Category: GEMA, GEMA Alumni Spotlight

Title:GEMA Alumni Spotlight – Jeff Bronikowski (B’92), Global Head of Strategic Music Initiatives at Apple

Jeff Bronikowski (B ‘92) is the Global Head of Strategic Music Initiatives for Apple. In this role, he works on partnerships, strategy and acquisitions to help Apple Music continue to evolve and innovate.

What was your first “big break”? Or, what is the most significant experience you have had that has made your success possible?

In 1999, I had been working for the CFO of Universal Records, a label inside of Universal Music Group (UMG). It was a great job through which I could learn about how music biz sausage is made, but I wanted to work in an area that was more strategic and less tactical. There was a small group within UMG called “eLabs”, which was charged with defining and executing the digital distribution strategy for the future. I was fortunate to be able to transfer into that team and frankly, the rest is history. It set the stage for my working in digital strategy and business development for essentially the rest of my career.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Apple is a large company, structured by function, as opposed to vertical. In other words, there are heads of engineering and product/design who are peers with the business leads, the rationale being that “experts lead experts” in a functional area rather than one manager overseeing talented people across functions. So it is important to build consensus to drive an initiative forward. That can be very challenging given the scale and deep expertise across the organization.

What is the most rewarding part?

The most rewarding part is that when you do drive an initiative forward, Apple’s scale means that your project can touch many millions of end consumers. That’s very rewarding and I don’t take it for granted.

What is something current you are working on that you are excited about?

Given Apple’s legendary confidentiality, I can only talk about public projects. I’m excited about our acquisition of the classical music service Primephonic. It will relaunch next year to provide the richest and best user experience for classical fans.

Are there any ways that you feel Georgetown especially prepared you for your career?

Conveying an idea succinctly in writing is an important skill in most jobs, and I’ve found that to be the case throughout my career. I certainly became a better writer at Georgetown, which I owe in large part to my freshman year English class. I thought I was a good writer when I got to Georgetown, but that first paper’s C+ showed me I had a lot to learn!

What is your best advice to those who are starting out in your field?

One can enter the music business from the “creative” side or the “business” side. On the creative side, you’d really better be obsessed with music, be prepared to do any type of grunt work for low pay for a couple of years and network to the best of your ability. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a shot and if you work hard, that will be recognized. On the business side, your best chance is to bring a functional skill to the organization from prior work experience outside of music, such as financial analysis, data science, customer acquisition, etc.

How is the ever-changing media landscape affecting your industry?

The recorded music industry was the media’s “canary in the coal mine” as the first media/content vertical to be disrupted by the shift to digital. Streaming is generating massive revenue for record labels, but many artists and songwriters feel they are not properly remunerated. That fact, coupled with the growth in new business models within the “creator economy”, are boundto have implications for the music industry.

Best Business Advice Received:

From a practical matter, a good piece of advice I once heard is to value what your boss, and ideally, also his or her boss, values. That may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get distracted, so I think that is universally applicable day-to-day advice. For longer term impact , I have found it valuable to be a voracious reader about your industry and one or two concentric circles outside of your specific industry, because challenges and opportunities in other businesses will often end up being relevant to your industry down the line.

Trait You Most Admire in People:

I admire candor and logic. Candor saves a lot of time and wasted energy, while logical arguments are pivotal to identifying issues and building consensus.

Favorite App, Website, Podcast or Social Platform (other than related to your own company):

I certainly use and appreciate the same ones everyone else does (Google, Netflix, airbnb, uber, LinkedIn, etc.), but if I had to pick one, I’d pick amazon. I continue to marvel at finding the most esoteric item in seconds, and having it delivered to my house often the next day.

Favorite Georgetown Professor:

I can’t say that I had the kind of relationship with any professor that led to our sharing a beer at The Tombs, but I enjoyed the following classes a lot: Biblical Literature with Father Mitchell; Intro to Political Philosophy with Father Schall; Micro Econ with Professor Westbrook; Management and Organizational Behavior with a visiting professor from Seattle named Bob Bies; Political Sociology with Prof. Wickham-Crowley; Intro to Accounting with Prof. Redding

Favorite Georgetown Restaurant or Bar:

Trincus, the gyro shop. I need not explain its late-night supremacy.

Favorite Georgetown Memory:

There are so many great memories from Georgetown, but the people remain the most important aspect of Georgetown for me. I met my first wife at Georgetown and while the marriage ended amicably, it yielded 3 wonderful children. I also formed some of my closest friendships. While thinking about this question, I tried to come up with one moment and it actually occurred off campus, summer after freshman year. I lived in Harbin and my roommate Matt Donohoe and I would go on to live for the next 3 years with the two pairs of neighbors on either side of us (Darren Composto and Dave Bayne, Paul Verbesey and John Friedline). One night that summer, I was at a party hosted by one of Paul’s high school friends in Setauket, Long Island. It was a great time. Paul had a wonderful set of friends at home and at this party, the host’s mom, ignoring (embracing?) the underage drinking, had been cooking all day and brought out an amazing spread of food seemingly every hour.

At one point I thought to myself, here I am out on Eastern Long Island with not only Paul, but Darren and even Matt, who had come down from Boston for the party and the thought crystalized about how lucky I was to have made such great friends in such a short time. Thanks to our daily group text, those friendships and others from Georgetown are as rich and deep and comically absurd as they were 30 years ago.