Tommy Page (STERN '97)
The former teen pop star turned record label executive was determined to make it in the music business from his very first day at NYU.
Photo credit: Leon Le
By Kristine Jannuzzi (CAS '98)
Tommy Page (STERN '97) is Vice President of Top Forty at Reprise / Warner Bros. Records and has launched the careers of major stars in the music industry. He's worked with artists ranging from Michael Buble and Josh Groban to Green Day and Alanis Morissette. But when he came to NYU in 1985, he had his own dreams of securing a record deal.
Page got a job working the coat check at a trendy nightclub called Nell's to help support himself during his freshman year at Stern. He was stationed right next to the dance floor and developed an ear for "what was good and what wasn't in dance music," he explains. He started recording his own music at a studio on the weekends and produced demos that the DJ played in the club. One night the President of Sire Records (a division of Warner Bros.) came in, and after hearing one of Page's demos, he offered him a singles deal. That summer, Page was signed to Sire Records.
His music career started to take off, and Page decided to take a leave of absence from NYU. He wrote and recorded several songs and began touring with New Kids on the Block in the late '80s. His single "I'll Be Your Everything" topped the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1990 and was a hit around the world. He recorded three more albums in the US, and became especially popular in Southeast Asia, where he played in sold-out stadiums and recorded additional albums for a Japanese record label.
But as he approached his late twenties, Page explains, "I realized it was harder and harder to transition from my teen pop image into more of a serious adult artist…I didn't want to fight gravity; I wanted to leave before they kicked me out." He describes the time as a low point in his life, "because when you've had fame or success and that's taken away, it's really hard. So I was searching for something."
He was living in Greenwich Village and considered getting a job at a restaurant or a hotel. "And then a light bulb went off in my head: maybe I should go back to NYU. But I was scared, because it had been ten years! I didn't know how to work computers and it was a new generation of students." After meeting with advisors at Stern, he ultimately decided to go back full time to finish his remaining two years.
Page was determined to get up to speed with his peers as quickly as possible. He ordered his first computer and a fellow classmate helped him learn the necessary programs. "It was either sink or swim and I'm a swimmer," he says. "I started to do really well. I was so into school this time around; it became my priority. I never missed a class. I loved debating in class, I loved hearing from my teachers, group projects, meeting and networking with the other students."
As graduation neared, Page decided to approach the same record label that had signed him as a teenager and told them that he wanted to get involved in artist promotion. "They offered me some very low-paying job, but I was still making money from my music overseas, so I didn't do it for the money. I took the job to get my foot in the door and have the opportunity to grow. Sure enough, after a year, I became a manager and then a director, then a year later a senior director, and now I'm a vice president."
Page has been on the "other" side of the business for almost 14 years and says he loves what he's doing. He advises recent graduates, "Don't think you're too good for a certain job. Sometimes you have to take a few steps backwards to move forward."
He adds that his years at NYU were "a magical time in my life. When people say there's no campus life at NYU, it's not true, because my very first experience at NYU was living in 430B in the Weinstein dorm, and I would say about six of my very dearest friends whom I still keep in touch with I met that first day on the fourth and third floors. We bonded and stayed in touch, and I'll treasure those friendships for the rest of my life."
To learn more about Tommy Page, visit http://www.tommy-page.com/.
...my very first experi-
ence at NYU was living in 430B in the Weinstein dorm, and I would say about six of my very dearest friends whom I still keep in touch with I met that first day on the fourth and third floors. We bonded and stayed in touch, and I'll treasure those friendships for the rest of my life.