The Department of Music at Northeastern University offers students a cross-disciplinary approach to the study and practice of music, underscored by real-world, experiential learning, cutting-edge technology, and an exploration of the industry’s impact on cultures and markets throughout the world. With this backdrop, many students, through co-op and other unique opportunities, end up forging meaningful connections and transitioning into music industry roles after graduation — at companies that Northeastern has strong partnerships with. One of these incredible Northeastern partners is Universal Music Group (UMG), the world’s leading music company that owns and operates a broad array of businesses in more than 60 countries.
Universal Music Group is home to an all-star roster of multi-platinum, award-winning artists — alongside Northeastern alumni who used their education to prepare them for a career at one of today’s top music labels.
Paula Crea ’19, Department of Music alumna, is currently International Digital Marketing Assistant at Universal Music Group in New York City. This full-time role is something she worked toward throughout her time as an undergraduate student, but her passion for music started even before Northeastern; she has wanted to work in the music industry since childhood.
“I realized it at my first ever concert, which completely turned my world upside down,” she said. “I learned to play drums after that but very quickly came to the conclusion that I couldn’t perform in front of people, so that became a side-hobby and I focused completely on the behind-the-scenes aspects of music.”
In high school, Paula started to submerse herself within her local music scene — exploring behind-the-scenes opportunities — by managing friends’ bands, hand-making and selling merchandise, and becoming involved in the online music community. These experiences motivated Paula to write a time capsule letter to her future self telling her to continue pursuing music; that letter ended up as the subject of her college essay.
Once at Northeastern, Paula saw the co-op program as her launch pad into a large music company like UMG.
“I landed my first co-op as an Artists and Repertoire (A&R) Intern for Island Records, which was a long-standing co-op Northeastern had with the label,” she said. “That solidified my decision that I wanted to pursue a career at a major label and led me to initially falling in love with UMG. From there, I was recommended to speak with Michael Alexander, who is the Executive Vice President (EVP) of International Marketing for all of Universal’s East Coast labels: Republic, Island, and Def Jam.”
This first co-op experience at Island Records served as a foundation for her future roles, helping open the door to two co-ops with Universal: International Marketing Intern (New York City) and International Exports Intern (Sweden). After the position in New York, which was her second co-op, she met with one of her bosses to express an interest in working internationally, and that’s exactly where she landed next.
“At the end of that second co-op, he asked me where I wanted to go next and I mentioned wanting to use my third and final co-op on something abroad,” she added. “The next thing I knew, he had helped me connect to the Swedish office, and I went out to Stockholm to work for the UMG Nordics Exports Team, which marketed all Nordic artists to the rest of the world.” To read more about Paula’s experience in Sweden, click here.
I did a lot of incredible things with them, had an absolutely amazing time, and even got to work from the UMG London office for a day.
“After all that,” Paula continued, “it basically became a running joke with my friends that there was no way I wouldn’t end up back at UMG after graduating, as I’d done all three of my co-ops under their umbrella and created two of them on my own.”
Upon graduation, then, it was no surprise that Paula was equipped with valuable experience, references, and up-to-date knowledge that helped her thrive within the music industry. As a result, in Paula’s current role with UMG’s International Team, she has a full and bustling work-load, handling creative assets for new releases, tracking international playlists and influences, and learning how to utilize emerging and foreign platforms like TikTok and Weibo.
Similar to Paula, another Northeastern alumnus, Brandon Pascua ’17, credits his co-op positions for allowing him to network and really understand the music business from the inside, having the opportunity to connect what he was learning inside the classroom to real-world experiences. Brandon is now the Associate Manager, Music for Advertising at Universal Music Publishing Group, also based in New York.
“It’s still incredibly valuable having specific knowledge within our field, but to have connections and people you can learn from is absolutely essential,” he said.
I can honestly say that without my co-ops, I wouldn’t be here at Universal.
One month after graduation, with multiple co-op experiences under his belt, Brandon had an interview and was then hired as Sync Assistant within the Advertising Team at Universal Music Publishing Group. After being promoted to Associate Manager, Brandon now takes on a mixture of creative and clearance work for the Ad Sync team; he is finding his role to be the perfect mixture of creativity and business.
“I’m constantly pitching music and if I do land a placement, I know that I’m directly affecting our writers,” he described. “Nothing’s better than reaching out and telling someone that their work is being licensed.”
When it comes to what advice he might offer current students, Brandon says to “try as much as you can as early as you can. There are so many lanes that you can be on within this business and unless you try them you’ll never know what you really like. I did everything from PR, to distribution, to A&R, only to land at publishing. Everyone only thinks of records labels when they think of the music industry…
The thing is, there’s so much that you might not realize you enjoy, like publishing, business affairs, artist management, tour agencies, and more.
A third Northeastern alumnus with a passion for music and a drive to work in the industry, Tyler Arnold ’15, also started at Universal as a co-op and now, describes how he could not imagine doing anything else. Tyler transitioned into an A&R Assistant role and eventually worked his way up, now Executive President of A&R.
“Network. Reach out to as many people as you can. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get responses, just continue to follow up,” he added to Brandon’s advise to current students.
I get to work with artists that I truly care about and love every day. It’s a dream come true.
Paula also offered some tips and advice to current students.
“First and foremost, don’t be intimidated,” she said. “I think it sometimes scares people to even approach breaking into an entertainment-related business, especially if you come from a very small town and unconnected background as I did. Being confident in my work and abilities has been massively valuable, and I see a direct effect on my work when I go into things open-minded and ready for whatever. The industry changes constantly so being quick on your feet and adaptable is huge; I’ve learned a lot of necessary skills just from accepting an unfamiliar task and figuring it out as I go.”
She continued, “Networking is also truly a major key. While I had to prove that I could back up my good relationships with solid work, those relationships got me in the door; don’t take anyone you meet for granted. You never know where the intern sitting next to you may be in five or ten years. Set up formal one-on-ones often, keep in touch with them, and be ready to take on a new opportunity on the fly. I got this job on a Friday while still living in Boston, spent the weekend in Maine for a wedding while struggling to figure out start dates and NYC living situations, started the job by Wednesday, and slept on my friend’s couch for a couple weeks until I could move into my own place, all to show how dedicated I was to get this job.”
- Paula set goals for herself, and knew what she wanted to achieve through her Northeastern education and experiential learning opportunities, sharing that she is living her dream surrounded by a close, passionate, hard-working team.
My team now is like a family and that is so impactful.
- “It makes the stressful days a little less tough and has given me an awesome support system,” Paula concluded. “It’s also amazing to see all the young people coming up in the industry right now both as artists and on the business end because they are all so excited and have so many fresh ideas and real love for their artists and their work.”
- Thank you, Paula, Brandon, and Tyler for sharing your music background and experience. We wish you continued success within the music industry.