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Building a Fan Base

Northwestern arts entrepreneurship team helps musician Ben Rector adapt to pandemic.

Olivia Hernandez Hero
Olivia HernandezImage: STEVE ANZALDI ’10 MS

Spring 2021

Live music performances might not be possible because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but for Kellogg School of Management adjunct lecturer Gregg Latterman ’96 MBA and School of Education and Social Policy senior Olivia Hernandez, the show must go on.

The two are part of singer-songwriter Ben Rector’s management team. Together, they’re finding innovative ways to adapt to a virtual entertainment industry.

Gregg Latterman, left, and Ben Rector in Los Angeles, where Rector was performing as a mentor on American Idol All Star Duets edition. Rector performed two of his songs with contestants.

Latterman, who founded Aware Records in 1993, has worked with artists including Brandi Carlile, Train, John Mayer and the Fray. He began working with Rector in April 2020, and Hernandez joined the team in the fall. Latterman teaches the NUvention: Arts course, which gives students like Hernandez the foundational skills to build a creative arts company.

At Northwestern, Hernandez has immersed herself in the study of music, audio engineering and entrepreneurship by joining The Garage and founding its artist-in residence program, an incubator designed to foster a strong artist community and teach students how to transform their passions into a business.

As lockdowns began, Latterman asked, “How do we still connect Ben with his fans and allow him to be creative?” In response, the team focused on Rector’s design and branding, especially on social media. Hernandez pitched a Thanksgiving e-card to promote holiday music and helped create visuals for songs on Rector’s holiday album. Rector has played music for fans via livestream on Instagram Live and other platforms.

Ben Rector | Credit: Collin Fatke

Latterman, who is Rector’s manager, sees this time as an opportunity to learn how to use digital platforms to connect with fans and continue building on those connections, even when in-person concerts return.

For Hernandez, her experiences at Northwestern have given her the training she needs to enter the music industry, even amid the changing landscape brought on by the pandemic.

“I’ve been taught to read my environment, understand who my customer is and go from there,” says Hernandez, who plans to pursue a career in arts and entrepreneurship in Nashville. “[My professors] really helped me build that skill set and helped me understand that everything I do is leading to the next thing.”

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