Co-Op students with Monte Lipman, CEO of Republic Records.
Getting the Inside Scoop
The students in New York City on co-op for the spring 2016 semester were in for a surprise when they were the first group of students to get the opportunity to hear from some of the leaders and forefront innovators of the music industry. From the founder and CEO of Republic Records to the Executive Vice President of VH1 and Logo, these students participated in a 4 session pilot program and were asked to write two takeaways for each session. Here are some of those personal reflections.
Session 1: Justin Shukat, President of Primary Wave Music Publishing and Jim Roppo, EVP of Marketing and Commerce at Republic Records
By Connor Mentel, AMD ’19
Given the opportunity to lend an ear to the leaders of the industry, it is no surprise that we, the students, are to provide two takeaways from the presenters. The first speaker was Justin Shukat, an established leader in the industry with the merited title of President of Primary Wave Music Publishing. He spoke for about 30 minutes providing multiple insights and glimpses into the industry through the eyes of someone like himself. Personally, the biggest take away had to do with his emphasis placed on networking and the reiteration with establishing yourself well though the use of relationships. The entirety of his speech surrounded the idea that he built his career on the idea of establishing yourself in the eyes of people in the industry with relationships and positive interactions inside and outside of the workplace. He gave a brief narrative on his own career and how he got to his level of prestige. He also reminded us that he had rough patches and that every career is not without a fight. I am glad that I got to hear him speak about his own experiences and the importance of networking in the music industry. His words will always remain with me, “If someone forgets about you, they lost respect for you.”
The second speaker was Jim Roppo. He is an even tempered man with a reputable presence in the industry. His talk also centered around the idea of networking to establish ones credibility and reputation, but in a more undeviating way. The idea of asking your boss to a lunch to pick their brain to see more of the industry through his or her eyes was the main idea from Jim’s lecture. He tasked us to find any higher up in Republic that would reject the offer to meet with an intern. He also reminded us that we are the future in the industry, “There are 1,000 people on the street who would kill to be where you are, who would kill to be sitting here listening to this!” Hearing that fueled my desire to strive even harder than thought possible to establish myself to the best of my abilities in the industry.
Session 2: Jason Flom, CEO of Lava Records and Alissa Pollack, EVP of Music/Partner Integrations at Premiere Networks, Mediabase, and iHeartRadio
By Jenni Levi, AMD ’19
What an interesting and informative session we had on Tuesday. Personally, my interests are split between creative marketing and A&R, so having Alissa and Jason both come talk to us in one evening was really a great mix for me. I really enjoyed hearing from both of them; I think both of their stories were super interesting and I loved the fact that Alissa has been with iHeart since the time she was an intern. I found her so relatable.
The biggest thing I took away from Alissa’s talk with us was that to work in this industry it is important to be diverse in what you know. In her case, she literally worked her way through her company. I think that that is super important in a couple different aspects. Primarily, it is important to be diverse in what you know in your business so that you can have an understanding of how everything works, instead of just one piece of the puzzle. I feel like if you do this, there is a way better chance to be successful. Also, in Alissa’s case, she was diverse in the sense that moving around the company allowed her to build relationships with a lot of different people. If you know the people you’re working with, and you know everything there is to know about what you’re doing, it really would be the perfect storm.
Lastly, and I think it’s obvious but I have to put it out there, the fact that Alissa is such a successful person in music and is a woman is really cool to me. It showed me that it isn’t an unrealistic goal to set for myself.
Jason Flom was just a crazy inspiration. He really emphasized the concept of risk and reward in the business of A&R and the type of time, energy, dedication, and patience you have to have. There were two things he said that I really took out of the room with me and that was number 1, to make your own breaks, and 2, preparation + skill + perseverance = luck. These two things really highlight the reality that in the music industry, specifically in A&R, you have to go out on limbs, you have to seize every opportunity, and you have to be proactive to be successful. This was really a helpful reality to me. I feel like so many young people I know want to get into A&R. It’s cool, you get to personally associate with artists and celebrities… it’s exciting. But if you don’t have the drive to work your ass off, you’re going to go nowhere.
All in all I think this week was an amazing session and I can’t wait for the next. Thank you Alissa, Jason, Katie, and David!
The students with Michael Alexander, SVP of International Marketing at Universal Music Group and Rob Stevenson, EVP of A&R at Republic Records.
Session 3: Theda Sanford, VP of Commerce at Republic Records and Nick Pacelli, SVP of Strategic Brands and Partnerships at Republic Records
By Danielle Shoulman, AMD ’17
Tuesday’s seminar was very interesting to me because the two speakers, Theda Sandiford and Nick Pacelli, came from two very different backgrounds than myself in the Music Industry. Before Tuesday I did not think about Digital Commerce or Artist-Brand management all that much, but it was fascinating to learn about their day-to-day jobs at Republic.
My first takeaway from the seminar was about Theda’s job as the VP of Digital Commerce at Republic Records. She had said how she “made her job” at Republic because the field itself did not really exist in the past. Theda works with companies like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music to make sure her artists make it on those playlists and get heard. What really piqued my interest about Theda’s talk was how innovative she was. I learned that you really have to be creative and cutting edge in this industry in order to get anywhere.
My second takeaway came from Nick’s talk. He reminded me a lot of someone I worked for at Kobalt Music Group in London. Both men had started out on the brand side of things and then moved more towards the artist side once the record companies, Republic and Kobalt Label Services hired them. Since I was familiar with Nick’s job description, I was more interested in his take on what he was doing. He kept saying how he used to have a lot more creative freedom when working on the brand side and once he switched to working for a label on the artist side, it was more about money. That was a little bit sad to hear for me because I am a very creative-driven person, but it was good to be reminded that this industry really is driven by money. Even though you have to be creative and cutting edge, only a few lucky people have the luxury to work in the purely creative world.
Session 4: Michael Alexander, SVP of International Marketing at Universal Music Group and Rob Stevenson, EVP of A&R at Republic Records
By Taylor Piepenbrink, AMD ’19
In this week’s class, we got to hear from Michael Alexander, SVP of International at UMG, and Rob Stevenson, EVP of A&R at Republic Records. Both of these speakers are extremely successful in their fields in the industry, and offered a lot of really valuable insight about what their jobs entailed which is a little bit of everything. I especially enjoyed hearing from these executives because they played vital roles in signing and helping some of my favorite artists get to where they are today. They both offered really good advice about being an intern, and a lot of what they had to say overlapped with the major themes that past speakers have been emphasizing the whole time: relationships/networking is everything and this becoming a part of this industry is really a life choice and you really have to love it to be successful.
One of the biggest takeaways I got from the night came from Rob Stevenson’s presentation when he spoke about his new endeavors with live music. He told us that even at this point in his career he was learning about an entirely new area of the industry and mentioned that he had just found out about the limitations of venue capacities and fire marshals. Hearing how this EVP, who is responsible for breaking some huge names in the last twenty years, was reverting to practically intern status again to learn about a new part of his job was just another reminder that there is always more to learn about in this industry and that the learning truly never stops, regardless of where one might be in their career.
Another major takeaway I got from this week’s speakers was stressing the importance of staying level headed and avoiding becoming jaded, regardless of how successful you might be. Rob Stevenson talked about how one of his biggest regrets was not signing Lady Gaga when she was just starting out. At the time, he was a little too full of himself and failed to see her potential to grow as an artist because she came to him with a big dreams. Looking back he said that he deserved it, but more importantly that the experience served as a reminder to never make someone feel bad for setting huge goals. He added that to make it in this industry you can’t be afraid to dream big and stressed the importance of never putting someone down for doing so. It is those extra driven individuals that find the most success in the music industry.