I have not posted in more than a month! It has been a super busy period, wrapping things up at Universal Music, completing most of the admin tasks in preparation for Stanford, recharging the batteries with my girlfriend on a few wonderful trips… and even turning 30!
As I write, I am official (f)unemployed, and it is a weird sensation after so many years of hard work! Friday 26th June was my last day in the music industry, at least for the foreseeable future. I concluded on a high note six amazing years of professional and personal development. Working in the biggest record company in the world, and making an impact during my time there, was indeed a teenage dream come true for a music lover and amateur musician like me.
My colleagues were extremely generous and warm in their way of saying goodbye, and I feel so grateful. The whole division gathered on the rooftop of the Universal Music building in Kensington, on a rare London sunny day. My (ex) boss, who is a natural-born inspiring leader, gave a speech which was very flattering and deeply touched me. I won’t repeat the exact words, but it is all summed up in the lovely dedication which accompanies the amazing leaving present that I received: “Thank you for making sense of our business“, under the “Abbey Road” platinum record. Indeed, in the last few years I gave my small contribution in trying to make sense of a revolution in music consumption (CD -> downloads -> streaming, with each format still playing a big role), and what it meant for UMG’s artists and overall commercial strategy in the UK.
There are still so many internal and external challenges that the record industry has to tackle, and I could talk for hours about them: reinvigorate the employer brand in order to attract better talent / retain the best talent (vs more powerful brands from Silicon Valley…); bring up to speed on the digital revolution some of the senior management, especially on the label side; win back some influence on the final consumer experience, which is what consumers pay for in a world of 30M songs commoditized for $10 a month; make better use of “big data” to reduce the biggest source of risk, i.e. investment in Artists; monetize Artists as platforms, where the marketing content becomes as commercially powerful as the music content; anticipate the next shift in music consumption (e.g. virtual reality (?), as one of many examples), and avoid being squeezed again by technology improvements. Etcetera, etcetera…
However, there is one element which truly sets the music industry apart in my mind, and this is what I tried to convey in my leaving speech. Everyone working in music LOVES music. You do not randomly end up in a record company or a music digital retailer: you strive to be there. Music is in turn such a powerful food for the soul, so this helps create a unique and common culture, based on a honest and deep passion for what the company stands for. Yes, labels might compete among themselves for chart positions, but ultimately they genuinely care in the same fashion about their “product”. I will miss this aspect of my experience at Universal.
Despite never saying never, at the moment I don’t think I will work for a record company again straight after Stanford. I’d like to explore new things in the technology/entertainment world and keep building my wider knowledge of the industry. However, music is a big part of who I am, and I developed an extensive network and knowledge of the industry, so I am resolute to find a post-MBA job where I can still leverage my passion and experience. I have two years to figure this out!