Alex Fruchter maintains a high level of professional engagement and is extremely active in the music and entertainment industry. Recently he has been featured numerous times by the department and external publications for his work in the Chicago Hip-Hop scene and with his record label Closed Sessions. In this interview we take a step back and discuss his background, how he balances classes with outside projects, and a few words of wisdom. Additionally, you can listen to his SXSW 2016 soundcloud interview.
First off, what’s your story?
Ha! That’s a tough way to start an interview. I was born and raised in Hyde Park on the southside of Chicago. I fell in love with music and Hip Hop culture as a kid, and have wanted to be part of it since I can remember. That first manifested itself via religious watching of MTV & The Box, reading music magazines, and daily trips to my local record store, Dr. Wax, where I would spend hours digging for bootlegs and the under-the-radar music. When I got to college at Indiana University, I began my makeshift journalism career, chasing down my favorite artists and writing about them for early sites like HipHopCongress.org & SoundSlam.com, where I became the editor. Just before the start of my senior year of college, my parents saved enough to get me a car as a reward for working hard. Just before leaving our apartment for the dealership, I caught a snippet of the movie “Scratch”. I just remember running out of the room and asking my dad if I could use the same money to get turntables. They said I could, but there would be no more hope of a car. I decided to go with the turntables. That decision fully changed my life, and set me fully on the course I’m on now. After college, I moved back to Chicago where I participated in Teach for America while living a second life as a writer & DJ. This put me in the middle of Chicago’s changing hip hop scene, as well as the birth of the digital music industry. Writing and DJing led to starting my own record label, Closed Sessions. We currently have 5 artists on our roster and continue to grow.
What industry are you predominantly affiliated with?
The music industry.
What current projects are you working on outside of Columbia? How do they have an impact on your classes?
Running a record label and managing artists is a daily balancing act of projects. The most important thing I’m working on right now is the release campaign for Kweku Collins’ new album, Nat Love, which will be released April 8th. This involves coordinating his press campaign, shoring up physical distribution opportunities, overseeing art direction, managing our marketing budget, and working with our team – keeping everyone engaged and excited. I’m very proud of this album as well as Kweku’s growth as a person since we signed him a year ago. I’ve learned that my students thrive when given real-life examples. I show them that what we are studying in class does not just exist in a text book or online reading assignments. By sharing what I’m working on, how I’m problem solving, and my struggles, I am able to relate to the students and they can better relate to me. I have also found that teaching at Columbia is extremely complimentary to running Closed Sessions (and vice versa). I’m able to be face-to-face with some really intelligent and creative young people every single day.
Have you recently completed any interesting projects?
Aside from releasing music with our artists, we also host a wide variety of events. We recently completed the Chicago Creative Series. Happening quarterly, we hosted art gallery exhibits from rising visual artists. The event series started in our office and then expanded to art galleries and non-traditional spaces throughout the city. We were able to work with artists such as JC Rivera, Jas Petersen, Floyd A. Davis IV, Upendo Taylor, and Zoe Rain. In addition to the gallery party, we collaborated with each artist on original pieces and photo/video content.
What advice would you give to current students in the Business & Entrepreneurship programs?
Work your hardest on everything you do, from the easiest assignment to the toughest. Everything with your name on it is a representation of who you are, represent yourself the right way. I also tell them to listen to and engage with their peers. They have all made a daring choice to follow their passions into an ever-changing and fast-paced industry. Their peers in-class now will be their peers in-business. Lean on each other and grow with each other. Lastly, I would encourage them to study and observe the industry they hope to be a part of. Whether you want to be a plumber or a record label owner (and everything in between) you have become a part of the community. What are the norms of the trade? What are the basics of the craft? Observe, analyze, act.
What advice would you give to prospective students?
First, I would tell them to enjoy the summer and be prepared for a totally new world in the fall. I would also tell them that they are about to become part of vibrant, diverse, and at times overwhelming community. Breathe, have fun, and get to work!