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Blazing the Trail for the Recording Industry at MTSU

MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University)
MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University) located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee

MTSU (Middle Tennessee State University) located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, houses the largest collegiate recording program in the United States. In fact, the program currently hosts 1,300 students. 

The university, which is just 1 hour outside of Nashville AKA “Music City,” offers a Bachelor of Science degree in audio production, music business, and commercial songwriting. The department, which was founded in 1973, has consistently ranked on Billboard and Hollywood Reporter’s list of top programs globally. 

We spoke with John Merchant, Professor and Chair of the Department of Recording Industry, about the evolving technology in the music industry, and how MTSU gets the most out of its workflow with OWC. 

Earning credibility in the classroom 

Over the years, MTSU has become known for producing some of the best engineers, songwriters, and producers in the music industry. The university’s list of former students boasts country singers Sam Hunt and Chris Young, Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, and Amy Lee (lead singer of the rock band Evanescence), among many others. 

Many of the faculty members are involved in the music industry which John said: “brings an immediacy and credibility” to what they do in the classroom. Today’s students are seeking current industry trends, versus just learning “how it used to be” from an instructor who was in the industry 20 years ago. 

John Merchant
John Merchant, Professor and Chair of the Department of Recording Industry

Anywhere there’s a story that needs to be told, we’re there to help accentuate that story—in music, in cinema, immersive audio, in gaming, or by supporting those people by writing songs or providing the business aspect.

John Merchant

Technology makes a difference 

John admitted that technology has most certainly changed a lot over the last 30 years and will continue to do so over the next 30 years. In fact, he said that the first hard drive he bought for his computer rig cost $1000 for a 9-gig drive. In his words, that was “cartoonishly expensive,” as today, that amount of money would buy you a much larger amount of storage.

John Merchant in the studio
John Merchant in the studio at MTSU

“Technology evolves so quickly, so staying up to date, and up to the minute is crucial—especially with file formats getting so big, hit rates getting bigger, pixel rates getting higher, and sample rates increasing. As each of those steps happens, the demand for effective, reliable storage becomes hugely critical,” said John. 

The OWC solution that works

Technology is extremely important from a training standpoint, as a critical part of the work John does is manage media from his students. OWC drives play a large role in the curriculum because that’s what John trusts with his materials and with his students’ work. 

Some of the sessions John receives are 10, 12, and even 15 gigabytes per student, per project, and most classes host up to 12 students. Depending on the size of the project and the number of users, there can be quite a lot of data for just one assignment and one class. That’s why he needs a reliable backup of all of the work, session data, lectures, and student assessments—as he is required to save everything for a period of time. 

John Merchant uses the Pro Envoy Elektron
John Merchant trusts the portable Pro Envoy Elektron for storage.

Envoy Pro Elektron

OWC Envoy Pro mini USB-C SSD
Envoy Pro Elektron

In John’s experience, students tend to drop and break equipment from time to time, so it’s important that the drives they use can survive that kind of abuse. “We need to know that our drives are going to survive all of our students so that we can go back in 5 to 10 years’ time and the data will still be solid,” said John. 

That’s why John backs up all of his work on OWC portable drives such as the Envoy Pro Elektron. It’s known for being compact, waterproof, twice as fast as other portable SSDs, and offers USB connectivity. 

“We have to know that the system is always going to be fast and reliable, and OWC fits the bill every time. The best endorsement I can give for OWC is that I use it every day and everywhere I work,” said John.

John Merchant in the MTSU studio with a student
John Merchant in the MTSU studio with a student.

Capturing magic

To John, one of the greatest joys of working at MTSU is seeing the kind of enthusiasm that comes from the students each and every day. They may be a little unpolished, but they have a “raw, creative energy,” that allows them to capture the ideas in their head, figure out how to use the tools, and make the best version of what they’re thinking. He loves being able to prepare his students and then watch them go into the world and do amazing things. “It just makes me happy,” said John. 

You never know when you’re going to be capturing something that is magic. You want to make sure that you can keep that and that you can share it with the world. And the only way you can do that is to know that your files are in a good place. I wouldn’t trust it with anything other than an OWC drive.

John Merchant 

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Kim Wacker
the authorKim Wacker
Client Management & Senior Writer
Kim is a seasoned content marketing professional with 14 years of corporate communications experience. Her sweet spot is with creative writing both short and long-form, and she has a proven track record working with IBM, Jackson Healthcare, and Walt Disney World, among many others. Kim is also a singer and actor and has been performing on stage and screen since she was a child. She has a great passion for TV and film production and went to school for broadcast journalism. Kim is the CEO & Founder of Wacker Social Enterprises and the Director of Operations & Senior Writer for Blade Ronner Media. You can also find her on IMDb. LinkedIn: BladeRonner Media: Wacker Social: Portfolio:
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