For Jennifer Fowler ’96, a career trajectory in the music industry took off from the time she was a young child and her dad would fill her home (and her heart) with the sounds of Motown. A communication studies major at TCNJ, she found her fit in the basement of Kendall Hall as music director for WTSR. To this day, she lists the time she had to fill in for a DJ who played the Motown music hour among her best days ever. She took her radio experience to a small record label, then to RCA, and from there made her way to Sony Music where she is now senior vice president of marketing and revenue generation.
On a recent visit to campus, Fowler sat with a group of communication students and members of WTSR to spin stories of how to make it in music and to offer them her best career advice:
1. Find what you love.
Fowler says she’s often asked, “What are you looking for?” when it comes to hiring. Her answer, quite simply, is “Everything.” The beautiful thing about the music industry, she explains, is that it crosses so many fields: there are artists, marketers, legal professionals, and sound techs, to name a few. So what she really looks for is someone with passion. She says when she hears a potential hire follows a particular band, or talks about specific issues affecting the industry, it can demonstrate that the person loves music. “I am highly emotional and need to be fulfilled in what I do,” she says. “I look for that in others.”
2. Get ahead of the trends.
The music industry has changed in the nearly three decades of Fowler’s career. She says it is important to adapt to what is happening in the field. For example, she started in the industry when people were listening to music on CDs. When MP3s were introduced and music became digital, it marked a big shift in how music was shared. Napster, iTunes and streaming services followed, and the way people consumed music changed, “because they were no longer paying to own music, but instead paying to have access to music,” she says. Now, platforms like TikTok are fundamentally changing how the industry finds and promotes talent. “Thankfully,” she says, “there’s more data out there than ever too, and that guides us in building plans for artists as the changes occur.”
3. Be hungry.
Fowler admits she started in the industry before work/life balance was really something talked about much. “It was a hustler’s world,” she says. “I worked my a** off.” Even now, the industry can be tough. She recognizes that times have changed, and she encourages people to use resources that are available for mental health. But she still thinks having drive is important to moving up in your career. And for Fowler, it goes back to finding what you love: “Going to a Beyonce concert after hours doesn’t feel like work to me.”
— Kara Pothier MAT ’08