Cole Gieseking, ’20, spent this past summer as a promotion intern with Sony Music at the Columbia Records headquarters in New York.

“I’ve always wondered how music gets popular, how people make it in the music industry,” Gieseking said. “Sony is one of the big companies that’s responsible for making music legends, which spiked my curiosity.”

He interned in the promotions department, which he says is responsible for disseminating music out to the public, and keeping track of which songs are at the top of the charts.

He spent much of his summer tracking data about popular songs. For example, he created spreadsheets for company leadership of frequently played, downloaded, and streamed songs.

“They want to get as many streams on a song as possible,” Gieseking said. “A big part of what the promotions department does is push to have songs played on the radio. So, I would display the data and make it easy to analyze.”

Gieseking attributes his ability to track that data effectively to his classes in the Robins School.

“Being able to recognize an assignment, or even an invoice when it’s handed to you is a huge advantage,” Gieseking said. “Taking business classes definitely helps in a professional environment because you go in with an understanding of how the different departments work together.”

He noticed very quickly that the way that music is consumed and promoted is constantly changing.

“Songs have historically been pushed on the radio until they made it in the top ten, but now the goal is trending toward increasing the number of streams and frequency of radio play.”

He tracked some of the most popular songs of the summer from artists like the Chainsmokers, Foster the People, and John Mayer.

He says the highlight of his internship was interacting with company executives about top songs. On his favorite day, some company superiors played two different versions of an unreleased song with two different featured artists for the interns, and asked their opinion.

“It was unique, getting to hear songs before they were released,” Gieseking said. “Popular songs tend to have a quick rise, then pushing the songs after they’re most popular tends to increase the number of streams, which increases revenue.”

Jane Mathangani, associate director of promotion and finance, worked closely with Gieseking in his time at Columbia Records.

“Cole is a hard worker and very reliable,” Mathangani said.  “He also is very bright. When I give him something to work on he catches on very quickly.”

She explained promotion interns within Columbia Records work on a variety of projects for the company. Through those projects, she said they gain an understanding of the correlation between radio airplay and sales. They also learn the importance promotion plays in elevation of an artist. She said giving interns that professional experience at the college level is critical to jumpstarting their career in sales and promotion.

“You get to have hands on experience with how the music business operates,” Mathangani said. “Sony is a recognizable business and it is a very interesting and relevant place to work.”

Gieseking says the opportunity to see how the music industry works from the inside gave him a deeper appreciation for the profession, and he hopes to build on what he learned in the next academic year.