Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The College Experience with Alyssa Dempsey

>> The end of May signals summer for us college kids, and this particular May signals the end of college for Alyssa Dempsey.  I had interviewed Alyssa a few months ago, but I couldn't post the answers until now because some information here was time-sensitive.  I'm proud to say that the time-sensitive information was Alyssa's new job as a Junior Publicist with Big Picture Media out in Los Angeles.  I first met Alyssa while she was interning for BPM in NYC, and we immediately hit it off. Like myself, she was juggling internships, school, and a self-started music endeavor.  Alyssa runs Hooked On Records with a fellow NYU student named Jack Brooks.  Alyssa is bright -- in addition to being smart, there's something about her that attracts people.  She's genuine and dedicated, and it's obvious that she's meant to do big things in the music world.  Having just graduated from NYU as a writer for idobi and with a job at BPM, Alyssa is on a roll.   Read on to find out about the struggle to keep everything balanced while in school, and the excitement behind finishing college and moving on to bigger and better things.

- Kate Russell

Please state your name, age, and what school you attend.
My name is Alyssa Dempsey. I'm 21 and a senior at New York University.

When and how did you first get involved with the music scene?
I first started going to shows back in middle/high school. I grew up in Vermont where the closest music venue was about two and a half hours away, so it was always a big deal to go. I also had friends in local bands whose shows I would go to all the time. It wasn't until the summer after sophomore year of college that Jack (Brooks) and I started Hooked On Records. I had the idea after attending CMJ as a freshman at NYU, and then Jack and I made it a reality shortly after. That was also the summer that I started working at Billboard.

If you got involved at a relatively early age, was it hard having to deal with age restricted shows?
I didn't have to deal with age restrictions until I came to New York where it seemed like every show was 21+. I never had a fake ID so that definitely sucked. Also, Jack and I were 19 when we started Hooked On Records, so we had some initial insecurities about people talking us seriously. In general though, everyone thought we were older which helped.

Now that you're in college, has that aspect gotten easier? Are things more accessible to you now?
Now that I'm 21 everything is fantastic, I'll be honest. It's just so much easier. Even bands that are really supportive of all-ages shows still have to submit to the venues' wills generally. Coming to New York City for college was pivotal for me as well. I can safely say that I would have never been as involved with music as I currently am if I had stayed in my hometown, or gone to college in a less urban setting.

Do you find that you have more or less free time generally as a college student?
1000% less time as a college student. I wouldn't say I had a lot of free time in high school either, but in college it's been very difficult. I've always had some sort of part-time job or internship (usually multiple) in addition to schoolwork. Same with Jack. I like to think of myself as the Queen of Multitasking though. I’ve written press releases during class, that sort of thing.

What experiences have you had so far in the industry?
In addition to taking various entertainment business classes at NYU, I’ve had a number of internships. My first was as a Marketing Intern at Billboard, which was a pretty incredible first internship to have. After that, I worked as an Entertainment Publicity Intern with Big Picture Media, a PR agency – also a fantastic experience. Now, I’m a writer for idobi, and of course I’ve had Hooked On Records throughout all of this as well. I’ve dabbled in a little bit of everything.

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?
Skipping class has really never been an issue because all of my classes have been during the day and therefore don’t conflict with shows. Well, that’s a lie, I think I’ve definitely skipped a class or two for CMJ. As for putting off assignments, that happens all the time. I always get it done, but it isn’t unusual for me to go to a show and then stay up until 4am writing a paper.

Have you ever had to turn something down or reschedule something based on your school schedule?
Like I mentioned before, I usually just do my best to fit everything in. Right now, with Hooked On Records and idobi, my schedule is very flexible, which I love. For me, the only thing that really trumps anything music-related is my current position as a Resident Assistant, which is definitely school-related. When I’m on duty, it means I can’t even leave the building, so that usually puts a damper on seeing shows. For the most part though, things tend to work out.

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?
I never like to limit myself by choosing between school and music-related work. If anything, it’s always sleep that gets deemed least important.

Since you run a label, how do you store the records and/or CDs that you plan on selling? Where do you have it manufactured? Is it a difficult process when you have to worry about school and storing books and such in a potentially limited space?
I’m incredibly lucky because Jack has lived in an apartment since the summer before junior year, and she is a heavenly angel who stores all the vinyl and CDs under her bed actually (very professional, I know). We’ve used a couple different manufacturers in the past – specifically for vinyl we worked with Rainbo Records who did a great job. On our first project we worked with Aardvark Mastering and they were absolutely terrible. For CDs we've used a number of different manufacturers as well - it all depends on what the end goal is, how intricate the art may be, etc.

Do you struggle with roommates? Do they ever complain about you taking up too much space or being too loud with your musical endeavors?
I’ve been an RA for the past two and a half years which means I have my own bedroom (which is FANTASTIC). Even if I did have a roommate though, it really wouldn’t be a problem as the majority of all the work I do is done through a computer.

What is one of the biggest obstacles you've faced while trying to progress your career while still in school? Have you faced many tough obstacles like that, or has being in school helped you take those next steps?
The two main obstacles I’ve dealt with regarding school are time and money. NYU is fantastic for its location, but I’m paying a ridiculous amount of money to attend this school. Even with scholarships and free housing these past two years, I’ve had to take out loans. Because of this, I’ve always worked outside jobs, usually more than one, to help take the edge off Future Alyssa’s debt. And of course, school takes up a large amount of my time as well. Both of these factors definitely limit my ability to solely focus on music-related endeavors.

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?
This is a hard one to answer. Living in New York City has really been the main factor in my involvement in the music industry, not college itself. However, I do believe that if I wasn't in college, I would not have the same internship opportunities that were available to me. Also, I’ve met so many awesome people during my time at NYU that I may not have known otherwise. It was very important to me to go to college, and overall I'm happy with my decision to attend NYU.

Do you think it's been beneficial to start your career / path in the music industry while you're still in school?
Yes, yes, yes – I can’t emphasize this enough. At this point, internships and experience are incredibly important. If you think you'll get a job after graduation just because you *really* want it, you may be delusional. The best part of music is that it's so accessible. Start a blog, start a label, start a band - just do something.

What are your plans for after graduation?
I will be moving to LA to join Big Picture Media as a Junior Publicist! Although I will miss New York terribly, I'm looking forward to working with a company that I really admire. Jack and I will also continue to work with Hooked On Records on the side.

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