Unconventional Grad Shares Her Music Industry Journey
Most people pursuing a career in the music industry would major in music or business. Franklin & Marshall College alumna Elena Robustelli ’21 isn’t most people.
“My resumé says that I’m an American studies major with a concentration in media and pop culture, and recruiters have said that it’s atypical but applicable because I clearly understand social and cultural movements in a way that traditional business or music industry majors don’t necessarily learn,” Robustelli said.
Robustelli has been a musician her whole life and comes from a musical family (her sister, Vanessa Robustelli '21, was a music major at F&M). But when she was looking at colleges, Robustelli knew she didn’t want to major in music. She wanted leadership opportunities and a well-rounded liberal arts education that would give her a variety of marketable skills.
“I think this bodes really well for me because it makes me stand out in applications,” she said. “Because I go to a small school, it was easy for me to get involved and become a leader with the College Entertainment Committee (CEC).”
It was Robustelli’s experience with the CEC that landed her an internship with Atlantic Records, a recording label that represents artists such as Cher, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Bruno Mars, Coldplay, and Ed Sheeran. Robustelli acquired her first taste of what a career in the music industry could look like by interning for a music festival her senior year in high school. After falling in love with this experience, she immediately joined CEC her first year at F&M. As a leader of CEC, Robustelli planned, promoted, and executed a variety of entertainment events for the F&M community. This experience—especially having to find and book new talent the day of a show after the original act canceled—stood out when she applied for an internship at Atlantic Records.
“Even if you’re not taking a music industry class, the experience of doing something ‘real world’ really stood out and impressed them,” Robustelli said.
Since Atlantic Records, Robustelli has interned with Live Nation, a live entertainment company, for its Governor’s Ball Music Festival and most recently, Primary Wave Publishing, a music publishing company that represents artists such as Stevie Nicks, Alice Cooper, Bob Marley, Whitney Houston, and Aerosmith.
Robustelli said a lot of people ask her how they can get into the music industry without having a business or music industry major, and without going to a school known for its music industry programs. Though she said some companies won’t consider people without certain majors or colleges on their applications, her best advice is to learn how to make your major valuable to a position and to pursue extracurricular activities — like CEC — that will give you hands-on experience, which she argues is irreplaceable.
“My major in American studies has taught me how to write succinctly, think critically, and communicate effectively,” she said. “You can tailor the skills from your major to a variety of fields, but you need to know how to market yourself, your education, and your experience. I always say that if you don’t know how to market yourself, how can you market anyone else?”
Professor of American Studies Alison Kibler said she is proud of Robustelli and the early success she’s achieved in the music industry.
“I've known Elena since she was a first-year student in my Connections course, ‘Rights and Representations.’ She has always been an outspoken, passionate and serious class leader. And she’s been a self-starter with her ambitious internship and job search, as well as her honors thesis in American studies,” Kibler said.
Now graduated, Robustelli will be working as a talent researcher, a brand new role in the Creator Solutions department of TikTok.
"In my job, I’ll be bridging the gap between creators, brands, and talent agencies who want to monetize their presence on TikTok," she said. "I’m incredibly grateful to be starting a role that combines my experiences in digital marketing, brand partnerships, and talent booking."
Robustelli's Thesis Combines Her Heritage with Her Love of Music
Elena Robustelli’s American studies honors thesis studied the Jewish-American rapper Lil Dicky. It critiques his work as an inherently political artist and discusses how he exemplifies traditional Jewish comedy and how he interacts with cultural appropriation.