Former A&M Records executive earns undergraduate degree while teaching graduate-level course
Working with Janet Jackson and Sting at A&M Records was a long way from the college classrooms where David Steffen spent only three semesters as a young man. "Historically, the music business has gone after people who have a knowledge of music instead of a resume," he explains, and so starting as a local promotion manager in Chicago in 1972, he rose to senior vice president of sales and distribution at the Hollywood-based company.
Six years ago David started taking courses at Fairfield University, and on Sunday, May 20, he will receive a bachelor's degree summa cum laude in American Studies. But all that experience and expertise in the music industry was an education in itself, and so while he has been studying for an undergraduate degree, he has been teaching a graduate-level course at New York University, "Principles & Practice in the Music Industry," and an undergraduate course, "Introduction to the Music Industry" at Fairfield University.
Teaching was an awakening for him. There's no hiding how good I feel in front of a class," he says. And so, with a goal of teaching full-time at the university level, the student/professor will be studying in the Ph.D. program at the New School in New York City this fall.
At the same time, David is launching his own business, The Fox Run Group, Inc., in West Redding, Conn. The small, music-related company will specialize in publishing select out-of-print books and release select and previously unavailable soundtracks to musical and music-documentary films. The first compact disc, "Sun Ra," is due out this year.
Following the sale of A&M Records in 1990, he joined BMG Music in New York as senior vice president and general manager. In 1996 he was brought in to turn around the financially troubled GRP Recording Company. One year later the business was "on plan" and then profitable the following year.
He says both business and technology have changed in the music industry, making it less appealing for him. Today, he points out, five large companies control 90 percent of the business.
Still, what really motivated him to take a new direction was the time spent away from home. Returning from a three-week business trip that took him to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Paris, Frankfort, London and other major cities, he saw the pile of postcards he had mailed to his 10-year-old daughter, Catie, and knew he didn't want to miss her childhood.
At Fairfield, David was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and is a member of Alpha Sigma Lambda, a national honor society, and Alpha Mu Gamma, a national foreign language honor society.
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Posted on May 1, 2001
Vol. 33, No. 207