Award. In conjunction with USC Trojan Family Weekend, the award honors faculty members who have been nominated by parents and symbolizes ”an important aspect […]

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USC Thornton at the 2017 GRAMMY Awards

USC Thornton faculty and alumni were nominated in 12 categories at the 59th annual GRAMMY Awards.

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