Welcome to the first edition of HYPETRAK INSIGHTS, our new interview series where we sit down with people from within the industry in order to show various angles of this dynamic, and ever-demanding music business. Launching this new series, we spoke to Justin Dreyfuss who works as a Digital Marketing Manager for Interscope Records. Although the job title might sound attractive to some, its very nature implies hard work, a keen knowledge of the latest trends, the ability of making important decisions fast, as well as a deep understanding of the artist's sensibilities.
How did you get started in the music industry?
My first internship was in the marketing department at Def Jam the summer after my freshman year of college. By the third day I decided I wanted to pursue a career in music. Pretty lucky considering I had just finished my first year in school with even less of an idea about what I wanted to do with my life than when I started. I met some great people at Def Jam who mentored me for the next couple of years. I worked summers at different music companies and had two part-time jobs in music I could do from my college apartment during the school year. When I graduated, I got a full-time job at Interscope as a marketing coordinator and moved into the digital department a couple years after that.
What is the biggest obstacle you've had to face professionally?
When Twitter and Facebook really took off as marketing platforms, a lot of artists got involved immediately. A couple of artists who were putting albums out were a little hesitant to get on. While it’s a great way to interact with fans, the Twitter world, especially, can be harsh. I think it was important to show them how powerful the tools were and that they should see it as a great way to talk to their fans and to ignore the haters. They eventually got really active and are hooked.
What does your day-to-day schedule look like?
It really varies, which is something I love about it. I don't know exactly what I'm walking into when I get to work. Or rather, what emails I'm waking up to. On ideal days I have some time, I'm checking out the blogs to hear new music that's hit the net. I also try to read up on tech blogs and music tech sites. Those are the first things. If there's opportunity in any of those readings, I'll dig and see what the opportunity might be for our artists. That's how the ideal day starts. From there it's creating and managing digital campaigns we have going for artists and making sure everything is running in a timely manner.
What sort of qualities does one need to be a digital director for a major record label?
I think the diverse opinions and backgrounds within the digital department at Interscope are important and what make it work well. There isn't really a set of qualities required. We come from various career paths. I will say that we all get excited about the newest mobile app or online music service and love to take it for a test drive. So that's probably the common quality we all happen to have.
What does it entail?
The department's responsibilities are, broadly, online and mobile marketing initiatives for our artists. Everything from apps to website design. We all do a little of everything. I work with the other members of the department to create custom marketing plans for our artists, work on features and promotions with our video partners, produce mobile apps, and seek new business opportunities in the digital space. Everyone is really creative so it's a lot of fun. Sometimes, silly ideas turn into some of the best ideas. I really like the creative aspects, but I've surprised myself with how much I enjoy the business development side. Finding a new revenue source is always something on our minds. It's actually a lot more creative than I thought going into it.
Is the industry the very same way you expected it to be?
The obvious answer is no. Looking back nine years ago when I first started, the industry is very different. A ton has changed. A lot is the same in principal, but in addition to music videos being on TV, they’re now online too, for example. Music consumption overall is predominantly digital. But, in some ways it is what I expected. We all knew it was changing and why, it was the "how" that really has started to play out over the last few years.
What changes need to happen in the future in order for the music industry to remain sustainable?
The industry is very much alive and moving in the right direction. Tours and festivals are even more important than before. There's more music in TV shows. It just has to continue to push the envelope and go where the revenue opportunities exist. The mobile world is going to be even bigger as smartphones push from "majority" and close in on 100% of the share. How we use that to our advantage is important for the future.
What do you love about your job most?
Working with the people I work with. Sitting in a meeting with the amount of experience and knowledge that everyone has here, is pretty incredible. That's where I've learned the most. It's invaluable.
What do you hate about your job the most?
I really don’t hate much about it. Getting added on LinkedIn by “aspiring” rappers maybe?
What is your advice to people that are looking to pursue a career within the music industry?
Know what you're good at and identify what you are passionate about. Hopefully, it's the same thing. If it is, go for it. If not, figure out how you parlay what you're good at, into what you're passionate about. Ultimately, it's better to pick what you might fail at in the beginning because your drive will eventually lead you to success.
Photography: Brandon Shigeta for HYPETRAK