The University of Georgia Music Business Program gave students a lesson in independence, when lead singer Ed Roland of Atlanta-based group Collective Soul spoke in class on April 20.
One of the first major bands to successfully form its own label, Roland described Collective Soul’s rise to prominence, the pros and cons of being indie versus joining a major label and how the music business has changed more in the last 10 years than at any time in its existence.
Roland shared how Collective Soul had to break through barriers to gain audience exposure after radio conglomerates bought up stations in the 1990s and playlists shrunk.
"We came out in the 90s when it was taboo to put anything in a commercial," said Roland, who, with acoustic guitar in hand, met with several ad agencies in Chicago and negotiated a song placement on a Special K cereal commercial. "It helped us with radio (play) because we were an independent…and we got our first gold single. It was a good example of successfully thinking outside the box."
Active in the Georgia music scene since the 1980s, Roland formed the band Collective Soul in the early 1990s. Their debut album, "Hints, Allegations & Things Left Unsaid," was an independent release and earned heavy rotation on college radio with the eventual No. 1 hit "Shine." Atlantic Records signed the band, and from 1994-2001. Collective Soul produced five No. 1 hits. Their second album went triple-platinum, spending 76 weeks on the Billboard top 200.
Since 2001, Collective Soul has released four albums on it's El Music Group label, broke new ground on a deal negotiated with Target to exclusively distribute their album "Afterwords," in 2007 and had their song "Tremble For My Beloved," featured on the soundtrack of the 2008 movie "Twilight."
Bruce Burch, director of the UGA Music Business Program, believes Roland’s experiences were highly instructive for his students. "Collective Soul’s story is a lesson in successful change management," Burch said, "They arrived at the end of an old era and learned to thrive at the dawn of a new one."
UGA's Music Business Program, which is a privately funded certificate program housed within the Terry College of Business, prepares students for careers in the music industry. Students can earn an interdisciplinary certificate in music business by receiving a hands-on education about subjects like music and business fundamentals, copyright issues, creative content, artist management and production and technology.