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This Zicklin Alum Pivoted from Finance to Music—and Won a Grammy

March 29, 2023

It’s not every day you meet someone who goes from Morgan Stanley to the music business—and not because he was laid off, either. But that’s exactly what Drew de Leon (BBA, ’06) did 13 years ago. He’s now president of MPR Global Distribution, a boutique music distribution company known for “breaking” an artist who just won a Grammy. He’s also the co-founder and chief community officer for a music and tech community called The Digilogue. Drew sat down for an interview with Zicklin News 

Zicklin News: Tell us your story. Why did you choose the Zicklin School? 

Smiling man in yellow cap, black hoodie, floral jacket

Drew de Leon (BBA, ’06)

Drew de Leon: I’m originally from Queens. When it came time to go to college, I knew I wanted to study business, and my options were either Binghamton University or Baruch College and the Zicklin School of Business. After CUNY awarded me a Pell grant, I went with the latter. Being first generation, my family couldn’t afford a big university where I would have to pay for housing. I didn’t mind commuting because I liked coming into Manhattan, so it made perfect sense.  

 ZN: What was your classroom experience like?  

Drew: I majored in marketing and I really appreciated how the classes were geared toward group projects. It was very challenging because of Baruch’s unique population. So many students commute and many also work full time, so coordinating group projects is very tricky because people don’t have a lot of time. I learned to be really resourceful, to overcommunicate, and to be sensitive to people’s schedules. That prepared me very well for my career.  

ZN: Were you involved in any extracurricular activities?  

Drew: Yes, tons! I wanted to make the most of my college experience. I played volleyball, participated in the Filipino Club, and took part in cultural events like dances, Fashion Night, and so on. Those were my entry points into music because I worked with DJs, dancers, and other performers.  

ZN: What did you do after graduation? 

Drew: My first job was in investment banking—I got accepted to the analyst program at Morgan Stanley. Zicklin is very competitive in terms of placement. I had friends who studied at NYU and I got the same job offers that they did because of Zicklin’s strong presence in finance and accounting.  

ZN: How did you make the switch from finance to music?  

Drew: I was working for Morgan Stanley at the height of the 2008-2009 recession, which was super stressful. My colleagues were getting laid off and I had to pick up their workloads, so I was working up to 90 to 100 hours a week. I‘d also figured out that finance was not my passion. Fortunately, I was able to save up some money, which enabled me to quit my job and spend some time traveling. When I got back, I found an opportunity to manage a DJ, and that was my first official job in music. I took a day job as a brand manager at Beats by Dr. Dre, which supported me while I spent my nights developing my relationships in the music community.  

ZN: So, was that it for your financial career?  

Drew: Not at all. Numbers are as much a part of the music business as creativity. You need data to understand how best to market. It’s not about just coming up with ideas but also making sure it makes sense to execute them. How much budget does the data tell me I should invest in certain markets? I always go back to those foundational finance years, which helped me appreciate budgets and numbers. I made the most of those experiences—studying finance, building foundational principles, working for Morgan Stanley—and to this day, I’m grateful for those skill sets.  

ZN: Tell us more about your music career. 

Drew: A few years after I graduated, around 2010, social media became an important part of marketing. I found my niche in digital marketing and in helping artists navigate this space. I got hired by Def Jam Records as director of digital marketing, and then I got a job as head of digital marketing for Alamo Records. Then I met my business partner, J.R. McKee, and we launched MPR Global, which stands for Music Power Respect. The first artist we partnered with was Muni Long.  

ZN: Who recently won a Grammy.  

Drew: That’s right. She was nominated this year for Best New Artist, Best R&B Song, and Best R&B Performance. She won in the last category for her song “Hrs & Hrs” [pronounced “hours and hours”]. It was really exciting, especially since she was up against Mary J. Blige and Beyonce, among others.  

ZN: What was your role in that win?  

Drew: We’re the team that put her music in front of the masses. MPR Global is about getting music onto streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and so forth. Muni Long was a songwriter for 10 years before she repositioned herself as an artist. She owns most of her music and our role was to amplify her marketing and her reach. We were big believers in her work when we partnered with her. We helped her get signed by Def Jam Records so that her music could get out to more people. Even so, she released 13 songs before “Hrs & Hrs” took off and won the Grammy. The song was first released on TikTok and it not only reached the Billboard charts, but it stayed there for months.  

ZN: Is there anything else you’d like us to know?  

Drew: I’m a co-founder of The Digilogue, a music and tech community platform. We offer music jobs and internships—in fact, one of our interns, Amanda Martinez (BBA, ’23), is a current Zicklin undergraduate majoring in marketing. I encourage students to join the WBMB Baruch Radio Club; we have a good relationship with them. Finally, I do a lot of guest speaking for colleges and I’d love the opportunity to come back to the Zicklin School to speak to a class about my experience in music marketing!  

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