Senior Spotlight: Jacob Fishman

“I always had a love for visual experiences and live music. The ability to immerse myself in entirely new experiences while still doing all of the things that I loved was fundamentally what brought me here.” Jacob Fishman talks about his company Merciv, bringing augmented reality to live music performance and shares insights on how he maintains a positive, exploratory attitude while doing it... 

Tell me a little bit about your journey to the Academy? What were you looking for in an undergraduate program?
When I finished sophomore year of high school, my brother came to USC to get his BFA in acting, and during orientation my mom heard about the Academy and emailed me a link. I read through the website, and every word sounded exactly like what I wanted. I was gearing up to be captain of my school’s first robotics team with a focus on leadership and mechanical system design, but I had many other interests beyond engineering: I always had a love for visual experiences and live music. Fundamentally, what brought me here was the ability to immerse myself in entirely new experiences while still doing all of the things that I loved. From there, I applied in my junior year of high school, and committed the day I was accepted.

Describe a passion project you’re currently working on or interested in?
My company Merciv is my biggest passion project right now! I’m a co-founder and Head of Product Experience and Touring. Merciv is a 3D software and experiential design company using Augmented Reality (AR) to bring musicians' artistic visions into a new dimension. Merciv created the world's first AR music video installation in 2017 and is continuing to push the boundaries of location-based communal AR experiences through development of in-concert integrations. This is the quintessential Academy project as it involves the intersection of live music production, software development, experiential stage design, immersive technologies and visual art. Within Merciv, I primarily focus on how the technology and content Merciv is developing is exhibited in the physical space of the live music experience.

What inspired the project?
For all of junior year in the Academy, including the summer before, I worked very closely with rising indie-electronic band Moontower with the directive of bringing the band’s dreams into reality, fulfilling the positions of Director of Live Experience and Tour Manager. Working closely with the band members and Academy classmate Rocky, we focused on creating the best and most exciting live music experience integrating the most interesting technology out there and bringing it on the road for people to enjoy. After our first few shows I was approached by Academy classmate Cam and he essentially said “if you really want the craziest technology in your shows, you have to think about Augmented Reality”. From there, he built a team to develop an experience, and I worked as a liaison between his team and Moontower to bring the experience into reality at the concert. After we created this first experience and brought it on a leg of a tour with Moontower, we decided there was a real need for these kinds of experiences in live music.

A band in concert onstage

Is there a leader or mentor who inspires you? 
I’m inspired by all of the students around me who are taking their future into their own hands and working on exactly what they care about.

Is there an inspirational quote you live by?
I live by “All Good”. It’s obviously simple, but a reminder that a positive attitude (both internally and externally) makes an absolutely massive difference when moving through life.

What advice would you give to a freshman?
Make sure to explore this crazy cool city that you live in! USC obviously provides a rich atmosphere with ample opportunities, but LA is a city full of culture, art, music, food and reality, so make sure to go see it while you’re here.

Describe one thing most people don’t know about you?
I’ve been a volunteer outdoor guide for three years and I’m Wilderness First Responder certified.

What the one thing your parents taught you that you’d like to share?
My mom always said, “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself.” I think this is super important, especially while in college — take some time to get to know yourself!

A young man in AR goggles and headphones


What are the essential things you always keep in your backpack?

  • Notebook and pen — always have to be able to have some good self-reflection and/or drawing time
  • Speaker — tunes are a must on the bike ride commute
  • Reusable silverware — no reason to use more plastic
  • Nalgene water bottle — 48oz or bust, hydrate or die
  • My camera — have to capture that moment when you see it

Favorite app or website?
I have this decibel meter app — I measure sound levels at all the concerts I go to now.

Favorite class at USC and why?
Live Music Production and Promotion, our final project was to throw a concert!

Favorite way to de-stress:
I go to the ceramics studio and make cups and bowls. While you’re throwing pottery on a wheel you need to focus on what you’re doing one hundred percent — your brain won’t even let you worry about anything else.

Berry Lime Sublime smoothie from Jamba Juice

Thank you, Jacob!

One young man hugs another around the shoulders

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