Sunday, January 19, 2014

The College Experience with Alison Henry

>> One of my personal favorite parts about being a college student is the opportunity to network.  I was in the Liberal Studies Program at NYU for my first two years before I switched to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study to further focus my studies.  The Liberal Studies Program was full of kids who didn't know what they wanted to major in yet, kids who wanted to get 75% of their requirements out of the way before Junior year, and kids who just ended up there thanks to a weird acceptance system that year.  So, unlike the other programs and schools within NYU, LSP was full of people who didn't necessarily have a single common interest.  In a standard requirement class my freshman year called Cultural Foundations (I don't know what that is either honestly), I met a girl named Alison.  We joked about the professor's constant references to Star Wars and Taylor Lautner's abs and how it felt like the whole class was a prank somehow.  Flash forward two years, and I walk into the Big Picture Media office to film an acoustic session.  Who's sitting at a desk there but Alison, the girl from that required class freshman year.  Turns out we had a lot more in common than we realized, and our realization of that led to this feature.  We survived the simultaneous chaos of CMJ and midterms, and here we are now.  Alison has had a firm foot in the music industry for a while now, and this is only the beginning of her plans. College can be cool sometimes, you guys.  Read on for Alison Henry's accomplishments, struggles, and what she wants to do next.

Please state your name, age, and what school you attend.
I’m Alison Henry, I’m twenty, and I’m currently a junior in NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. 

When and how did you first get involved with the music scene?
I grew up listening to a lot of music growing up. My dad was a closet punk and concert junkie, so being around that definitely got me interested. I think I was fifteen and at my first concert when I started to think about going into the music industry, but for a while I always saw it as kind of a pipe dream. It wasn’t until Warped Tour 2011 during an Earn It Yourself meet up with Kevin Lyman, where he sat us down and basically told it like it was, that inspired me to try a little harder and find a way to make it work. I found out about the blog We Are the Kids at that meeting, which has definitely helped tremendously, and after that I realized that maybe I can kind of do this.

If you got involved at a relatively early age, was it hard having to deal with age restricted shows?
Not really. Growing up I went to mostly all ages shows, and even now most of the shows I go to are 16+. When I moved to the city for school, I got a fake ID just so I could go to 21+ shows. Now that I’m so close to being 21, it’s not even that big of an issue anymore. As far as working shows, I think I’ve only had one or two issues with being under 21. I’ve always been able to work it out though.

Now that you're in college, has that aspect gotten easier? Are things more accessible to you now?
I’m really spoiled because I go to school in New York. If bands don’t stop in NYC, they’ll have a Long Island/Philly/New Jersey date for sure. If I didn’t go to a city school, I don’t know how I could pursue a career in the industry. Most of the time I don’t have to worry about driving or getting back home. I also live really close to some great venues like Webster Hall or Gramercy Theatre, and sometimes I feel like I have to go to shows because it’s so convenient. 

Do you find that you have more or less free time generally as a college student?
It really depends what you consider free time. I’m definitely not the kind of student who cuts out 3 hours each night to read, study, or go over class notes. I probably have more free time than I probably should, to be honest. I’m really restless, so if I do have free time I’m either working or trying to find work to do. So I guess same amount of free time, but I’m more in control of how I use that time.

What experiences have you had so far in the industry? 
 I volunteered a few dates of Warped Tour summer 2012 with Feed Our Children NOW!, and then spent a week on the tour with American Rag this past summer. This year I was a team lead for Riot Fest in Chicago, which was really cool because I got to work all aspects of the festival and built a lot of really solid relationships out in the Midwest. I’ve also interned at Band Aid Records, and currently I just finished interning at Big Picture Media (if anyone’s looking for an entertainment PR internship, I really highly recommend BPM. The team is wonderful, and it’s a really good learning experience). I’ve worked a lot of one off shows as a runner and as a merch person. And this spring, I’ll be the marketing intern for clothing line Glamour Kills.

Being actively involved in the music industry, how often have you been tempted to skip class or put off an assignment in order to attend / play a show? How do you make the choice?
This is a huge thing for me. I love my school, and fortunately this semester I’ve had a lot of time to dedicate to work. But it’s really difficult, especially because I want to go into touring and live music. This September I was a team lead at Riot Fest out in Chicago, and I had to find a flight there and back that would be cost efficient and wouldn’t make me miss class or assignments. I fortunately had about a week to make plans, but sometimes I’m put on the spot and have to make a quick decision. If it’s something that I know is going to take up only one night or a weekend, I’ll put that over school. If it’s a long term project or tour, I have to put school first. I’ve already put the commitment to get my degree, I have to see it through. 

Have you ever arranged your schedule based on music related obligations? / Have you ever had to turn something down or reschedule something based on your school schedule?
Absolutely! I arranged my entire schedule for this semester and next semester based on spending as much time at my internship as possible. Next semester, I have a whole day full of classes, and then the rest of the week is dedicated to my internship. I’ve turned down a short tour because of school, and that sucked. But there was no way I could justify to my parents missing that much school just to sell t-shirts for an unknown band. 

Are you often faced with tough choices when it comes to priorities and scheduling as a student who's also involved in the music industry?
It is really tough, and sometimes I wish I didn’t have certain obligations. I also sometimes feel that if I didn’t go to school, I’d be more motivated to find music industry jobs. But at the end of the day, I know that having a diploma from NYU is going to be the difference between being a Warped roadie for the rest of my life and producing Coachella or Lollapalooza. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with working Warped every summer of your life and bartending the rest of the year. In fact, it’s a professional and even more so a personal goal of mine to spend an entire summer on the tour. But I know that I want to do bigger things too, and having the NYU name and reputation is only going to help me. 

How has being in college helped you advance your involvement in the music industry? Do you think the pros of being in both outweigh the cons?
NYU is definitely the place to go if you want to work in the entertainment industry. I don’t know any other opportunity I’ll get where I can take classes with professors who still work in the industry, while living in the heart of Manhattan without worrying about how I’m going to afford rent or groceries. I’ve definitely made connections through NYU programs and through professors, which is definitely a pro. Although being in school makes it tough to break into the live music scene, it helps solidify a long term career.

Do you think it's been beneficial to start your career / path in the music industry while you're still in school?
YES! Start as early as you can! It’s never too late, but the earlier you start the easier it is! I officially started when I was eighteen, but I always wish I had started way earlier. College is also a great time to experiment with different career paths. I started out thinking I was going to go into artist management or A&R, but now I’ve gone a completely different path. And I’m still learning. It’s a great time to try different things and to make mistakes, because that’s when you can afford to make them.

What are your plans for after graduation?
I would love to tour manage or work for a tour production company. I grew up moving around a lot, and I’m getting a little stir crazy in New York. I’m looking to move, ideally to Los Angeles or the west coast.

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- Kate Russell

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