Photographs by AP Images: Brian Ach, Tony Avelar, and Joe Howell
From eight-tracks to cassettes, CDs to MP3s, and bands to DJs, the music industry is constantly changing. One thing remains steady: Northeastern’s music industry alumni are rocking this business.
Whether they’re discovering the next great act or developing the next best way to share it with the world, these three young women show what success looks like in what has long been a male-dominated field. With boundless talent, passion, and business know-how, they’re behind the scenes and on the beat of the very best music has to offer.
Kristina Grossmann, AS’08
A&R Manager, Republic Records
Republic Records A&R manager Kristina Grossmann knows a good thing when she hears it. Much like the judges on the hit NBC music-competition show The Voice, Grossmann has a gift for spotting talent.
That’s part of her career calling with Republic, where she oversaw iTunes recordings in The Voice’s first two seasons. A rising star herself, this music industry major seems to do it all, from handling contract negotiations to coordinating writing and producing sessions to offering creative input on mixes to tackling the marketing end.
Grossmann’s permanent position at Republic grew out of a game-changing co-op there, despite attempts by several other labels to woo her for a full-time gig as soon as she finished school.
Her trajectory has not gone unnoticed: Just two years after graduating, she was named one of the music industry’s “30 Under 30” power players by Billboard Magazine. She’s had a hand in creating the soundtrack for The Hunger Games; A&R’ing releases for Youngblood Hawke, Mayer Hawthorne, and Gotye remixes; and signing artists such as Until The Ribbon Breaks, Alex Clare, The Cab, and Atomic Tom. She’s also played a vital role in the relaunch of Republic imprint Casablanca Records, and runs monthly writing camps that bring producers and songwriters from around the country to craft new songs and beats for Republic artists.
“The best signings are from the gut and from the heart,” says Grossmann. “There’s a certain feeling you get when you hear something special, and whenever that happens, I stay with it.”
That said, Grossmann is not naïve about the challenges her industry faces: decreasing attention spans, a cluttered digital marketplace, and plummeting sound fidelity.
“It’s rarely easy,” she acknowledges, “but I always have my eyes and ears peeled for that next sound, that next idea that will change everything.”
Colleen Finnegan, AMD’11
Event Marketing Coordinator, Pandora
Colleen Finnegan was the kid who played in bands and penned concert reviews in high school. For her, becoming a music event promoter was as natural a choice as coming to Northeastern.
“I had never seen a school with such robust music industry programming,” says the music major with a business administration minor. Finnegan excelled in classes ranging from recording, venue management, and copyright law to economics, marketing, and finance.
Co-op didn’t hurt, either. Finnegan promoted bands like Guster and Fun via social media in the Boston office of Los Angeles-based record label Nettwerk; booked live shows at a Cambridge, Mass., nightclub; and even founded her own company, Four to the Floor Promotions, which nabbed rising-star acts such as Kid Sister and the Bodega Girls for popular dance nights.
After graduating, Finnegan picked up cred in sales positions at Boston’s Sonicbids, which connects bands with venues, and San Francisco’s social media powerhouse, Twitter. Then she got her big break at Pandora, beating out more than 1,000 other applicants.
As an event marketing coordinator, Finnegan manages Pandora-sponsored shows at hip festivals like SXSW and Coachella, and organizes events that bring emerging artists to cities where fans are based, and to Pandora HQ for intimate live sessions.
“Where I am now is central to what’s to come,” says Finnegan of the innovative environment. “Record sales are no longer the revenue stream they once were for musicians. Artists now rely on touring, events, and sponsorships, as well as Internet radio and other streaming services to get their music out there and make a living.”
Finnegan credits Northeastern for being such a fertile training ground for music industry majors. “So many of the women I had classes with are now wildly successful, completely unafraid to go out there and make names for themselves,” she says. “They’re smart and know what they’re after—and Northeastern empowered them to realize it.”
Genevieve Jewell, BA’06
Artist Manager, The Collective
Artist manager Genevieve Jewell always knew music and business were her callings. And Billboard Magazine recognized her flair for spotting and showcasing talent when it named her a top “30 Under 30” music executive just two years after graduation.
At Northeastern, a class in artist management set the stage for the management and marketing major and music industry minor. And two high-profile co-ops sealed the deal: first riling up fans on a marketing gig with the Boston Bruins, then working with managers for artists like Avril Lavigne and Barenaked Ladies at record-label Nettwerk’s Los Angeles office.
Her colleagues at Nettwerk knew a good thing when they saw it and created a social media and digital marketing position just for Jewell when she graduated. Her mastery of digital promotion continued for artists such as Faith Hill, Keith Urban, and the then-unknown Lady Antebellum on her next gig as manager of new media marketing at Boorman Entertainment in Nashville.
Now, she’s running the Nashville office of entertainment company The Collective, with her pick of artists to sign and promote. Her latest find: emerging rock star Tyler Bryant, who—thanks to Jewell’s efforts and connections—shot to stardom contributing to the score of the hit film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. He recently made iTunes Single of the Week.
Triumphs like these keep Jewell energized. “In today’s industry, it’s not enough to be really talented. Artists have to be hungry and have the work ethic to go out on the road, form relationships, and deliver,” she says. “And I have to feel like I can think outside the box, turn them into a brand, and make them the biggest stars possible.”