He singles out a Wharton class he took during his senior year, Interactive Media Marketing, “where I kind of honed in on a lot of the digital marketing strategies that I employ today. I didn’t get any other A-plus except for that class.” Suzanne Wiener Diamond W’83, an adjunct lecturer in marketing who taught the class, remembers her former student as “very enthusiastic” and “able to take the ideas and synthesize them.”

“We would talk about how to use social media, about how you can’t just push content on customers, that you have to create a dialogue and build a relationship between the content provider and the content user.” After being contacted for this article, Diamond went online to check out what her former student was up to. “It blew me away,” she says. “What Steven has done is come up with a way that really keeps his fan base engaged and builds a relationship with them. I don’t know of anybody who is personally responding to every email, every Tweet. In that sense, what he is doing is unique.”

The website socialnomics.com wrote admiringly of his approach in a “social media case study” and concluded, “Hoodie Allen now performs upwards of 15 times a month, selling out venues across the country. The corporate day job? History.”  

Hoodie’s path to a music career began in his home town of Plainview, Long Island. He displayed an interest in writing songs at an early age, but aside from some piano and guitar lessons, he received no formal music training. “I started writing rhyming songs to different sorts of music when I was five or six, and I can’t really say why. It must have been innate, because no one was pushing me to do so,” he says. His father, Ernest Markowitz, remembers his son recording songs with a $20 microphone on the home computer. “I would take him to work with me and he would sit in the conference room, writing—music, short stories, cartoons. It’s always been what has motivated him.”

By the time Hoodie was a teenager, hip-hop had migrated from the inner city to become enormously popular among white suburban kids. Hoodie became a fan, too. He would record rap tunes, post them online, and soak up the feedback. “There was a lot of discussion that helped me to learn about the technical aspects of rap, like flow and delivery,” he says. He thinks he was 16 or 17 when he first appeared before a paying audience. “It was a club called the Crazy Donkey on Long Island, and I performed with a few friends. We had the early slot, 6 p.m., and the main act didn’t go on until nine. I think 15 or 20 friends showed up to watch us.” He applied early decision to Penn, after studying screenwriting during a summer program for high school students at the University. “After that summer, it was kind of like I had no other option. I knew I wanted to go to Penn … I had a good experience there doing something that I loved, which was writing.” And obtaining a Wharton education, he believed, would be “something practical … to prepare for the future.” His application was deferred, “but I bugged them, I really bugged them, and they let me in.”

 


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