Justin Sinkovich's passion for Music has driven him all the way.
Written by Daniel Zarick, Interdisciplinary Arts
Photos by Alexandra Pilichowski ('09)
Justin's love of music started early; he grew up in Nashville, TN, with parents who were active in the music industry. Before he was a teenager, packing mailers was one of many things he was doing around his dad's management company and record label in Nashville's famous Music Row.
He later got a business degree from the University of Tennessee and moved to Chicago with his band at the time, Thumbnail. His bandmates were the co-founders of File 13 Records, of which he is now the general manager and owner.
Over the next few years, during the late '90s, Justin worked with music distribution at Cargo Records, became the U.S. Label Manager of Southern Records, started the internationally-renowned band Atombombpocketknife, and co-founded the Webby-award and Wired Magazine Reader's Poll winning Epitonic.com. In 1999, the same year that Epitonic.com and Napster began, Justin and his co-founders were among the first to legally distribute MP3s online for free.
Regarding technology, Justin says, "Many people are intimidated by emerging and unknown trends in music and business. But if you proactively and strategically jump in with both feet, you are as much of an ‘expert’ as anyone because everything is so new. I feel like the students here at Columbia are especially at an advantage because they seem to be very comfortable with technology, media, and the arts. I knew very little about websites when we built Epitonic, and knew nothing about digital distribution when we built it at Touch and Go. I simply fed off of my love for these project ideas and the independent music community to figure it all out."
After Epitonic.com was acquired by Palm Pictures, Justin worked under Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records, for a few years. At the same time, he attended Columbia College Chicago part-time to get his Masters of Arts Management. In 2004, he became the first New Media Manager at Touch and Go Records. There, he handled the creation and operation of the new digital distribution and online promotions division.
As soon as he finished his master's degree from Columbia in 2006, he began teaching E-Business I part-time in the Arts, Entertainment and Media Management department. This summer, Justin became full-time faculty within the music business concentration, giving him a much more integral position in the department. Now utilizing his broad knowledge, he teaches New Media Strategies, Applied Marketing: Music Business, Decision Making: Music Business, and the AEMMP Records practicum class.
Throughout his career, Justin has consistently been pushing the music community around him forward. He urges people to build their "creative network" to keep pursuing their goals as a group. Also, because we are young creative individuals, Justin says it's necessary for us to create our own opportunities. Do what you believe in and, with some hard work, a community will build itself around the things you are doing.
"I’ve always tried to work on projects that I truly care about with people who I want to surround myself with," Justin says. "I feel like if you do that you can work really hard because the line between your job and what you want to do in your spare time disappear."
This is the value we create in the world that we live in, and it is exactly how Justin has had the drive to be so opportunistic in his own lifetime.