Ryan Tedder is the songwriter behind hits like OneRepublic’s “Apologize,” Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love,” and Beyoncé’s “Halo.”
He’s also the host of NBC’s “Songland,” which takes viewers behind the scenes of music production and pairs Tedder with artists like Adam Levine, John Legend and will.i.am to search for the world’s next songwriting superstar.
But before he was a Grammy-winning songwriter and recording artist, Tedder was a college student hunting for an internship and trying to figure out what he wanted to do professionally. “I knew I wanted to go into film, music or TV, and I kind of obsessed over all three,” Tedder tells CNBC Make It.
As he struggled to find an internship in the music industry, he stumbled upon an unconventional strategy for contacting company HR representatives. He found the complaint hotline number for Universal Music Group on the back of a DVD and called it on a whim. “I thought for sure it was going to be a robot or an answering machine,” he recalls.
Tedder told the representative who answered the phone that he was “misdirected” and asked to be connected to HR. The rep connected him with HR, where he used the same trick again. He said his call had been misdirected, and he asked to be connected to the head of Universal Music Group’s HR — and he was.
“She was just flabbergasted,” Tedder said. “When I told her the story, she kind of thought it was so ridiculous and funny.”
The HR director was so impressed she mailed Tedder the internship application. “Once I knew that worked, I just kept doing that,” he says.
Tedder used his unconventional strategy to reach every record label or film studio he wanted to work for, until he eventually landed a job with Universal Music Group in the music publishing studio of Dreamworks Records in Nashville.
“Because of that internship, I took it as a sign from above that I was going into songwriting,” Tedder says.
Tedder is not the only person to have found success from cold calling.
Apple founder Steve Jobs cold called Hewlett-Packard’s co-founder Bill Hewlett when he was just 12 years old to request some leftover electronic parts and, to his surprise, Hewlett picked up the phone. Hewlett was so impressed by Jobs’ confidence he offered him a summer internship on the assembly line.
“You’ve got to be willing to crash and burn, with people on the phone, with starting a company, with whatever,” Jobs said in 1994. “If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”