By Andrea Strong '94

NICOLE WYSKOARKO ’04, executive vice president of urban operations at Interscope Geffen A&M Records, had her “aha” moment when she was a first-year student at the University of Southern California (USC) and read All You Need to Know About the Music Business by veteran music industry attorney Donald Passman. A longtime music junkie and voracious reader of the music industry’s trade magazines, she quickly decided she wanted to follow in Passman’s footsteps. After graduating from USC, Wyskoarko came to New York City to attend Brooklyn Law School.

“I wanted to connect my passion for music with my profession,” Wyskoarko said. “When I came to New York, I knew I would work at a record label. I had no desire to compromise on that.”

Just one year into law school, she landed an internship in the business and legal affairs department at the Island Def Jam Music Group, a division of Universal Music Group Recordings, Inc., and worked there throughout law school. After graduating in 2004, she was offered a full-time entry-level position. She took the job. “It was a foot in the door,” she said.

Wyskoarko knew she had to make the most of the opportunity in front of her, so she was strategic. As a clerk, she aligned herself with the paralegals who supported the attorneys and worked on smaller deals—licensing for film and television, collaborations between artists, and other transactions.

“I focused on smaller-scale projects with people who had the time to explain things to me,” she said.

Her strategy worked, and she moved up quickly. Within a year, she was promoted to associate director and attorney for business and legal affairs. Six years later, she became vice president of business and legal affairs—leading the deals, negotiating artist contracts, working out joint venture label arrangements, structuring nontraditional film and TV licensing work, and handling soundtrack albums. In 2012, just eight years out of law school, she was named senior vice president of business and legal affairs, servicing three East Coast Universal Music Group record labels—Def Jam, Republic, and Island Records— with artists such as Kanye West, Alessia Cara, and Justin Bieber. She received the Women Behind the Music Award in 2012 from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP).

In 2016, she joined the boutique entertainment law firm of Carroll, Guido & Groffman as a partner. There, she represented A-list artists such as Andre 3000 and brought in acclaimed talent such as Meek Mill, DJ Mustard, Playboi Carti, and HER.

Her impressive career did not go unnoticed by those in the industry. In February 2018, Interscope Geffen A&M, the label responsible for Gwen Stefani, Black Eyes Peas, will.i.am, and Dr. Dre, offered Wyskoarko an opportunity she couldn’t pass up: Today, she oversees operations for the company’s urban roster of hip-hop and R&B artists including Tory Lanez, Ella Mai, J. Cole, and Playboi Carti.

“Nicole brings a tremendous breadth of experience to Interscope, having worked both inside and outside record companies over the course of her career,” said Interscope’s chairman and CEO, John Janick. “We are always looking ahead to see what will position us best in a business that’s rapidly changing. Nicole joining the company in this new role does exactly that.”

Wyskoarko sees the position as opening a door to the next chapter in her career. She is a member of the senior executive team designing the company’s future and manages the urban A&R team— the division of a record label that is responsible for talent scouting and the artistic and commercial development of the recording artist. She also works closely with the marketing department and with business and legal affairs.

“I have my hands in a lot of different things,” she said. “It’s been a great opportunity to move a little bit out of the traditional legal side, but to use that background to propel an amazing label with a great history forward.”