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Billboard Editorial Director Challenges Students to ‘Ruthless Self-Accountability’

Bill WerdeFrequently called on as a music, technology and entertainment business expert by national media outlets, Billboard Editorial Director Bill Werde spent time at Belmont Wednesday sharing his insights with students in the Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business. Werde’s focus centered on his own career journey and instilling in students traits that could lead to their long-term success.

“I’m still a diehard music fan, and I listen to it for hours a day,” Werde said. “If you don’t really, really, really love music, then there’s way better ways to make money if you’re smart. [The music business] is hard, it’s a hustle.”

Werde recalled hearing author and New Yorker magazine contributor Nicholas Lemann speak to a class, noting, “99 percent of journalists are doing the same story. If you want to be a success, go after the one percent.”

It’s a philosophy Werde pursued relentlessly, finding his own unique beat covering stories at the intersection of law, culture and technology. He noted that many of his peers during his time as a freelance writer would make attempts, fail and give up when not finding outlets interested in their pitches. Werde, on the other hand, religiously analyzed other writers’ work in an attempt to improve his craft while also seeking the best possible approaches for working with gatekeepers, even down to the best time of day to email an editor on deadline.

“What I counsel is ruthless self-accountability… The people who accomplish the things you want to accomplish in this world look first at themselves to improve. What’s going to set you apart?”

Werde also called the students to task for not responding proactively to his earlier Twitter query requesting questions, reminding them that such opportunities are difficult to come by and should not be ignored or treated passively. “You’re at the age to take chances… You have so much power to do what you want to do.”

As Billboard’s editorial director, Bill Werde leads the editorial strategy and vision for the brand, which includes the weekly publication, websites (Billboard.com and Billboard.biz) and other digital content offerings, as well as industry-leading conferences and events. Werde joined Billboard in July 2005 as senior news editor and has steadily climbed the ranks of the organization, having been promoted to deputy editor and later executive editor of the brand. Prior to Billboard, Werde was the associate editor for Rolling Stone. Before that he worked as a freelance journalist for a number of publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Village Voice and Wired Magazine on matters of culture, politics and technology.