BY: Casey Markiewicz
Our alum, Christian Wagner, broke into the music industry with full force. Christian graduated in 2012 with his Communication Arts degree specializing in digital media, and from day one was extremely active in his education. His involvement hasn’t rested since. Now in his career, he balances many skills and responsibilities.
Casey: Where are you working now?
Christian: I am back in New Jersey based right outside of Asbury Park, the famous home of Bruce Springsteen. My first job was music video marketing. After being let go after six months I found, at the time, a part-time job with Pirates Press as an assistant. Pirates Press is a media manufacturer with its main source of income being vinyl production. There is also a sister company, Pirates Press Records, a punk rock label. After a few months, I was brought on full-time and have assumed a number of job roles in the company. Pirates Press is one of the largest vinyl manufacturers in the world. We have manufactured millions of records for customers of all sizes–from major labels to indie labels to the guy running a record label out of his bedroom. So my job tasks include anything from running all of the social media accounts, to maintaining company websites, to handling communication with our vinyl factory, and so much more. Being that it’s a small business with about 30 or so employees, you have to be flexible in your roles to best suit the company’s needs.
The company HQ is in the Bay Area in California. It used to be in San Francisco but recently moved and expanded to the other side of the Bay Bridge in Emeryville–a burgeoning town on the outskirts of Oakland and Berkeley that caters to small and large businesses. Lots of well-known names are in Emeryville such as Pixar, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Electronic Arts, Clif Bar, LeapFrog, Gracenote, Jamba Juice and others.
In addition, I also manage several artists under Good Fight Entertainment. It was one of the most well-known boutique management companies in the punk/metal/rock world. I also do freelance web design for several clients.
Casey: How do you feel Marywood helped prepare you for your career?
Christian: Marywood gave me a platform on Day 1 to do what I wanted. They offered me the resource and guidance that students at larger schools could never get as a freshman. I can’t think of too many schools that would let a first semester freshman do the things I set out to do. I had a lot of big-picture ideas and goals, and I tried to do them as best I could. Even not related to the music business, the hands-on experience I received was second-to-none. You can’t teach certain things from a book. When someone says “make it happen at all costs,” you can’t Google that. That’s a sense of urgency in the “real world” that can’t be simulated. I’m also glad Ernie Mengoni [director of broadcast operations] didn’t strangle me at times, because I certainly pushed his last nerve many times.
Casey: What’s your average workday like?
Christian: We have offices in California and the Czech Republic so I play the middleman. I wake up and already have about 60-70 emails every morning that need to be read and potentially responded to because they’re five hours ahead and need everything handled usually before 9 a.m. EST to ensure an order is not delayed. This doesn’t count the many emails that are automatically filed away that pertain to orders that I need as reference. Once I get into the office around 10 a.m. I usually have a good idea of how my day is going to play out – whether it’s creating content for the record label (YouTube videos, product layouts, product pages), editing and enhancing our websites, newsletters, or doing a number of other things. Then factor in any band management-related issues that vary depending on what a band is doing, and it’s a nice agenda of things to do every day. Like I said, I wear many different hats, so it’s hard to pinpoint to a few things I do every day.
Casey: What are some things you like to do in your free time?
Christian: It’s kind of funny because when I was in college, I was such a physically lazy individual. I never went to the gym or exercised. A friend introduced me to CrossFit and now for nearly three years I’ve been an extremely active CrossFit athlete. I’ve now expanded upon that to compete in Olympic weightlifting. It pretty much consumes most of my free time now. After work or on the weekends I’m usually at the gym for about two and a half hours a day. I get home, answer emails and finish up my work for the day, and then I’m usually cooking/meal prepping and then doing a bunch of stretching before going to bed.
Casey: Were you always interested in working in the music industry? What influenced you?
Christian: I always loved music growing up. Coming from Asbury Park, New Jersey, I was raised on Bruce Springsteen.The idea of working in the music business never crossed my mind when I was younger. I had always been interested in journalism and came into Marywood looking to pursue journalism. I saw the industry trends for that line of work and realized it was not going to be a sustainable job with my aspirations and interests. I was not a very popular kid in high school, so I always found comfort in music. However, I started a radio program in high school called “Breaking The Mold” that I mentioned before. That was my first foray into the business side of music, which lead to an internship in high school with Live Nation/The Bamboozle Festival. Once I got to college, I was working for a now-defunct music venue, throwing my own shows, working with bands, and trying to hustle as much as I could to network and pick the brains of industry professionals.
Casey: What’s been your favorite project you’ve done so far?
Christian: Great question and, sadly, I don’t know if I can name one specific project. So many different projects and moments have important meanings to me. If it wasn’t for Breaking The Mold, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t have my best friends in the world that helped me out. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do anything in this business. We did events in the old Media Center building that brought about such life and vivaciousness to the studio. I’m not going to name drop, but I’ve met and worked with people I would read about and see on TV. People that play arenas and stadiums. I’ve met celebrities. I’ve had footage I’ve shot contributed to a documentary. I was able to travel the country on the Vans Warped Tour and have the opportunity to meet so many incredible people and see so many amazing sights.
Casey: Do you have any suggestions for someone interested in working in the music industry?
Christian: Oh man. I’m not sure if I have anything that’s not cliche. I think watching the Cameron Crowe film “Almost Famous” is a good visual tale of the dos and don’ts. I worked every single job and took on any job I could to learn every facet of the business that I could. Don’t take “no” for an answer. Be nice and respectful. Bet on yourself. Be smart. Be sensible. Ask questions. Go out there and meet people. It’s so much better than an email. Expect to work for little-to-nothing until you can prove yourself. Learn other skills. I have taught myself HTML/CSS, public relations, advertising, contract rhetoric and negotiating, and so much more. Don’t be a jerk and screw people over because the business is too small and word gets around. You will have to fall on your face a lot, but pick yourself up and keep pushing forward. Do it because you love it, not for the lifestyle or “cool factor.”
Casey Markiewicz is a freshman Public Relations/Advertising major. When she’s not in class or writing for Frame Your Future, she’s getting involved in the PRSSA/AAF organization.