Ambassador Blog: Internships

By Jackie Gibson & George Tyler Heffley

USC Thornton Student Ambassadors Jackie Gibson and George Tyler Heffley share their experiences as music interns.

Jackie Gibson 

(Music Industry | Class of 2025)

USC has provided me with a plethora of opportunities to gain first-hand experience working directly in the music industry. Thus far, I’ve been able to intern at Warner Records in the A&R department, NBCUniversal in Universal Studio Group’s TV music department, and Warner Chappell Publishing in the sync department, all of which I’ve been able to learn a ton from. Being in the heart of Los Angeles, USC is the prime place to learn from these industry professionals and network with so many great people. Not only have the classes I’ve been in at USC had many guest speakers, but I’ve found that professors are also very receptive to introducing students to people that they want to learn from. Staff and faculty at USC have always been extremely supportive when it comes to internships or meeting people in the industry, and the Trojan Network/Trojan Family is very real in my experiences.

Jackie Gibson on the lot of NBCUniversal. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Gibson)
Jackie Gibson at Warner Chappell Music. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Gibson)

At Warner Records, I tracked up-and-coming talent, analyzed data across streaming platforms, and saw how labels and their moving parts functioned. We had artists come into the office all the time for meetings and showcases, so it was nice to see what they had to say in a social context that wasn’t just them performing. I had the chance to meet lots of new people in the industry and attend valuable professional development sessions. Overall, it was a great place to work.

Jackie with the Olympic rings created for the upcoming summer 2024 games in Paris. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Gibson)

At NBCUniversal, I got to see the best of both worlds regarding television and music. I learned how music supervisors work with directors and showrunners to produce stunning shows. I researched rights to songs, sent quote requests to labels and publishers for music uses, sent license requests, helped with promo projects, and overall got to see how a major studio functioned. One of the most surreal parts of this internship was getting to work directly on the Universal Studios lot. I was surrounded by huge pieces of popular culture and historic sets that told the stories I grew up watching. Once again, the people were amazing, and I was able to utilize what I learned in classes at USC and apply them to real-life situations.

At Warner Chappell, I’ve been able to work on the other side of the deals I worked with at NBCU. It’s funny actually; in my first week at WC, I input a request from none other than one of my colleagues from NBCU! It’s mind-blowing how many requests come in every day, and I’m always curious to see how and where songs are being used. I continue to have lightbulb moments because topics that were discussed in classes are being put to real use every day.

Who knows where I’ll go from here, but I will say hands down that USC has given me incredible opportunities to learn and grow as a person and industry professional that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. I’ve received tons of support, and I’m learning new things every single day.

George Tyler Heffley

(Music Industry, Jazz Studies (Guitar) | Class of 2024)

Internships are an excellent opportunity to be in an environment that opens doors to see how a business is run, what the daily expectations are, and how to perform tasks in any given industry. When I was in community college, I started my first internship at Rattle Room Studios in Burbank, California. There, I worked with a team of experienced studio engineers and saw firsthand how to be a part of the recording team. As a second engineer, I was able to work closely in a true recording session scenario with some major responsibilities. These included not only recording, but setting the session up and tearing it down; ensuring the studio was presentable for any level artist to work in. There was no job too small to do as part of the studio team. 

George Tyler Heffley with recording artist Omar Apollo at Warner Records. (Photo courtesy of George Tyler Heffley)
George Tyler Heffley on the lot of Warner Records. (Photo courtesy of George Tyler Heffley)

A year into my time at USC, I interned at Nightbird Studios in West Hollywood, California, where I worked as an intern and runner. The runner role is surprisingly important. I was responsible for setting the team up with coffee, meals, and ensuring that everyone in the studio was comfortable and had their needs met. No one wants a hungry producer or artist. I also worked at Sacred Tiger Music Publishing as an intern and runner. During my time at Sacred Tiger, I was truly fortunate to witness a composer working with a major studio on a score for a film. There is a different vibe when studio executives come into a review. That’s when true runner skills kick into gear to make sure that the cue review goes smoothly and efficiently, and that everyone is in the most pleasant space possible. The following summer and into that fall, I worked at Warner Records as an A&R intern. There, I researched data and statistics on upcoming artists, went to shows and performed other administrative work. One of my tasks was to pitch new artists to the A&R team on a weekly basis. I am currently at Ultra Publishing as an A&R intern. I do some similar tasks where I research potential writers and complete administrative tasks around the office. Also, I’ve volunteered at a few events as a Thornton student, including Pollstar Live!, Parinelli Awards, and as a lead at MusiCares Person of the Year, Jon Bon Jovi.

George Tyler Heffley with his USC Thornton Music Industry program classmates and peers at Warner Records. (Photo courtesy of George Tyler Heffley)

All these internships have immersed me in different parts of the music industry, giving me plenty of insight and experience with what these different positions do and how they work internally. There are a few things I have learned with obtaining these positions and how to operate within them. Some of the best advice that I could give to anyone early in their career in the music business is: learn how to “read the room”; know when and when not to talk or ask a question; avoid asking questions that you could look up the answer to; practice championing any task that you are asked to do; be early to interviews and meetings but not too early; always try to do more than you are asked for; stay in sight and in mind; fake it until you make it, but when it’s time to make it, MAKE IT; and be a cool person. The music industry is a small business, and you will be running into the same people for the rest of your life. It’s good practice to be a hard and smart worker, be nice and compassionate, know as much as you can about new and old music, make the best first impressions, and try to have as much fun as you can.

These internships were rewarding and valuable to be a part of and have put me in rooms with memorable people. Some of these people I still stay in touch with to this day and have formed meaningful friendships with that will last for a long time. I’ve learned so much from these experiences, and I look forward to what’s next to come!

TAGS: Music Industry,

Never miss a story

Subscribe to USC Thornton’s e-newsletter