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Laying Down a New Track

Albright senior Brianna Cotugno, a music business/communications major, had her sights set on a career in public relations for a major record label. But a summer internship with the Harry Fox Agency in New York has introduced Cotugno to the licensing side of the industry and has launched her on a new track.

By Kelsey Rudy ’16

Since the age of 13, Brianna Cotugno has dreamed of working in public relations for a record label.

“The big goal is Atlantic Records, to work for them and artists like Ed Sheeran and Cristina Perri,” says Cotugno.

Hoping to gain as much experience as possible, the Albright music business and communications major has worked on street teams to promote events and volunteered at concerts. She also serves as president of the College’s Lion Enterprises.

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Albright senior Brianna Cotugno

As a freshman, Cotugno took the student-run organization under her wing and helped develop Albright Idol, sign student-musicians, design merchandise, and launch a music business forum to bring professionals to campus to speak with students.

So Cotugno’s trajectory after graduation seemed clear.

But a summer internship at the Harry Fox Agency in New York, handling the licensing and data management side of the music business, has set Cotugno on a new track.

After she graduates in December, Cotugno will return to Harry Fox as a fulltime licensing and data management agent.

“Being offered a fulltime position at Harry Fox is a dream come true,” says Cotugno.

This past summer, Cotugno spent 10 weeks interning at Harry Fox, the nation’s leading provider of rights management, licensing and royalty services for the music industry. Agency interns learn the nuts and bolts of the music publishing business.

Cotugno awoke each morning at 5 a.m. to catch a 7 a.m. train to the company’s headquarters on the sixth floor of the Trump Building on Wall Street.

Cotugno had initially applied for a position in Harry Fox’s public relations and marketing department. But four Skype interviews later, she had landed a job with the licensing and data management division. She was a bit disappointed and definitely intimidated.

“I was pretty scared because the Harry Fox Agency is known for music licensing,” says Cotugno. “If you have a cover song you want to use, you can’t just take anyone’s song and record it and say ‘this is mine.’ You have to go through the proper licenses for that.”

Harry Fox issues mechanical licenses that allow for the reproduction and distribution of a copyrighted song. Such licenses ensure that the appropriate singers, songwriters and publishers receive their royalties.

“It’s not the flashy side of the industry,” says Cotugno.

But it is vital to its success.

At Harry Fox, Cotugno worked with a computer database, helping to collate information about individual songs and who owns them, and to clean up duplicate songs in the system.

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Cotugno speaks at Albright's Music Business Forum

“We would get a list of 1,000 songs and have a week to work on it. In our system each song has its own specific song code,” says Cotugno. “Usually it will start with the first letter of that song. So if it’s “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, for example, it would be ‘W’ then 123456, or something like that.”

The work could be tedious, but Cotugno’s knowledge of music, singers and songs, made the process go much faster.

“If you know that the artist might be the songwriter, it makes life a lot easier. So if you have a Mumford & Sons song, and you know who the band members are, and you know that they write their own music, you can just type in one of their last names and you’re good.”

Cotugno conducted publisher research, trying to find which publishers hold shares to which songs, and to determine who should be collecting the royalties.

“Reading about this aspect of the business in a textbook is dry,” she says. “But when you can actually live it, and understand and hear from the different publishing agencies, then it provides a clearer picture. I got to really understand the publishing side of the industry.”

At the end of the internship, all Harry Fox interns are required to give a presentation to management bigwigs. Cotugno’s presentation focused on how people post videos and images on social media platforms such as Vine and Instagram, without realizing they’re infringing on copyrights.

For Cotugno, the scariest part was presenting in front of the legal directors.

“When you have all the big dogs looking at you, it’s a little scary,” she says. “And there were two lawyers, and I’m talking about copyright infringement, so that freaked me out because they know it better than I do.”

But the presentation was a success. And by the end of the summer, Cotugno could only think about one thing – returning to Harry Fox. And now she will.

“I loved the company and I loved everything I did,” she says. “I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such a prestigious company and hone my skills as a music business professional.” 

Cotugno realizes now how fortunate she was not to have secured an internship with the agency’s public relations department. Instead, she was exposed to a field she may never have considered.

“I have learned so much about the industry, especially the publishing side through my amazing managers, director and colleagues that I can continue to learn, grow, create and work with,” she says. “If I didn’t have this opportunity, I wouldn’t know any of this. So my experience definitely makes me more marketable for the music business as a whole.”

Cotugno is not ready to abandon her love of public relations. She plans to pen music articles and help promote musicians on the side.

“I would love to find a way to combine my interests in both licensing and PR in the future. Who knows what opportunities will arise?”


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