FTC 2014 GRAD JUSTIN TOMLINSON FROM SONY’S RCA INSPIRATIONS TALKS MUSIC, MARKETING, AND TURNING AN INTERNSHIP INTO A CAREER FOR THE EMPLOYER BUZZ SERIES HOSTED BY CAREER SERVICES
By Briyahna Rice
Five Towns College 2014 graduate, Justin Tomlinson, has made his impact on the music industry. After getting his professional start at BET Networks, he went on to work for RCA Inspiration, the gospel division of Sony Music Entertainment, before moving to the RCA Inspirations Digital Marketing Department in Nashville, TN. Having worked with artists such as Kirk Franklin, Travis Greene, and Snoop Dogg, Tomlinson has worked hard to cultivate digital strategies for musical releases to the public. From humble beginnings, he started at Five Towns in 2010 as a Music Business Major, where he was a resident and Resident Assistant (RA) all four years and pretty much “lived the college life.” He also made regular visits home so that he could attend church to sing. On March 10th, Career Services invited Tomlinson back to campus as part of their Get Hired: Employer Buzz series to talk about his career experiences, what he did to achieve his goals, and how aspiring students can do the same.
“Here at school, the music business department was amazing at teaching just the basics and the rhyme of all types of beats like a professional,” he explained. “When I first started at Five Towns, I wanted to be a singer. I wanted to be an artist. That was a goldmine, but I still wanted to learn business. So, while being here, I grew to learn marketing.”
Moving forward, Justin talked about his experiences with his first internship. During his freshman year, he got his start at Motown’s through an alumni connection. While there, he was a digital marketing intern. Eventually, he started another year-long internship at BET Networks until he was made their production assistant, while still attending school. Not long after that, in the Fall semester of 2013, he began his internship with RCA Inspiration in the A&R department. When asked about how his experience at Five Towns shaped the person he is today, he responded, “Being at Five Towns was great. I have a lot of friends and relationships here, but what took me further along in terms of being at BET long-term, and still having relationships while being at RCA, was my work ethic and building relationships once I graduated. I was putting on shows at Five Towns because of the relationships I built at the networks and the label.”
In a like manner, Justin explained how he made the switch from interning to eventually working, something that all students should be able to learn from. “I think I would go back to my work ethic at the company. I stayed late. I got there early. And that was just the hustler mentality that I had. I knew I was hungry for something. I didn’t know what it was, but I just said ‘I know I want to be in this industry, I know I gotta put the time in.’” According to Tomlinson, the first big break that he had came when he was hired to work the 2013 BET Awards and first got a paid job for the company. After that event, he was asked to stay on for a while longer.
From there, Justin answered a pivotal question regarding what advice he’d give to someone who may have a bit of social anxiety and not exactly great at instantly talking to people. “I would say take someone to coffee, at first. Because then, you have that one on one time. And when I say someone, that can be sending a blind, cold email to someone you look up to. It doesn’t hurt to go to an event. Maybe you are shy, but if you shake their hand, get their business card, also get their Instagram. These days, Instagram has become the new business card.”
Similarly, he talked about his hustler mentality, relaying a story from his past. He says that he knew what he wanted, because he was a singer. He remembers watching BET’s Stanley Brown from the time he was growing up in church and in music around his urban community. One day, while at BET, Tomlinson sent Brown an email, complimenting his work and asking for a meeting over lunch. After the eighth email attempt and on the way home for Christmas break, Tomlinson received a reply from Brown, which he described as the “best Christmas present in the world.” Before going back to Five Towns, Justin Tomlinson sat down with his inspiration for a meeting and was complimented by Brown on his hustler mentality and offered an internship for the following summer. “One thing about me was that I didn’t walk into it knowing I knew everything. I walked into it saying, ‘Hey, I want to learn.’”