My Clemson: J.D. Tuminski '07

Tuminski, vice president of digital at Def Jam Recordings/Universal Music Group, is making waves in the music industry and has been since his college days at Clemson.

Q| Before you transferred to Clemson, you were going to college in Pennsylvania. What made you decide on Clemson?

A| I was really looking for something purposefully out of my comfort zone and somewhere that excelled academically. I actually made a conscious decision to look toward the South, and Clemson was the place I fell in love with. I knew almost immediately when I stepped on campus.
Q| Did you always want to go into the music industry, or was it something you kind of fell into?
A| I always wanted to get into entertainment somehow, but music came about pretty organically after I graduated. My senior year at Clemson, I started developing a website, just on a whim. I just really immersed myself in the music scene — not necessarily what was playing on the radio — and the website was a place I could share the artists I was finding with my audience. I wound up interviewing some pretty significant people. I’ll regret this, but there was a time that I was supposed to interview Drake; I couldn’t make the interview because I had something for class. It’s funny to think about that now.
Q| After an MTV internship and positions at HBO and Columbia Records, you’re now the vice presidents of digital at Def Jam Recordings/UMG. Can you give us an overview of your responsibilities?
A| Digital encompasses a lot, everything from marketing tactics to social media to website creation to advertising for the label as a brand and all the artists on the roster. Basically, digital has a hand in everything, and I’m overseeing all of our efforts there. It also includes working with external partners like YouTube and Instagram to come up with original content that complements our projects.
Q| What’s it like working with high-profile artists? How do you respect their vision and also do your job?
A| They are the talent, and they are the ones who ultimately make this a business. But I start with treating celebrities in the industry as people. I like to connect with them on a personal level. After I establish that, then I get into the music, sharing what I know about different platforms and different tactics that will really amplify the music and the message that they’re trying to bring across when they’re putting their art out into the world.
Q| Is there a misconception about working in the music industry that you’d like to clear up?
A| I think people who are maybe uninformed just think it’s partying with the celebrities and artists all day, and it’s just not that. There are elements of that and we do get access to certain things, but there’s a lot of hard work going down from all departments across the board. And it never stops. It’s a 24-hour business, and it’s a global business as well. As it turns to night in the U.S., you’re thinking about the other side of the world and what’s going on over there.
Q| Favorite Clemson tradition?
A| My personal favorite tradition is getting into town on a Thursday before a football weekend and spending those three or four days with my best friends from Clemson. We’ll go out on Thursday, go for a boating day on Friday, tailgate all day Saturday and wrap up on Sunday with a nice lunch and head back to wherever we live. It’s just fun because we live in different places around the country, and we all get together for these weekends every fall. It’s been something we’ve consistently done for 10 years now.