Q: Well into your first year of business school, what’s your experience of Anderson culture?
Anderson has exceeded my expectations in terms of campus culture and community. When I was applying to business school, I heard stories about how competitive it would be during recruiting season, and how there might not be much collaboration among students. At Anderson, we truly practice what we preach when it comes to “sharing success.” Whether it’s the second-years giving up their free time to help us with our cover letters or my immediate classmates pairing up for interview prep, there is always a helping hand.
My Consortium mentor, Gabbie Clark (’20), has been integral in helping me prepare for my tech interviews. My Parker Career Center advisor, Lin Young, has also been exceptionally helpful in connecting me with the alumni network.
LeMelle-Brown (front row, third from left) was introduced to his UCLA Anderson classmates for the first time at the 2019 Consortium orientation program
Q: What are Anderson’s best resources for MBA students with career ambitions in the business of entertainment?
The Center for MEMES and the programs it offers to the whole campus were two of the main deciding factors for me when I was applying to business schools. I’m looking forward to Anderson’s annual Pulse conference, where students have the opportunity to connect with prominent industry leaders — like Fabiola Torres [vice president of global marketing at Beats by Dr. Dre], who will be participating in 2020.
The Entertainment Management Association is the best club of its kind. We are literally at the center of where entertainment is made, so it is super easy to take advantage of opportunities in the area. So many Anderson alumni are local that I can reach out to potential mentors and get coffee with them within the week. And during our Day-on-the-Job trek to New York, I had the opportunity to speak with Eamonn Best (’12), an Anderson graduate who worked at Sony for several years before moving into licensing at Spotify. We had a great conversation about working on both sides of the industry, business and creative, and the differences between them.
Q: Who in your industry inspires you and why?
LeMelle-Brown (front row, second from left) and Anderson classmates met with HBO executives in New York and visited WarnerMedia’s Hudson Yards office, where a recreated set from the hit TV series Friends celebrates the show's move to HBO Max
Troy Carter is an individual I look up to. I think that he really understands how to utilize the intersection of music and technology to benefit both sides. I met him through a former coworker who works for him now. Although Troy decided to skip higher education himself, he definitely values the skills MBAs bring to the table. From what I understand, a number of members on his team have advanced degrees. I’m excited to see how his latest business venture develops and what kind of music comes out of it.
Q: Who else have you made connections with so far?
My second-year classmate Nailah Young (’20), a digital strategy intern at Universal Music Group, reached out and asked me to volunteer at a Universal Music Group conference, where I met several music executives with whom I still keep in contact. In fact, I connected with the director of a Los Angeles music incubator — my dream job!
Music incubators are dedicated to helping artists develop their art and understand the industry they hope to venture into. They usually take them through a full curriculum, much like a tech incubator would for startups. They’re becoming more prevalent and I’m super excited by the opportunity to educate musicians on ownership, as well as have a hand in their music creation process.
As a partner manager in YouTube’s entertainment division, LeMelle-Brown hosted the HBCU Innovation Summit, an annual Silicon Valley event with the United Negro College Fund
Q: What kind of music do you like? What do you want to learn more about?
I try to keep my music tastes as diverse as possible, in hopes of being able to hold my own in any conversation. My tastes are definitely rooted in funk, folk, hip-hop and R&B. While at Anderson, I hope to continue to learn ways to better serve content creators — specifically musicians — without infringing on their art. More personally, I want to continue making music of my own, and develop my vocal and piano ability.
Q: What do you foresee as the greatest professional challenges ahead for you? How will your MBA help prepare you for them?
Entertainment is very much a “pay your dues” industry. Sometimes I worry that I am losing time in laying a professional foundation by being in school and focusing on class. That said, I know that the tools I’m learning here will be extremely useful as I try to break into my career.
Q: Every February, UCLA publishes the Hollywood Diversity Report, usually with dismaying statistics about representation of women and racial minorities in writing, producing and directing roles. What is your impression of “diversity” within the music business? Are strides being made?
I think we’ve made some steps in the right direction. Even in the last five years, we have seen an explosion of diverse stories being told and shared in the mainstream by the individuals who have experienced them. We have a very, very long way to go, though. I think the name of the game right now is increasing ownership in all facets of the industry as a whole. For example, when we look at music, the change-makers are predominantly women and people of color, yet many of them do not own their intellectual property. This means that the bigger players of old are still profiting more than the creators of new original art. I really love that more musicians are choosing independence and doing the work to build their brands as CEOs, as opposed to just clients.
LeMelle-Brown (second from left) with classmates at the fall 2019 Afro-Tech conference
Q: What’s your feeling about or relationship to Black History Month, or U.S. heritage months in general?
Black history — like all heritages’ history, for that matter — is U.S. history. So when I think about my relationship to the month, I make sure to think about it in the scope of the history of our country as a whole. I think it’s important for us to celebrate these histories all year, using our respective months only as a springboard.
Q: What else could Anderson do to demonstrate its commitment to inclusivity?
I’m actually the director of Anderson’s Black History Month planning this year, so I can assure you we’ve got some great programming scheduled for all 29 days, from panel discussions to movie screenings to workshops. More broadly, Anderson does a great job of offering a number of workshops and modules throughout the year to ensure we are building the warmest and most inclusive community possible.
My favorite part of working with Anderson’s office of diversity, equity and inclusion is their openness to having the difficult discussions, and openness to driving change. I would love to see more black business leaders and pioneers speak on campus. In my opinion, visibility and exposure are the cornerstones of inclusion.
Read more about Gaelen LeMelle-Brown in Clear Admit’s Real Humans of UCLA Anderson MBA Class of 2021