When New York University junior marketing major Seri Orfali asked theatrical music-icon Adam Lambert if he preferred nail polish or Ravioli alla Genovese, Lambert responded with, “I like Italian food.”
Writing up quirky interview questions for celebrities was only one of the many tasks Orfali partook in at his marketing internship with Sony Music Entertainment in New York as well as London, one of the top record labels in the world.
We’ve all envisioned what it would be like, working on the 80th floor of 550 Madison Avenue where all major decisions on celebrities take place. Orfali had the opportunity to be immersed in this musical frenzy.
Orfali said interns were often in charge of uploading media, updating charts and more “administrative stuff,” but he also got involved in marketing campaigns for Kelly Clarkson, assisted with editing promotional videos and came up with his own promotional campaigns.
“I remember a Britney Spears fan’s house burned down, and I saw it on Twitter,” he said. “She lost her entire collection of Britney material, so I came up with the idea to ship her the entire collection and everyone agreed and saw it as a good promotional opportunity.”
Orfali, also working on a minor in the business of media, entertainment and technology, is a performer who aspires to work closely with a record label in the future. His internship has given him a deep understanding of the functions of the music industry behind the scenes.
“I want to know how to manage myself and how others would manage me if they were in charge of me,” he said. “The music industry is one of the most complex industries in the world, and I was able to see if it is as corrupt as everyone says – it’s not.”
Orfali chose Sony primarily because it is the label that orchestrated the publicities and careers of some of his favorite artists.
“I got to see how Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys – artists that I’ve always loved – are managed and how all decisions were made,” Orfali said.
An internship of such prestige had many different perks.
Aside from meeting celebrities like Adam Lambert and Gavin DeGraw and witnessing Simon Cowell casually walk by his desk numerous times, Orfali would always get the latest music and releases before the general public even knew about them.
“I also knew a lot of confidential information and scandals that no one knows about,” he said. “They put a lot of trust in their interns.”
Moreover, Orfali obtained a great benefit that is music to college students’ ears: free stuff! And not just free CDs by artists signed to Sony, but DVDs, promotional items and gifts as well as concert tickets to artists like Chris Brown and Foster the People.
Although he had some struggles attempting to balance hectic 10-hour shifts with university work, he does not regret it one bit. His greatest accomplishment? Making connections, whether it was through hectic AIM conversations about the days’ tasks, or having the entire staff serenade him with “happy birthday” and red velvet cupcakes.
“The department I worked for was literally a family,” he said. “I made the best connections ever, as friends, music industry insiders, coworkers, guides and confidants.”
Orfali also emphasized that this coworkers’ young ages allowed him to connect with them on a more personal level and continues to keep in touch with them.
“They were all in their early 20s yet working at such a prestigious position,” he said. “Their perspectives were relatable.”
Another thing Orfali gained from the experiences was working independently. Because of the dynamic nature of the industry, he learned things by doing them himself.
“There’s no such thing as a typical day at a record label. That’s the first thing they told me,” Orfali said. “I never got bored.”