From Music to Amazon and Back: A Q&A with Alexander Horowitz, MBA ’23

Career Corner: Marketing executive Alexander Horowitz pivoted from music and tech marketing to Amazon’s last-mile business—then segued back to music.

By: Janice Endresen

Alexander Horowitz, MBA ’23, director of lifecycle marketing at Bandsintown, delivering packages as an Amazon Flex delivery driver for the day when he was a senior marketing manager at Amazon

Alexander Horowitz, MBA ’23, a marketing executive who has deep roots in the music industry, decided to try something new soon after he joined the Executive MBA Metro NY program at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management. He credits the guidance he got from the Career Management Center at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business with helping him make a successful career pivot.

Horowitz is the director of lifecycle marketing at Bandsintown, a live-events company where he is responsible for leading marketing automation strategies to connect fans to their favorite shows, artists to their biggest fans, promoters to potential ticket purchasers, and more. His current role marks a return to the music industry, for which he has a deep affinity and understanding, having held multiple roles (musician, music journalist, and marketer) over the years.

When he was a Johnson School MBA candidate, Horowitz segued into a new role as senior marketing manager at Amazon. There, he worked in Amazon Flex, part of the company’s last-mile business, where he focused on increasing the rate at which Amazon successfully onboarded gig economy drivers to deliver packages in key markets around the world.

Before joining Amazon, Horowitz was director of mobile consumer marketing at TouchTunes; prior to that, he was senior manager, artist education and engagement, at SoundCloud. While he values the experience and perspective he gained at Amazon, he was happy to return to the music industry and apply new thinking and approaches learned both at Amazon and at the Johnson School.

Learn more about Horowitz’s career journey in this Q&A.

What inspired you to switch to a new career track?

Horowitz: Having spent much of my career in one industry (the music industry, particularly music tech) I was motivated to push myself to grow by learning how other industries approach solving problems. I was particularly curious to learn how Amazon, specifically, approaches their work, given their self-described “peculiar” ways of working, and their many years of conspicuous growth.

In what ways did the SC Johnson College of Business Career Development staff help to guide you in your career pivot? What strategies recommended by your career coach proved particularly effective?

headshot of Alexander Horowitz.
Alexander Horowitz

Horowitz: Some of the most important work my career coach, Nicole Woodard, guided me through involved asking myself focused, specific questions about what I really do and don’t want, like, and care about in my career, both big-picture and day-to-day. [Nicole Woodard is senior associate director, Executive MBA Career Development, at the SC Johnson College.] In a sense, it reminded me of how I approach my work: I asked myself: “What problems am I really trying to solve?” “How would I measure success?” and so on. These questions had me well-positioned to jump at the chance both to leave my comfort zone and explore life at Amazon, and to jump back into the business I care the most about when the time was right—fresh with new skills and perspectives.

Did you select course work or extracurricular activities to prepare yourself or gain relevant experience for your career pivot?

Horowitz: Not explicitly, but my career coach Nicole Woodard did a wonderful job of teaching me that every experience can be applied to future work. Just as I used unexpected aspects of my coursework to succeed at Amazon—from basic statistics to ways of working with other people—I similarly took a ton of what I learned at Amazon with me back into the music-tech world.

Did you build a new network of contacts that has been important to your career pivot? If so, what role did the SC Johnson College play in helping to build that network?

Horowitz: I was actually referred to my position at Amazon by a classmate! The network phenomenon is very real, and very powerful, and I can attest first-hand to its potential for impact on your career and your life. I would also consider it an impact of the SC Johnson College that I always try to say yes when others in our network reach out to me to talk. Since graduating, I have already been connected with a handful of people—some current students, some prospective—who had some questions about my experience. I was introduced to a few of them by a classmate; another reached out to me directly. I hope readers can hear my sincerity when I say that those conversations have been as meaningful and rewarding to me as they could possibly have been for them.

What advice do you have for other students or alumni of the SC Johnson College who are interested in making a career pivot?

Horowitz: Ask yourself honest questions about what you want and why, and then push yourself to check if you’re telling yourself the truth. I was genuinely surprised to learn that what I thought I wanted could often be quite different from what I really valued. The actual work of pivoting—that can be hard. But you’re not in this program by accident. You can get where you want to go.  Being reasonably sure of why you want to go there was, for me, the easily skipped or misunderstood step.

What inspired you to pivot out of the music industry?

Horowitz: Even while they are made up of lots of people with nuance and distinctions, industries have a propensity for adopting a certain style that can become pervasive across firms—seemingly little things, from ways of working to ways of communicating, that can lead to groupthink, or just a lack of new ideas. Pushing myself to enter an industry about which I knew very little offered me the opportunity not only to learn something new, but to learn things in new ways. (I will also cop to the ego aspect: A very successful firm offered me the chance to prove I could hang with some of the most impressive people in the world, and I took it. My feelings toward that particular aspect of my decision-making are more complicated.)

What motivated you to return to music?

Horowitz: I mentioned earlier the distinction I found between what I thought I wanted and what it turns out I really value. I have lots of little and personal examples of this phenomenon, but one that stood out to me was my assumption that I didn’t “care” what I was marketing, so long as all the other aspects of my job lined up the way I wanted them to. I personally can be fascinated by just about anything, but fascination and empathy are not always so synonymous.

Turns out, having lugged a few amplifiers to tiny basements to play small shows made it much easier to be empathetic to the challenges long-tail artists face; by contrast, I had never delivered a single package until I was working for Amazon. The greater lesson here is not about my personal preferences, it’s just that for whatever set of reasons, I’ve found an industry for which I had that mix of empathy and interest that motivates me. And a lack of motivation, wherever you take yours from, is a killer.

What did you learn by working at Amazon Flex?

Horowitz: Amazon is a very unique place to work; it’s a topic that could be its own article (and has, I’m sure, filled many books). To cherry-pick a few ideas, Amazon is made up, at least in part, of relentless true believers in their ways. Those ways, to again over-simplify, include maniacal focus on empathy for their customer, truly letting no detail slide, and finding this very unique point at which total ambiguity and rigid structure live side by side. From their structures, I learned tactics for ways of working that I have borrowed ever since; from the ambiguity, I learned life lessons that have made me a more clever employee.