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Island Records' Eric Wong on Landing His First Industry Internship Via an Ad In Billboard

Eric Wong photographed in 2016.
Aaron Richter

Eric Wong photographed in 2016.

A nearly two-decade veteran of Island, Eric Wong’s tenure has included stints as evp, marketing, evp/gm and his current role of chief operating officer, where he leads operations and marketing strategy for clients including Shawn Mendes, Demi Lovato, Bon Jovi, The Killers, Nick Jonas, Bishop Briggs, Tove Lo, Jessie Reyez and others. 

Wong first joined the label, then-Island Def Jam Music Group (IDJ), as vp of marketing in 1999 after graduating from New York University. In 2006, he joined Bad Boy Entertainment and Atlantic in a dual role as chief marketing officer and svp of marketing, respectively, where he developed creative brand strategies for clients including Sean "Diddy" Combs, Janelle Monae and Jay-Z. Before returning to IDJ in 2011, he ran his own start-up, Wong Management, in 2009, where he repped clients including Mariah Carey

As for recent Island success stories, Wong cites new career highs for star clients including Demi Lovato, who scored her second No. 1 on the Mainstream Top 40 chart with “Sorry Not Sorry” in 2017; Bon Jovi, who netted their sixth No. 1 ­album on the Billboard 200 with This House Is Not for Sale in 2016; and Shawn Mendes, whose latest hit “Senorita” alongside Camila Cabello became his sixth No. 1 on the Billboard’s Adult Top 40 chart, the most ever among solo male artists. 

“Eric Wong is one of the most energetic and passionate people I've worked with and he is always there to show support and to help guide us in the decisions we make,” Mendes says. “He's such an amazing presence and I can't thank him enough for what he does leading the team at Island and for being there for me."

Billboard covered Wong’s promotion to COO in the magazine last year -- a full-circle moment for the executive, who below reflects on following the charts as a teenager and landing his first internship at WEA Distribution after seeing an ad for minority jobs program Y.E.S. in the magazine.

 


 

I grew up in Brooklyn and always just loved music. Every week as a teenager, I would run to grab Billboard magazine to check on chart positions and my favorite artists. It gave real access and insight into the industry. 

When I was 16, I was flipping through it and saw an ad for the minority jobs program Y.E.S., which stood for Youth Entertainment Summer. I got my first internship at WEA Distribution through the program [that summer], as well as my second internship at Atlantic Records the following summer. Shortly after, I started at New York University, where I became a college marketing rep for EMI Records.

As an Asian American, I wasn’t sure how I would even get into the music business, but finding the Y.E.S. program in Billboard gave me my first real opportunity. It’s a big part of how I got here today. Not knowing if I had a place in the music business, I honed my abilities as a marketer, and as someone who would work well with artists. I focused on the fact that I could do this job. I could be placed in any situation and excel. I never let anyone make me feel that I didn’t belong.

Seeing myself in Billboard, a publication that I grew up with, was really special and humbling. If you had asked me when I was 16 if I would ever be in the publication that basically started my career in the music business, I'd never have believed it.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Dec. 14 issue of Billboard.


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