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.
Sony Music owns 12 labels, covering artists like Alicia Keys, DJ Khaled, Foo Fighters, Justin Timberlake and One Direction. While their main office lies in New York City, Sony Music Entertainment has offices all over the world, including Austria, New Zealand and South Africa.
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 immerse himself 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.
Sony’s artists continue to blow up the charts. Ever jammed to The Chainsmokers’ “Closer”, Fifth Harmony’s “That’s My Girl”, John Legend’s “Love Me Now” or Sia’s “Cheap Thrills”? Thank Sony.
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. Orfali got DVDs, promotional items, gifts and 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.”
Looking to Work with Sony Music? Here’s the Low-Down:
- Sony offers internships and jobs in cities all over the country (plus Berlin and London!)
- Internships run during the fall, spring and summer semesters
- Find available internships on the Sony Music Entertainment website and apply online
- Internships are unpaid and for college-credit only
- Sony looks for interns across all departments, including A&R administration, music licensing, promotion and publicity
Want to stand out?
Follow Sony Music Entertainment CEO Doug Morris’ lead and get experience in the industry everywhere and anywhere possible. After all, who has a better idea of what it takes?
Though he started off his career in the music biz as a songwriter, Morris soon founded and ran his own record labels. His first endeavor? Big Tree Records. After Atlantic Records acquired the label, Morris became a business tycoon. Ever heard of Vevo? Yeah, he founded that.
Of course, we can’t all be like Doug Morris. We still need to work on graduating after all. But if you want to get in the biz and win that internship with Sony Music, try to get ahead of your fellow applicants:
- Network with Professionals in the Industry on LinkedIn
You know that website you haven’t used since you created an account? Time to log back in again. Update your goals and interests, and reach out to current employees. You never know who went to your college years ago and now just happens to be in Sony’s hiring department.
- Familiarize Yourself with Sony’s Artists
Everybody and their mother knows Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, so odds are you won’t dazzle anyone by being familiar with their discography. Research smaller artists you love and see if they happen to be signed with Sony. The more genuine interest you can show in a company and its success, the better.
- Keep Up to Date on What’s Happening in the Industry
No, the Facebook news-sidebar ain’t gonna cut it. If you really want to make yourself stand out, flex those Google-ing skills. See which artists have switched labels, who have had any publicity blunders and which labels are getting new CEOs.
- Get Previous Experience Interning at a Local Label
You may not get the glitz and glam of working on Madison Avenue, but getting experience at a local label might be just enough to make you stand out from the rest. Smaller labels all across the country could use an extra hand. You may not get paid, but, hey, who cares? Your eventual experience at Sony will more than make up for it.
Follow Sony Music Entertainment on Your Socials:
*Updated on December 30, 2016 by Natalie DaRe to include additional information and information about the latest popular artists.