by Virginia Weir
As a sophomore, Matt Ferrigno ’06 took “History of Jazz” with Dr. Brian Torff, professor of Visual and Performing Arts. He was excited when Dr. Torff told the class that an industry executive from Island Def Jam Recordings would be speaking at Alumni House. It took five e-mails before he got a call back from Island Def Jam’s vice president of A&R (Artists & Repertoire), but Ferrigno’s persistence paid off with two summer internships at the record company’s Manhattan office.
After graduation, Ferrigno was rewarded with a full-time job at Island Def Jam and is now manager of Strategic Marketing, working with hip hop and pop artists such as Kanye West, Rihanna, Ludacris, and Justin Bieber.
“I’ve really enjoyed being around music every day,” said Ferrigno, who majored in communications and minored in marketing. “At Fairfield I knew I loved music, but I was still trying to figure out how I was going to make a career out of it. Dr. Torff’s class taught me how important music has been to culture.”
During his second internship at Island Def Jam, Ferrigno researched new talent, calling record stores across the country, and scanning Myspace. He even found two artists/bands who eventually signed to other labels.
“The internships taught me how hard you have to work and how competitive the industry is. It also taught me how important networking and building relationships is. These are all things that can’t really be taught in a classroom.”
In his current position, Ferrigno helps to align artists with brands, bringing in funds through tour sponsorship, placing music in TV spots, product placement, and endorsements – helping out on deals for Justin Bieber with Nintendo and Rihanna with ESPN . “Every day is different – that’s why I love the job. One day I might be on a video shoot and on another I’ll be at my desk. There’s always so much going on! It’s key to be on top of it all to stay relevant.”
Ferrigno loves the fast pace of the hip hop industry, where artists are putting out new material literally every week. “Some might say that makes the quality of the music suffer, but I think it’s more a testament to hard work, and understanding that the music consumer has changed, has a short attention span, and needs new music constantly.”
Island Def Jam has around 150 employees, in three offices, and represents around 100 artists, including musicians drawing an older demographic like Bon Jovi and Lionel Ritchie. Ferrigno is proud of the variety. “We have something for everyone,” he said. “No other label can serve up as wide a selection.”
Ferrigno, who grew up in Lincroft, N.J., currently lives in Manhattan, close to the action. “In this business, you need to have your finger on the pulse and know what’s happening in music, culture, and even fashion.”
Ferrigno credits Dr. Torff for having a big part in his career path, and he recently spoke to a “Music Industry” class at Dr. Torff’s invitation. He talked to the students about the importance of networking and relationships regardless of the industry they want to pursue. “You have to find something you are passionate about,” he said. “Don’t just do something because you think it will make you more money … if you have passion, then money and success will follow.”
“Matt exemplifies a hard-working student who has combined strong people skills with a mature use of resources and opportunity. His is the kind of story that makes me proud to be a professor,” Torff said.