Sue Ennis’s heart, expertise helps music students succeed in today’s industry

Sue Ennis (left) teaches courses in songwriting as well as the business of music at Shoreline Community College.

Best known for writing chart-topping songs for the band Heart, Shoreline music faculty, Sue Ennis, claims her industry success is based on three things: skill in songwriting, relationships with the right people, and a whole lot of luck. But these days, she contends, success also requires music industry savvy and business know-how, skills she teaches in her classes at Shoreline Community College.

“It’s enormously more difficult to get a foothold in music today than it was for me,” said Ennis, who started in the 70s. “With home recording and streaming, there are fewer barriers to entry but getting noticed in the chaos is the great and ongoing challenge.”

Ennis aims to help students meet that challenge. While she teaches necessary foundational skills through her Craft of Songwriting and Songwriting Workshop courses (offered winter 2018), the award-winning songwriter is passionate about making sure students enter the industry armed with tools to create success.

“I’m really proud of the class Navigating The New Music Business (offered spring 2018), which I originated in response to an ever-changing industry,” said Ennis. “It’s the only class of its kind in our region that is entirely focused on the digital music world and that allows students to explore what it means to be an artist in an industry that has migrated almost entirely to an online model of music distribution and promotion.”

In Navigating, students who are serious about forging a career get an essential toolkit of tips and knowledge about maneuvering through today’s reshaped music industry. Paired with Ennis’s Survey of Music Recording/Publishing Business (winter 2018), students enter the field prepared to take charge of their career.

“Survey of Music Recording/Publishing Business is a no-brainer class to take for aspiring artists,” said Ennis. “It is utterly impossible to forge a smart and lucrative career in today’s music industry without a firm grasp of copyright concepts, music publishing, deal memos, or producer deals. Ignorance of these key concepts is not an option in the music business,” said Ennis.

While today’s successful musicians need business savvy, the industry is also largely about relationships, which Ennis covers in the class Masters and Mentors (offered spring 2018). The Mentors class gives students an opportunity to meet inspiring and successful professionals in the local community. Guest speakers explain the ins and outs of their jobs and offer real-world advice to students just starting out.

Past speakers have included Jennifer Czeisler, Attorney and Music Placement at Subpop Records; Ben Smith, drummer for Heart; Jonathan Plum and Geoff Ott, owners at London Bridge Studios; Sassy Black, songwriter, artist, and speaker; and Andrew Joslyn, film composer, artist, and Macklemore string section.

“Speakers often accept demos and examples of student work for mentoring or professional consideration,” said Ennis, “which offers students access to industry pros they ordinarily would not encounter. People are surprised they can find that kind of access at Shoreline, but our program excels at exposing our students to the opportunities they need to enter the business well informed and well connected.”

While students benefit from meeting industry professionals in Ennis’s classes, they have an enormous resource in Ennis herself. The songwriter has earned ten gold albums, four platinum albums, one triple platinum album, and one quintuple platinum album, and maintains an active presence in the industry. Along with continuing to write, she was recently named to the Recording Academy’s National Advocacy Committee.

“I’ve gained an enormous amount of experience in the industry and I derive great pleasure from sharing my insights and giving back to students,” said Ennis. “The diversity of students at Shoreline is amazing, and it’s energizing to be able to affect the lives of so many people who share the common desire to expand their understanding, fulfill curiosity, and broaden their horizons for the future. That inspires me.”

Ennis, who’s taught at Shoreline for 15 years, is just one of a group of enormously talented and award-winning professionals serving as faculty in Shoreline’s music program.

“The facilities at more expensive schools might be prettier and cushier,” said Ennis, “but our carefully curated curriculum is relevant, current, and rigorous and you could put any one of our second-year digital audio students up against graduates of famous music tech schools across the country and match them skill for skill. Same skill, without being cost prohibitive.”

Learn more about Shoreline’s music program or register to learn the Craft of Songwriting, Songwriting Workshop, or Survey of Music Recording/Publishing Business with Sue Ennis winter quarter.

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