By Casey Dunphy
"When I got to Oneonta State I was an Environmental Science Major," Kate said with a quiet laugh, "but after taking Music & the Marketplace and receiving an A, my interests were sparked." It wasn't just the grade that she received but it was also the fact that she was enjoying what she was learning that made her want to switch her major. During her time at Oneonta, Kate Barden never really thought about what kind of career she would want in the Music Industry but as her GPA continued to increase and as she went through more and more classes within the department she began to get a sense of comfort in what she was learning.
Kate Barden is a 2001 graduate of SUNY Oneonta and is currently working in the Film & TV Music department at BMG. For those of you who don't know what BMG is, it is half of the largest music corporation in the world, Sony BMG Music Entertainment. Sony BMG is a global recorded music joint venture created by the current parent companies, Sony Corporation of America and Bertelsmann AG. It is also the hub of some of the major labels such as Jive Records, Arista, Columbia, La Face, and RCA, to name a few. The two companies merged and many people who were working in the Label department of BMG lost their jobs, but luckily for Kate her job wasn't on the line because she was working in the publishing side of the company,. "Many people in this industry still don't realize that BMG Music Publishing was not a part of the Sony-BMG merger. Sony and BMG Music Publishing did not merge, just the labels did! Because of this our department was split down the middle, some people going on to work for the Sony-BMG label's Film & TV group and others to work for BMG Music Publishing's Film & TV group. So while they integrated the Film &TV group that was highly successful, it was broken up by the merger," Kate said.
It did take a lot of effort for her to get to where she is now, on the inside of a major music corporation; but that effort shows with her modesty and success. "Ever since I started this major, I have been so lucky in what I have had offered to me, it seems like I have just fallen into each position." So while she was finishing up her classes she applied to what she thought would be the first of many interviews for an internship. She went to BMG and they immediately offered her the position and she took it. Kate started her required internship after she was done taking classes at Oneonta. "I wanted to do it last because I didn't want to have to worry about going back to school, not being able to take a job offer right away." So she started her internship in August of 2000 and continued through till December. "As an intern with the Copyright department I worked mostly with the Arista Records mechanical licensing team in the department, reporting directly to Lisa Weissberg. The other "teams" were RCA, RCA Nashville, Arista Nashville, Classic's & Special Products. Functions included fully executing Harry Fox licenses and direct licenses with Publishers. I also spent a lot of time researching publishers/writers, trying to find contact info for song writers who weren't signed to major publishers in order to pay them royalties. I would also set up files for new releases and do preliminary publisher research. I worked on such albums as Santana's Supernatural, Whitney Houston's My Love is Your Love, etc...I learned to prepare the spreadsheets used to calculate royalties. I also worked for a couple of weeks with Anne Pohl on a special project when Arista Nashville merged under the RCA Nashville label. After that I realized that if you want to be in the Industry, you need to do an internship. When I started it, a lot of the older people I was working with couldn't believe I had a degree in Music Industry, it wasn't very well known then, but now it's getting to be more popular," Kate said.
"As a temp I did more of the same functions, but it was only for a brief period, about two months between being an intern and being hired full time. When I was hired full time as a Copyright Coordinator I did more of the same functions, but worked on albums from the time before release to full completion (all songs licensed and paid). I learned to request reduced rates on collection packages such as Totally Hits. I also took on filing SR forms with the US Copyright department for all of Arista's releases. As a Copyright Analyst and eventually Senior Copyright Analyst I did much of the same functions but began filing SR forms for J Records and worked on more higher profile artists releases (Santana- Shaman, Avril Lavigne-Let Go)," Kate got her temp position right after she was done with her internship. As she stated, Kate only did her temp position for a very short amount of time. When I asked her about how she ended up at her current job she said, "I was hired as a manager with the BMG Film & TV department in June of 2003 by Anne Pohl whom I'd worked with as an intern in the Copyright department. I was really excited to work with this department because I was getting a chance to learn something new. At this point I knew how mechanical licensing worked but this was a chance to learn more about synchronization licensing. Also, it was a chance to be part of a money making machine instead of being on the other side, being hounded to make sure publishers were paid. Also BMG Film & TV department was the first in the industry to ever license and represent the label and publishers catalogues."
After working in that department for a while she was moved to the Film and TV group of BMG. "In the film & TV group I was responsible for all the TV licensing and collections for the labels and publishing. I also spent a lot of time cleaning up a lot of outstanding deals from when Zomba Music Publishing merger with BMG Music Publishing. Shortly after I joined the Film & TV group, rumors started circulating about the Sony-BMG merger. When this actually happened, our department was in a unique position. We were one of the few departments that worked for both the labels and publishers," she said.
Over the past few years Kate has been moving from job to job, simply getting settled and moving up in the industry, what most people hope to do when they graduate, but Kate was lucky enough to do it pretty fast. When I asked about what she is currently doing she told me, "Now I find myself working for Music Publishing. It's an excellent company to work for. Publishing's had two years of record breaking revenue in its Film & TV licensing division, and the new department will be dedicated to licensing BMG and Zomba's extensive music publishing catalogue to the film, TV, advertising and multimedia industries. In this "new" group I now handle TV, home video and karaoke licensing."
Kate is also currently working with an Oneonta student, Robbie Benincasa, who is doing his internship with her. I got in touch with him to hear about his current experiences as an intern and working with a former Oneonta student as his superior. He told me how he obtained his internship and he described his duties as an intern with BMG. Robbie said that he got an e-mail from one of his professors, Dr. Janet Nepkie, that included information from a BMG representative, Sarah Cox, so he kept her e-mail and contacted her about it. They set up an appointment for him in New York City. When he got there that's when he met Kate and she immediately took him in "under her wing" because he also was from Oneonta State. He started in the internship in early January, when he talked about his duties he said, "The part of the company that I work with deals with licensing requests, so I make folders for them, draft cover letters, and deal with the mail and filing too. The work is easy and not very stressful." He also said that he wishes it could be a little bit more creative. He reports to Kate everyday, but when she doesn't have something she sends him to a few others within the company. When he mentioned working with Ed Razzano, the Senior Director of Film & TV Advertising, Robbie seemed to have a big interest in what they worked on together. "He has me go onto iTunes and make CD's for promising songs to use in certain commercials. You have to look at the story boards for the commercials and try to think of a song being used in it. It's like trying to find that one puzzle piece that will fit in the puzzle perfectly." He said that choosing songs for commercials would be really interesting because it's fun to do. Rob works in the Manhatten office located in Times Sqaure. His family lives in Westchester so he takes the train in everyday. "I work Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and occasionally on Fridays but that's usually when I teach piano lessons." He went to the Music Industry department at Oneonta because he's a musician. He started at another school but it wasn't big enough and it didn't offer what he really wanted so he transferred. He thinks Oneonta has a great program for aspiring students who want to pursue a career in the Music Industry. "The teachers are fantastic, they are all so different, and have their own unique styles. A couple classes that I did take seemed to overlap each other in what we learned, but as a musician it really helped to learn all of the business aspects of the Industry." I asked Rob about what he's learned in college and through his internship so far, and like he says it's not all about the education, it's about the "Real World" stuff, that's where you need to pay the most attention to details. "You definitely need to do as you're told and not as you see. I learned that the hard way. Don't be a pain, but if you have nothing to do, don't just sit there, hound everyone down for something to do, but don't bug them….it's a game and you need to play it….the way they want you to." He also said that it's not an environment full of pressure, "I have made a few mistakes and Kate was really great about it. She pointed them out to me which I was happy about because I am not familiar with the business world. It's not really me, but that's why I'm here." Rob said he was caught off guard with the way people were casually dressed, walking around listening to music and just chillen out. He also said that they are the professionals and that's why they can act the way they do, they have done enough in their career to act that way, "Its definitely not what I anticipated and not the way I act. I came in the first day dressed as a "career man" and while they aren't dressed that way and may not always act that that way, I still have to act the way I dressed my first day." As someone who is in the middle of his internship, I thought he might have some advice for other students who are on the brink of their own internships. He said, "Overshoot for anything you do, always try at least three times for something that you want. Listen to your teachers, not just your professors but people who are where you want to be, they are the ones who have the knowledge that you want. And establish relationships with them. Follow your dreams," he paused ….I never thought I would be doing what I am today." So with where he is today I started wondering what he would want to be doing in the next ten years. "If I could be anywhere it would be….on top," he said chuckling, "but I would rather be known then paid. I want people to know who I am, what I am capable of and I want them to know my music, which is the most important to me. And that's another thing, I still want to be teaching piano lessons and performing. The job I find most interesting right now would be working with Artist & Repertoire and whether it's here at BMG or anywhere else for that matter. I would love to stay here but I can't limit myself during this point." Rob had some great things to say about the person who got him here, Jeremy Wall, a well known professor here in the Music Industry Department and a founding father of a very successful group "Spyro Gyro." "Professor Wall helped me a lot with playing and motivating me. He was always there to help and is so into what he is doing while he's playing."
After working with Kate Barden at BMG he seems to have learned a lot. He said that Kate is excellent at what she does, he seemed to have a bit of surprise in his voice when he talked about her, "she is only a few years older then I am and has already done so much in her career. I do treat her as a superior but it's not like I call her Ms. Barden." So, after all these years of trying to get to where he is now, is he happy with the result? "I knew I wanted to be something in the Music Industry and I wasn't sure what, so I wanted to do it whether it be in the business or performing area. Either way, I know I'll love doing it," he said.
After hearing about Rob's thoughts of his internship, I ultimately wanted to know Kate's thoughts. "I love having Oneonta interns, especially when they do well. The first intern we had from Oneonta was Alex Abbott. We all love him! We still talk about how amazing he was, he has become the epitome of what we are looking for in an intern. All interns that we've had since Alex have to hear about how great he was. This is my first time being the intern coordinator for our department so I've learned a lot from working with Rob. I've never really had anyone report to me so this has been quite an experience. Rob has done a good job so far, and every day I feel more confident in the work I give him. I've found that I expect a lot from Oneonta interns. I feel like they're representing my school and I want them to give 100% of their best and I want my co-workers to continue to want interns from the Oneonta Music Industry Program."
After learning about her career personality, I wanted to know what she thought about it all and if she could decide on her career, what exactly would she be doing? Though she has moved up the "career ladder" pretty quickly in the last few years, she doesn't plan on going anywhere anytime soon. If she did have the chance to do anything it would be to bring her long time hobby of photography into her career. "Lately I have been taking my camera with me and taking pictures of anything really, mostly outside, but if I could I would love to take pictures at Music Industry events."
Of course as a Music Industry major myself and mostly as a college student who is pursuing to be the best in her career I wanted to know of her advice, inspirations, what she would have done differently, and some experiences of her first few days inside the Industry. She first started talking about some things that she didn't know when she was in my position. That people need to realize that the Industry isn't as big as most of us think it is. It is separated into a lot of different corporations and they only work with a dozen people everyday. "The better relationships you have with the people you work with only makes your career stronger. If you annoy one person it can get around fast to another and before you know it, you are the one with the really bad reputation." But she also talked about the perks of working in the business, like the type of environment you're in and the people you work with. "It was cool because you think you're going out into this completely other world full of people who are so much different from you, but you're not. It's the same as college.
People still talk about each other and you deal with all the gossip but I definitely didn't expect the industry or "Real World" to be the way it is. I honestly don't know what I expected going into it. It was nice to see that people were relaxed; they wear jeans and listen to music in their cubicles. As an intern you see this and expect a laid back environment, which it is and we all have a lot of fun, but at the same time, we are very professional and take our jobs very seriously," she said remembering what she thought as an intern and learned through her career at BMG.
If she could go back to her college days and change some things she said she would have gotten more involved with clubs throughout the department like the Music Industry Club or even the radio station. "I don't feel like I networked enough as a student, not a lot of my friends were in the same major as me." She did talk about one friend that was in the Music Industry department that was very influential to her. "I would say that Kevin Emery (music industry alum) was the most influential person for me at Oneonta. If I hadn't been friends with him I might not have known about the Music Industry program. When the Environmental Science major wasn't working out for me I think he helped me realize that the Music Industry program was right for me," she said. I asked her if there were any other people in the department that helped to her to where she is now and she talked about Dr. Janet Nepkie, a prominent 'cellist and professor in the Music Industry department. A major part of her career is helping place most of her students in entertainment-business internships across the globe, and many land slots with record companies, artist-management agencies, radio stations, music-publishing companies, performance venues and publicity and entertainment law firms. Kate said,"For the most part I think that I've been very lucky a long the way, meeting people who helped me be where I am today. Dr. Nepkie was an influential person. She was a tough teacher, she always expected the best from her students and it pushed me to do well in her classes. Being a woman myself it was great to have a female professor to look up to. She's a very professional woman and seems to demand respect in the way she carries herself and I find that admirable." She said when she graduated she had a few more significant people in her life, "I have to acknowledge three wonderful people at BMG who've been very influential in helping me be where I am today. Lisa Weissberg, whom I interned with and who eventually made sure I was hired, Marissa Alomar who became my manager after Lisa left the company, and Anne K. Pohl who gave me the great job I have today."
I asked her if she had any advice for current college students, "Go into your internship with an open-mind and be ready to do anything. Don't try to win your superiors with your social personality but with you job skills and professionalism. Don't expect to be paid and hope to learn as much as possible. Use your head; impress people with the quality of your work and your knowledge of the music business. Be careful and cautious with whom you align yourself. Take your time getting to know people, the relationships you form in the music business can help make you or break you."
Getting to hear Kate's stories about her experiences throughout college and her early years of her career were a great eye opener for me and I hope it will be a help to others, as well. As Kate said we need to take advantage of the opportunities that we have in college. We need to network and we have so many alumni out there with the experience that we are someday hoping to get. If we take these resources for granted and don't use them we are just putting ourselves back a step from where we have the chance to be.