How I Got Here: Kevin Wilson

Editor’s note: How did you join ESPN? Front Row provides interesting answers with “How I Got Here” profiles. Music Director Kevin Wilson is our first subject.

Do you enjoy hearing — and seeing — some of your favorite bands perform their interpretations of ESPN’s Baseball Tonight theme?

Every Thursday through the first half of the baseball season, a different artist’s version of the song will be revealed and highlighted throughout related programming. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ version has been featured the past week (see video after the jump).

Da Zoo’s version will be unveiled later this Thursday, another of the 11 major acts who want to merge sports and music with the network in this way.

Working with those artists is just part of ESPN Music Director Kevin Wilson’s job.

It’s a great gig the Bristol, Conn. native might never have landed if he had not been delivering pizzas for Vita’s Deli to Building 1 in 1993.

“I happened to be catering a party for ESPN — back then, there was no cafeteria. I was walking down the hall and took [ESPN Vice President] Al Jaffe’s name off the wall,” Wilson recalled.

“I wrote down his name and sent him a resume.”

Five months later, ESPN contacted him about applying for a vacancy in its music department.

“I’m very fortunate to have landed here,” said Wilson. “It almost feels like — without getting corny — destiny.”

Years later, Wilson’s worked with countless big names and many emerging artists to help augment ESPN’s programming with their unique sounds.

“I love putting music to images. I love making that emotion come to life,” said Wilson.

“And I love seeing a whole idea come together. That’s my favorite part. ”

Title:ESPN’s Music Director

What Do You Do: “I come up with a lot of the music strategies for the network. The main thing is I’m the liaison for a lot of the [music rights] clearance houses for the bands and the network. I come up with a lot of the creative stuff with the Band Of The Month things that we do, which are currently with The Beastie Boys and The Foo Fighters. I help facilitate and come up with all the bands that do all the cover songs for our Major League Baseball themes. I help build out the music strategies for X Games and other shows across the board.

ESPN Experience In Years: WIlson was hired in April 1994

Foot In The Door: After studying sound recording at the University of New Haven and music business at the University of Miami, Wilson found it difficult getting a job with the major record labels. He lived with his parents and worked at a friend’s business, Vita’s Deli, to make ends meet. Then one day, he delivered pizzas to ESPN and decided to apply for a job. Five months later, ESPN’s Senior Creative Director Noubar Stone contacted Wilson about a vacant music assistant’s position, typing cue sheets. Wilson eventually was promoted to a music coordinator position, where he helped manage the network’s music library. Later, he became the network’s Music Director.

Helpful Outside Experiences: “My love of music and my love of sports. Being a Bristol kid helped me, being a temp, I could live with my family. I had somebody to lean on. I don’t know if I could have dealt with being a temp in New York. And my educational background certainly helped me out a lot. Doing all those early-on tasks really helped me out. I didn’t look down upon them. [Also] Being a dad has helped me organize and grow patience — I’ve still got a long way to go. And [Coordinating Director Of Music] Claude Mitchell’s guidance.”

Strangest Thing About The Work: “There’s a lot of stress involved with these deals. Getting a Jay-Z song on air is not as simple as, ‘Hey, guys, why don’t we get some music on from Jay-Z.’ I don’t think people know how much negotiation needs to go on behind the scenes, even when everybody wants to do it. I wouldn’t call it strange, but that’s the biggest stress part of my job. There might be a perception that people in my department just sit around thinking about these fun things. There’s a lot of work that goes into getting it done.”

Best Advice To ESPN Job Seeker: “Try not to be so ‘tunnel-vision’ with your field. I’m very fortunate to have landed here. It almost feels like — without getting corny — destiny.” When I went to school for music business, it was very ‘tunnel-vision: The music business is this and this.’ Well, it’s not. Music is everywhere. . . . It’s about finding out what all your interests are and melding them together. “And not give up. Even though I was working in a deli and driving my parents nuts, I never gave up. I just kept looking.”

For more on ESPN careers, click here.

For more on ESPN’s connection to music, click here.

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