School was back in session June 29 at New Hope Academy Charter School in York.

A few youngsters sat on the gym's red bleachers, but most of the students were adults looking for advice on how to break into the music industry.

New Hope performing arts director Cal Weary jokingly asked me if I was looking for a rap battle. (Obviously, he's never heard me spit some rhymes.)

But I attended the Music Business Seminar to investigate the area's vibrant hip-hop scene.

York is full of people who are passionate about music, but those sitting next to me came to an elementary school on a blazing summer afternoon - the Friday before Fourth of July no less. Some asked questions. Others took notes.

About 10 panelists, lined at a table facing the bleachers, shared advice, experiences and other suggestions.

Collectively, they had decades of experience to pull from.

One of the most familiar names in York's hip-hop base, Phene, aka Zach Richards, helped put it all together. The William Penn High School grad relocated to Atlanta a few years ago, but York is still his home. His family is here. And, when he wanted to help others in hishometown find success, his fellow rappers, promoters, producers and music store owners made it happen.

At 18, Phene attended his first music conference. It changed the way he thought about the career he wanted to pursue. On June 29, it was his turn to provide guidance.

Here are some of the seminar's pointers:

  • Keep grinding: In other words, work hard. Expect nothing less than long days and nights. Remember: It's 90 percent business; 10 percent talent.

  • Build a team of people around you. Make sure you trust and respect these people. Everything in the music industry is built on relationships.

  • Build a brand. Everything you post, release and share should relate to that. Keep it consistent. People will begin to recognize your style and presentation. It will set you apart.

  • Networking used to be about handing out mixtapes and hanging posters. It's still important to get out in the community to build relationships. But online is a big part of promotion. Build a website and electronic press kit (EPK). In the days of YouTube, it's important to present visuals with your music. When networking - online or otherwise - be presentable and professional.

  • Don't send your music directly to a star. Send it to a DJ or take it to a record store. First impressions count. People will judge you by your album cover. But the sound quality is the most important thing. Professional producers, engineers and photographers can be expensive, but using their services could pay off. One option is to find a local artist you like and ask his opinion on your music. It won't hurt to ask if he or she wants to collaborate with you.

  • If you're trying to market yourself in a new area, start with a record store or club. Look into the area's musical history, venues, etc. Know your audience. Interact with fans online and in person to get to know the people clicking on your videos and downloading your music.

  • Read every word of every contract. Hire an entertainment lawyer if possible. If this is not an option, contact an area law school. See if someone who is studying law will consult with you.

  • The music industry is competitive, but try to help each other out. If you don't book a show, attend anyway to network and find out what the venue is looking for. Become a mentor for those in your community. Be original. Be you.

  • Have patience: Overnight success doesn't exist. A lot of people hope to make a living with music, but if that is your only goal, it might not be the right career. Remember: There are other careers in the music industry, including publicity, promotions, managing, etc.

    - ERIN McCRACKEN,
    FlipSide staff

    Panalists

    - Phene: Recording artists and winner of five Central PA Hip-Hop Awards

    - The New York Giant: Club DJ, new media designer

    - Big Skeem: Manager of Lancaster artist GI The General

    - The Winners Circle Production Team: Production Credits for Justin Bieber, Meek Mill, Rick Ross, T-Pain and others

    - Supa Dupa Sultan: Owner of Pro Sound Studios

    - Fred Walker: Marketing and promotions for Streetwork Ent. LLC

    - Framework Rick: Recording artist, promoter

    - Dave House: Interscope Records promotional team and author of the upcoming book "Street Rules in the Office: The Beginner's Guide to Focus in the Music Biz"

    - Ecko: Xclusive Entertainment