Once a week, Solan Strickling and St. Jules Desir record new content for their podcast, 30 To Melrose, a witty and informative look at the television and film industries through the lens of business strategy. The podcast is known for the straight-shooting, conversational style of its hosts, both members of USC Marshall’s MBA Class of 2017.
Though they now live on opposite coasts, Strickling in New York City and Desir in Los Angeles, the friends and colleagues make it sound easy, putting together the weekly podcast — whose episodes range from a half hour to more than an hour long — through the power of Skype. 30 To Melrose recently celebrated its 1,000th download on iTunes.
What kind of subject matter might listeners get acquainted with? In one recent episode, the hosts discussed the acquisition of Fox by Disney — “the biggest news in the entertainment industry right now,” says Desir, who joined Paramount Pictures as a finance manager after graduating from the Marshall School. “It’s a monumental deal that will change the landscape of this industry.”
Talking through the mega-deal’s implications, Strickling and Desir give listeners a complex-yet-accessible explanation of what it portends for the media and entertainment world. A finance manager at NBC Universal, Strickling says to be a part of the industry these days and be on the frontlines of such monumental change is both exciting and terrifying. His three-word synopsis is as blunt as it gets: “This sh*t’s crazy!”
‘TWO FINANCE GUYS WALK INTO A B-SCHOOL …’
Pesky time zones aside, Strickling and Desir are serious about using the skills, tools, and network they cultivated in B-school to grow their podcast audience and see where the venture ultimately takes them. It’s a journey anyone who went to B-school with them might have seen happening, as the duo became fast friends upon meeting in 2015 shortly after enrolling in the MBA program at USC.
Their friendship was instantaneous because of all that they had in common. First, both were finance guys. Strickling (previously featured in Poets&Quants’ Meet USC Marshall’s MBA Class of 2017) had studied finance at Morehouse College and worked as a business development senior associate at UBS. Desir earned his finance degree at Pace University and joined USC from JP Morgan, where he was a business manager in the Corporate Technology Department.
But more than their finance backgrounds, what brought the friends together was an undeniable yearning to work in the entertainment industry.
A SHARED PASSION: THE ENTERTAINMENT SPACE ‘NEVER FELT LIKE WORK’
“In finance, one of my jobs was working as a generalist, where I would look at many different industries to understand how the market was moving,” Strickling tells Poets&Quants. “I spent a lot of time in the healthcare space, automotive, and other industries. I remember that whenever I did the entertainment or tech space, it never felt like work to me. I had a great job in finance, but I didn’t fully love it.
“That’s why I decided to go back and get my MBA; to get new skills and break into a new industry.”
For Desir’s part, his passion for entertainment also stemmed from a desire to switch from finance to entertainment. “I pursued my MBA because I wanted to transition into the entertainment industry,” he tells P&Q. “I spent countless hours on Variety, Deadline, and Hollywood Reporter researching all the latest news. I knew the only way to jump into entertainment was to go to business school.”
“As we got to know each other more, the passion we both shared for the entertainment industry was evident,” Strickling adds. “We would have long discussions about it. People would join us, then leave and come back, and we’d still be talking.”
‘WE HAD A LOT OF INTEREST IN THE MEDIA AND ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY, BUT NOT A LOT OF EXPERIENCE’
The pair launched their first podcast effort during their first year at USC. “We had a lot of interest in media and entertainment industry, but not a lot of experience,” Strickling says. “From watching and reading about the industry, we got the idea to launch the podcast, figuring it would give us the experience in addition to the skills we were getting at USC. Also, we utilized marketing strategy and industry research that came in handy for interviews and such.”
However, the format back then was just slightly different than it is today. “Our original podcast at USC was called E&F which stands for “Educated and Faded.” We would drink beer and discuss content. As you can tell, we have come a long ways,” Strickling says, laughing. The new title, 30 To Melrose, is a reference to NBC headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Plaza and Paramount Pictures’ location on Melrose Avenue in L.A.
Though the podcast got positive feedback when it first launched — thanks in part to the support of faculty and fellow students in the MBA program — the hosts made an executive decision to cut it short during their second year so they could focus on landing full-time jobs in their industry of choice. It was a wise decision to let reality catch up with their dreams: Both landed positions inside the world of entertainment, with Strickling headed to NBC and Desir off to Paramount.