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Drexel Music Industry Class Goes ‘Double Platinum’

August 22, 2023

Monika Julien sits on a staircase holding an issue of "Double Platinum."
Monika Julien photographed in Drexel’s URBN Center holding a copy of Double Platinum. Photo credit: Jeff Fusco.

“I can’t even put into words how amazing it has been to hear from Drexel University alumnae working in the music industry, because learning everybody’s perspective and how they overcame things and where they’re at now has been so incredible,” exclaimed Monika Julien, assistant teaching professor of music industry in Drexel’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. “We all share this common bond of going through some challenges as women in the industry.”

Those alumnae experiences were put into words — and even published in a zine through a “Women in Music Industry” class Julien taught last term. The 25 Music Industry Program students who took Julien’s course interviewed 10 program alumnae, plus one from Entertainment and Arts Management, for a final class project in which they created a publication called Double Platinum (a music industry term for an album that has sold two million copies).

Julien focused the class on the current state of gender representation in the field. Students — not all of whom were women — researched the topic by decade and sector, and discussed recent studies and research related to gender representation in the music industry.

“While we spent the time you would expect discussing shortcomings, gender imbalances and equity gaps, the class was so much more — from having conversations with women in music from different companies and organizations to even taking a field trip,” said Nikita Batra, a rising senior in the Music Industry Program and the Pennoni Honors College, who also has a business administration minor and is a Westphal BRIDGE Scholar. The term before, she had taken Julien’s class, “Entrepreneurship in the Music Industry,” and took the “Women in Music Industry” class because of its “extreme relevance and significance,” she said.

The cover of "Double Platinum" showing a large crowd and on stage is the text "Double Platnium. Celebrating Drexel Alumnae Shaping the Music Industry. Vol. 1.:

The cover of Double Platinum.

The talks and field trip involved even more alumnae and women in the industry. A panel of six women — including three alumnae — from Philly’s Live Nation office came to one class. Students also visited the Universal Music Group’s local office to hear from five female graduates (one of whom graduated from Drexel’s Music Industry Program in 2012, like Julien). Creating various points of connection gave students inspiration and motivation and provided alumnae the chance to give back and share their experiences, Julien said.

“As I am entering into the music industry, I am only just starting to see the impact of my gender on my career, so it was incredibly valuable to have so many candid conversations about what it is truly like to be a woman or gender-nonconforming person in music,” said Jenna Soliman, a rising senior in the Music Industry Program with minors in business administration and Spanish. “Between our class discussions and an incredible group of guest speakers, I feel so much better prepared to begin my career in the music industry.”

Throughout the term, Julien encouraged students to “reflect on what their personal philosophy is when it comes to representation and diversity in the music industry, and how to promote that, so they can take that with them when they enter the workforce,” she said.

Her own experiences from over 10 years in the field inspired her to not only create the class during her first year on faculty, but also dream up the class project. Before switching to academia, Julien had last been working in the industry leading Red Bull’s culture marketing strategy and programming in New York City, overseeing Red Bull-branded festivals and events.

“Since I’ve been back at Drexel, I started digging into what my classmates had been doing, and I spent so much time on LinkedIn that I started this list of women that have graduated from the program that are actively working in the music industry,” explained Julien. Her growing list currently includes alumnae who graduated between 2007 and 2021; are working in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Nashville; and are at various stages of their careers and sectors of the industry. Their roles range from positions in marketing to touring to brand partnerships to HR.

She wanted those alumnae to talk to students in ways beyond guest speakers or visits — and came up with the idea of generating interviews that could be published in a zine. 

Students picked who they wanted to talk to based on what aligned with their career interests and goals, then spent the term contacting the alumna, setting up a time to talk, developing questions to ask, conducting the interview, editing the answers and preparing the zine. Those skills, Julien said, added a career development angle to the class, encouraging students to develop networking opportunities and build soft skills that can help in future internships, co-ops and post-graduate opportunities.

“By working on this final project and taking into consideration what we learned throughout the class, we were able to ask questions and address concerns about our near future,” said Batra. “Every alumna and interview varied, but my partner and I were able to openly explore uncertainty (after college and in general), safety/boundaries as a woman, taking space, maintaining connections and advice for young professionals getting started.”

A screenshot of the pages of "Double Platinum" showing a picture of a woman and four columns of text.

The page layout of Drexel alumna Katie Jelen's interview with Drexel students including Jenna Soliman.

The zine was created entirely by all current and future Drexel alumni, including the design (by Jenna Lecours, BS graphic design ’18, assistant operations manager at Universal Music Group — another LinkedIn find from Julien). Even the name, Double Platinum, picked from an anonymous submissions form, came from Kate Bianco, associate director of alumni engagement and development for the Westphal College of Media and Design (a future alumna currently pursuing her master’s degree in arts administration and museum leadership at Drexel).

The zine has since been published in print and online. Julien hopes a second volume will come out when she teaches the class in the future, with different alumnae and a new set of students 

“I can confidently say that ‘Women in the Music Industry’ is the best class that I have ever taken,” said Soliman. “My group spoke with Katie Jelen, former director of Sync Licensing at Warner Chappell Music and founder of the music licensing company, Honestly Good Music. Hearing about Katie’s journey from Drexel to a successful career in music was so inspiring and made the music industry feel much more real and tangible.”

One of the pieces of advice Jelen gave, which is published in the zine, is that the students should “just create the thing you want for yourself” when trying to find and make their place in the industry. 

“That is advice that I will carry with me throughout my career,” said Soliman.

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