Career Wave hosts conversation with music mogul

February 17, 2014 11:00 AM

Ryan Rivet

In an attempt to answer the question “what can one do with a liberal arts degree?” the Career Wave program hosted a conversation with two prominent Tulane University alumni who have parlayed their liberal arts degrees into successful careers.

Julie Greenwald and Gwen Thompkins

Gwen Thompkins, host of WWNO radio’s “Music Inside Out,” right, interviews Julie Greenwald, chair and COO of Atlantic Records, on the Tulane uptown campus on Friday (Feb. 14). (Photo by Sally Asher)

Gwen Thompkins, former editor and correspondent for National Public Radio and current host of WWNO’s “Music Inside Out,” sat down for an hour-long discussion with Julie Greenwald, chair and COO of Atlantic Records. The conversation focused on Greenwald’s career — how she got into the music business and what it’s taken for her to rise to such prominence.

After graduating with a degree in political science and English in 1991, Greenwald’s first job out of college was in the classroom, teaching with Teach for America in a New Orleans public school, a world away from where she would ultimately end up.

“I had no idea I was going to end up in the music business,” Greenwald said. “I was going down a whole different path.”

Thompkins’ interview walked Greenwald through the progression of her career, starting as a summer intern at Rush Management where she met her mentor Lyor Cohen. The relationship with Cohen led to working at Def Jam records where she played a key role in early days of rap and hip-hop, working with artists like Run DMC, LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys and Jay-Z.

From there Greenwald moved on to Island Records and to her current position as head of Atlantic Records where she said she had to “blow the place up” to get the label back to its former glory.

After a candid discussion of the impact she’s had on the music business, Greenwald told the students in attendance that their degree will “certainly mean something.” She then advocated a career in the music industry.

“The music business is a great business,” Greenwald said. “If you love it, stay in it, fight for it. If you stay with it, we’ll find you.” 

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