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For the Record

Steve Smith is in tune with what’s going on in the music world. By day, he sits around listening to CDs from the latest groups. By night, he prowls around different clubs, catching the acts of up-and-coming bands. And he gets paid to do it.

That’s the life the 1998 graduate’s carved for himself as vice president of artist and repertoire for Aware Records in Chicago.

“I seek out new bands for our roster,” Smith says. “When we sign them, I work with them on the records and make sure we have good recordings. Managing artists means taking care of the day-to-day aspects of their careers.”

Groups that Smith has signed include rock bands Five for Fighting, Bleu and Wheat. The label promotes them along with other rising stars like John Mayer and Train through its joint venture agreement with powerhouse label Columbia.

“Every band we sign goes through us and Columbia,” Smith says. “It allows them to get the attention of a small label with the resources of a big label.”

Recently he was assigned to manage Glen Phillips, the lead singer of the now defunct band Toad the Wet Sprocket.

“It’s surreal to be in charge of somebody that I was a fan of growing up,” he says. “But it’s great to be in the process of making a record.”

If there is a downside to immersing oneself in the world of clubs and bands, Smith hasn’t found it yet.

“What’s not to like about my job? There’s a lot of freedom and responsibility for myself. I manage myself and have the opportunity to learn new things working in an industry that I’m passionate about and love. It’s not often you get to work in a business where you don’t mind coming to work every day.”

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