June 18, 2019 | 75° F

Rutgers alumnus, CEO speaks about career successes

Michael O'Neill is in the business of protecting musicians, said Dina Anello, director of development at the Rutgers Business School.

O’Neill, a Rutgers Business School (RBS) alumnus and the chief executive officer of Broadcast Music Inc., spoke to the University community March 9 for the "CEO Lecture Series" about his experiences as a former Rutgers student and as a senior official in a major company.

O'Neill's experiences as a member of BMI were among the topics he spoke about, Anello said. O'Neill's company is an organization dedicated to helping artists and music distribution in the internet age, and his professional efforts were a key point in his talk, she said.

Ensuring artists make money when their music could be downloaded for free online was a key issue for BMI, O’Neill said.

The Internet’s effect on the music industry keeps companies like BMI alert, he said. Past changes include letting users stream, rather than download, music for free.

While streaming in and of itself was not necessarily a bad thing, not paying musicians for their work was, he said. Sites like Pandora should pay more royalties to artists compared to what they pay now. People who use alternative sites should also consider paying artists for their work.

“A lot of the questions were around that, about how do you pay royalties … what the impact of (social media) is on a musician and how the changes impacted the music industry,” Anello said.

Preparing for future changes in the industry would be a challenge, O’Neill said. No one can say what those changes will be yet.

Planning for competitors is another aspect of being in business, he said. Companies also have to keep relationships with their employees, particularly with songwriters.

The lecture was an engaging opportunity for students, Anello said.

“(Students) asked a lot of great questions, they loved meeting an alumna in such a dynamic industry,” Anello said.

O’Neill received an MBA in 1986 from RBS. He said it was crucial to his later success in an interview with the Rutgers Business School.

The work he did while finishing his graduate degree was more applicable than undergraduate work, he said. Having the MBA degree “legitimized” his position with BMI.

RBS holds the lecture series every semester, where a C-level alumnus speaks to students about their experiences, she said. C-level positions include CEOs, chief financial officers and chief information officers.

“We’ve been doing this for about five years,” Anello said. “As we meet alumni that are a good fit for (the lectures), we ask them if they would like to be part of the event.”

Scheduling with senior level officials is a lengthy process, she said. It took about a year to coordinate with O’Neill due to his schedule.

Generally alumni are invited who actively show an interest in speaking with students, she said. Those who work in an interesting industry, or have taken an abnormal career path, are especially welcome.

Introducing current students to those formerly in their shoes is a unique educational opportunity, she said. It allows these students to get advice directly from a CEO and learn about their careers after graduating.

About 150 students attended this talk, which exceeded the normal number of attendees, she said. An overflow room was required to accommodate the crowd, the largest to date for a CEO lecture.

The fact that he works in the music industry was likely a big draw, she said.

O’Neill was an engaging speaker, said Dean Lei Lei of the Rutgers Business School.

“He did an excellent job,” she said. “It was an honor to have him.”

One of the goals of the lecture series is to establish a long term relationship with these leaders of industry, Anello said. Each guest may be asked to help provide resources to aid student learning or for assistance in other areas.

O’Neill might be asked to provide case studies for the MBA students in the program, she said. The Vice Chancellor for Development at the University would determine these requests.

After the talk ended, students were able to speak with him one-on-one, she said. He remained with the University for several hours to answer questions.

“(O’Neill’s) dynamic personality, his ability, desire and will to speak to students and to give back is something that we look for,” she said. “If they’re not interested then it’s probably not a good fit."

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story said Michael O'Neill was chief executive officer Broadcast Media Inc.

Nikhilesh De

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