Photography by Isaac Rosenthal
Jason Wesley graduated with a Bachelor of Applied Science & Music Business from Full Sail University in 2014. He has a big warm smile and a fierce tenacious spirit. Since relocating to New York City in January of 2015, Jason has dedicated his craft from the position of intern, seeing through two promotions, to where he is now - Sales Co-ordinator at WEA (Warner Music Group’s distribution and marketing network). Listening to Jason’s views on how the Warner Music brand connects with American youth is hands down inspiring. Any day of the week.
STORY AND DISPOSITION
A new series that profiles artists and advocates of the music industry community.
We choose to document these wonderful individuals, because we believe in them. We want you to see the magic and beauty that we see.
Our tools are the art of portrait photography, interview and song selection.
By Jason Wesley
I was born in Paterson, New Jersey and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. My dad transferred jobs so he was working for Ford Motor Company out of the Edison plant in New Jersey, and later decided that he wanted to transfer to the truck side of everything. The trucks are built in Kansas City, so we moved out there in 1992. I was six years old.
I had an older cousin who had books of CDs, the kind with four discs on each page. I would get in his car and flip through every album. He let me play whatever I wanted. That was how I learned to fall in love with music.
When I think about it, I was attracted to music videos first. Artists would be running around in a shiny leather suit or whatever, and I just didn’t see that sort of thing in Missouri. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – no disrespect. But I was intrigued by something different. You hear these stories about New York – I didn't grow up in the city, so I imagined this strange land where once you made it in your industry, you got to do flashy, shiny things all the time.
In the Midwest, we got everything late. By the time it hit the radio there, it was already played out on the coasts. But I wanted to be the forefront. I wanted to be at the front of the line rather than the last person to hear the message, you know? I wanted to be the one to tell other people how great it is, or why I liked it so much, and this is the reason why I personally didn't like whatever about it. But by the time we heard it in the Midwest, everyone’s opinions were already formed. And it’s old news at that point. I wanted to be where the action was.
I was a baseball player. I ended up playing two years at a community college in Kansas City. I mean, music was obviously still part a big part of my life, but at that time, sports were right there with it.
I definitely had aspirations of going to the next level. I wanted to go to a Division I school and hopefully then get an opportunity to be drafted, but it never panned out that way. I got hurt in college. It was a shoulder injury, I tore my labrum. It's common in baseball, and even football. Just a small little tear in your labrum can really set you back. At that point, I realized that I didn't have the commitment that was needed to go through rehab and get myself together to get back out on the field. To do it all over, and hope that I didn't get hurt again. I didn’t have it in me.
I was in limbo after the injury. I took a break from school to try and figure out what I wanted to do. At that point I’d been an education major, but that was more of a fallback than anything else. Eventually I moved to Florida, and I graduated from Full Sail University with a degree in music business. In my mind, I had the paper now, so I could take it to one of those labels and hopefully get a gig. That's how naive I was. I remember thinking I was so qualified – nope!
Luckily, I had a friend who interned at Warner. I hit him up at the right time to ask him how his internship went. He gave great reviews about the company and culture, and it was just like, what do I do? How do I apply? I got to get to Warner! He told me to go on the website, and as soon as I applied to let him know so he could put in a good word with the HR Department.
I immediately hung up the phone, filled out the application, and texted him – all within 30 minutes. I was dying to have that opportunity to be an intern there. And I got a call the next day from a recruiter at the HR department to do a phone interview, and eventually I landed the internship. I remember how happy I was like it was yesterday.
At that point, I knew I couldn't make the leap just yet. There were still a few things hanging over my head. The biggest problem was not having a place to live.
I had a great aunt, that I had never met, who had a place in Harlem. My dad called her to explain the situation, and he helped me set up a call to ask if I could stay with her. I’d never had a conversation with this woman before. But I called anyway and went into all this detail about how I would only be there for a semester, about four or five months, and then I'd be out of her hair. This prompted her to ask what my plan was if things didn’t work out. And I wasn't prepared for that. I was thinking, look, it's going to work out. I had no choice but to make this work, and so I arrived in Harlem in January of 2015.
Initially, my internship was in the department for our distributor, Artist Arena, who handle the VIP packages for food and clothes for a bunch of our artists. I literally packaged up signed posters, T-shirts and all kinds of merch, but at that point I really didn't care what kind of work it was. What I was doing didn’t matter – I was just thrilled to be in the building. It meant everything to me.
I was initially only supposed to intern on Monday’s, Wednesday’s, and Friday’s, but I didn’t think that would be enough for Warner to see that I could be an asset. So I started coming in Monday through Friday, to the point where some people thought I actually worked there full time. Before long, my internship ended. But lo and behold, I stuck around for about two weeks beyond the point that I was supposed to stay. I wanted it not to be over, and I kept believing that somehow It would work out and I could stay. A week into my extension, the brand licensing department were opening up a temp assistant position. It was a role that I didn't necessarily see myself in at the time, but by sticking around to help out, I put myself on the radar as someone who could be right for the job. So I jumped on the opportunity. I had to do it – it was a way to extend my time at Warner.
About a month into the temp gig, my current boss approached me about an opening on his team. It was a casual conversation. He led with, “do you like what you do here?” Obviously I said yes – what else could you say to that question? He told me about the opening on his team and suggested I apply. No guarantees on getting the job, but he said he’d noticed my hard work around the office and figured he’d give me an opportunity.
When I was interning, I wasn’t given the chance to interview for any full time positions. But I still worked hard, and someone who I didn’t work for saw that. You never know who's watching. Either way - I couldn’t believe it. I was temping a month ago. I was starting out just six months before that, and suddenly it was real. I'm actually getting that orange stripe taken off of my badge. I was full time. There is nothing like the feeling when someone says, “you are now full time,” working in an industry that means so much to you personally. It’s incredible.
I always told people it was a lot of luck. I mean, you make your own good luck through hard work, but if I hadn’t hit that kid up at the right time, where would I be now? I’d like to think that I would have ended up in a similar situation, but I can't say with confidence that it would have happened without some luck. I’m still early in the game, but I know that my dedication and not giving up are the reasons that I’m here. It means a lot to me that I walk in and see that Warner logo every day. In my own small way, I’m part of that story.
I N C O N V E R S A T I O N
I see myself as a person who is constantly trying to improve. I am really just a human being who is working to be better, like all of us are. If anything, I hope that I can be an inspiration to someone else. What you most want in your heart, is possible.
Technology is a tool that, when used correctly, gives us everyday solutions to “problems” that arise.
The practice that ensures one’s success.
It's not making that honest attempt. It's not failure if you gave it a shot. It is failure if you never got onto the field in the first place.
His greatest Limitation
I care what others think of me. It's terrible, but it's the truth!
most Admires IN OTHERS
Jason was asked to select eight songs that would help us understand him better.
Songs that have shaped his life and experiences.
1. Friday Night Lights (Intro) by J. Cole
This song got me through college. It served as a constant reminder to the promise that I made to my Dad: that no matter what, I’m going to finish school.
5. I AIN't MAD AT CHA by 2Pac
Tupac was the best storyteller. I remember being in the 4th grade, sneaking into my best friend’s older brother’s room, and playing this on his stereo. I fell in love with the art of storytelling after I heard this song.
2. Mr. Carter (ft. Jay-z) by Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne has a line in this song where he says: “two words you’ll never hear: Wayne Quit." I have applied this to my life ever since I heard Wayne sing this in 2008.
6. What's going On by Marvin Gaye
This song is timeless. All of the things Marvin talked about in this song are still going on today. Love is the only thing that can conquer hate.
3. Alright by Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick starts this song by saying, “all my life, I’ve had to fight." Hard times don’t last!
7. Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight and the Pips
This was my grandmother's favorite song. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I'm so grateful for her. She would blast this song all the time!
4. Can't Nobody Hold Me Down (ft. Mase) by Puff Daddy
This was the first CD that I purchased with my own money. I'll never forget how that felt. Empowering. This song is the reason that I fell in love with rap music.
8. Rock with You by Michael Jackson
He is the King of Pop ... enough said! It’s only fitting that I close my selection with an upbeat song. Can’t help but dance with this comes on the speakers.