Senior Spotlight: Willie Perliter

Welcome to our new feature, Senior Spotlight, a suggestion of Eric Meyers, MUSB Senior and President of NYU MEISA. Every so often we will be featuring a different Music Business senior. Our first spotlight is on Willie Perliter, originally from Los Angeles. He is a lover of ’50s lo-fi music and has some pretty cool goals for the future. Check out the interview:

What is your musical background?

I started with the violin when I was 6 or 7, but wasn’t into the string instruments so I quickly moved to piano. And I was privileged, in some sense, that my teacher started teaching me right away with jazz and blues. So I never really had classical training, which now I’m kind of bummed about, but it was fun at the time. I think the 8th grade was when I wanted to be involved with the music business from a more production/creative side. I was in some bands in high school but soon realized that my abilities as a creative person would only go so far, and I wanted to help people who could do better than me.

What has been your favorite NYU Music Business class and why?

I really like Professor Howard-Spink’s classes, so I’ll say Music in the Media Business. I really like expanding my mind on what’s happening today. Whereas most of the music industry classes are maybe 90% history and 10% what we’re doing today, going into Professor Howard-Spink’s class it was all about, “the history is dead, we need to learn how to deal with the models now,” and it was really cool to explore that. But you do need the basis of history to set your argument, especially when you’re arguing with people who are much older than you and much more experienced in that world.

What is your favorite genre of music, and who are some of your favorite artists?

In general I can always dig jazz music. As far as favorite artist, of course I have the cliche Radiohead but I’ve also been really into ’50s and ’60s lo-fi rock as well as some Motown and soul. Through music theory I have grown to appreciate classical music as well as certain far out 20th century composers like Philip Glass. 

What is your musical guilty pleasure?

I don’t know if it’s a guilty pleasure, but most of my music discovery started from watching The. O.C. My roommates and I have also been in a huge kick of ’90s music. We just rocked out to Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week.”

Do you have any funny or scary internship stories?

At my preview internship at MPL Communications, Inc., I had the privilege of seeing Paul McCartney perform at the Apollo and then meet him, but the most important moment I got out of that internship, and all of my internships, was meeting with the Eastman Lawyers who run the company. I originally wanted to meet with just one of them to discuss copyright law, articles, etc., so I sent his assistant an email asking if we could meet and she ended up setting up a meeting with both of the Eastmans. They absolutely blew my mind and gave me amazing advice.

What are some of your career goals? Ultimate dream job?

At this point (and it changes monthly, weekly and daily) I want to do music supervision. But I feel like that won’t fully sustain me economically so I have also been really interested in mobile music in developing countries, based off one of the CMJ panels. Up until CMJ I was pretty committed to being in New York, but now I’m much more open to going abroad and working, especially in an emerging market like India, China or Africa. I want to be more focused on infrastructure and dealing with the changes in infrastructure in the digital age. I like the bigger picture.

I think ultimately I would love to be a music consultant. Someone who artists or business people come to for advice on strategic development and adapting to the constantly changing industry; just a well-rounded person in that regard. But unfortunately that requires a lot of experience, and I don’t even know if it exists as a job.

What are your short-term goals?

As I begin senior year it gets a little scary because I know I should be trying to pursue jobs, but there are too many things I want to do. I have already been working with some friends, as a music supervisor, who are attempting to break into the entertainment industry and if any of them have success I would love to continue working for them. But right now one place that really interests me is The Orchard, because 1) they deal with infrastructure, not with artists and 2) they’re really involved in emerging markets, mobile music and entering developing countries; I think they’re on top of it because that’s where the future seems to be.

Do you have any advice to underclassmen?

1. Meet as many people as possible and on top of that, make them have a reason to want to remember you. I have a lot of opinions about things in the industry and I’m very expressive, and I know that I’m young and my inexperienced opinions are probably not right, but the fact that I show passion and interest in it toward people, I’ve noticed, has been a beneficial thing. If you have any ideas or feel that something could be a different way, just be proactive and go for it. For example, I once met the Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy and I wrote him this whole model for Pandora to work as a subscription-based model and this whole thing with buying playlists as opposed to albums. Obviously it was far out. Now, I don’t necessarily agree with it, but he responded really well with an email saying, “It’s a great idea, but here are the problems.” At the end of the day I got on his radar, whether it was a blip or not, and that can be a beneficial thing in the future.

2. Respond to emails. If you’re going to email someone, just write it. There are so many more opportunities I could’ve pursued but I was just lazy about actually spending three minutes of my life to write an email, whereas it took like a month to actually get myself down to do it. It shows a lot about yourself and it can only be a hindrance if you stall.

At the end of the day, the music industry is an awesome industry and there are cool people and creative people. It’s awesome realizing as I get older and really try to get myself in the industry, just going to concerts and hanging out and talking to musicians, it’s my business too. That’s cool. We just happen to fall into an industry where we do what we love but we also happen to make money.