Dan Blanck, a sophomore majoring in music industry, is a Bob Dylan fanatic. It’s uncharacteristic to see Blanck without a guitar case in hand, singing “Blood on the Tracks” under his breath. Record label co-founder Blanck shares more than lyrical depth and songwriting style with the folk-rock hero. They share a common dream.
In the film Up In The Air, Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) asks Bob (J.K. Simmons) a question that deserves more reflection.
“You know why kids love athletes?” Bingham asks.
“Because they screw lingerie models,” Bob retorts.
“No,” Bingham says. “Kids love them because they follow their dreams.”
In college, and throughout our formative years, we all have our respective idols: painters, filmmakers, musicians, athletes, authors, entrepreneurs or rebels. There is a connection between us and those we study, read about and admire. Through their success, ours is rendered more tangible.
Blanck’s story, although punctuated by various internships and business endeavors, is more like a Wes Anderson film full of people and life.
“My music career has been fueled by a combination of mentors and teachers, traveling and observing the world,” Blanck said. “Around the age of 9, at summer camp, I heard Bob Dylan for the first time. His storytelling inspired me to buy my first guitar.”
Anecdotes aside, the difference between Blanck and many people his age is that the 19-year-old co-founded an independent recording label Acadian Recording Co. with actor Spencer Breslin (The Santa Clause 2 and 3, Disney’s The Kid) and is well on his way to creating a career in music.
In 2005, Blanck launched Blanck Records in upstate New York, where he maintained engineer-to-artist relationships with the Metropolitan Opera and Symphony, Grammy-nominated recording artists and jazz ensembles. He also worked for studios and concert halls, including Belfer Archives and Crouse Recital Hall at Syracuse University. Furthermore, Blanck won multiple Downbeat Awards in 2007 and 2008, a music award given to students annually.
When I asked Blanck if he was afraid of what happens when he leaves college and enters the real world, he told me that the world he inhabits now may be comfortable, but it’s still real.
“Although my family sometimes refers to USC as summer camp,” Blanck said. “[It] provides learning opportunities. I would like to think I am in the real world now.”
This is a fair statement for Blanck to make, given what he does beyond USC. College provides a certain amount of security, but there is still failure, discrimination, conflict and loss. What Blanck teaches us is that we need to not only educate ourselves but also put what we learn to good use.
In the arts, there has always been a movement against the mainstream, and for good reason. Studios tend to micro-manage, record labels put brands and identity before voice and talent and revenue is the paramount. The stigma associated with anyone working in that realm in a larger capacity is sell out.
Successful people are often categorized in this way, while the downtrodden auteur remains part of the artistic nobility. Although the term “sell out” is wildly thrown about, that fame that comes with it can be corruptive. But to say that any actor working on a studio blockbuster or a musician premiering a video on VH1 is automatically a sell out is not always accurate.
Spike Jonze made commercials before becoming the renowned indie filmmaker that he is today.
When Blanck is recording some mainstream group in his recording studio, is he not a dream maker? If we are doing what we love every single day, how could we be selling out?
For the past few weeks I’ve talked about dreams, but it occurs to me that I might not have made clear exactly what it means to be a “dream maker” as opposed to a “dreamer.” In the real world, dreams are not found, they are achieved. And for Blanck, the idea of owning a record company is almost a complete realization of a dream. Blanck not only hoped to work in the music industry but filed and negotiated for a legal stake.
This might seem contradictory because dreams tend to be thought of in a purified state where business and profits cease to exist. But when our dreams, identities, ideals and investments are allowed to harmonize, that is a kind of music too, isn’t it?
Brian Ivie is a sophomore majoring in cinema-television critical studies. His column, “Dreammaking,” runs Tuesdays.