How Will Cady Used Modal Interchange to Get Ahead in Business

The head of brand strategy at Reddit talks about how music gave him a competitive edge far beyond the stage.

February 7, 2019

When Will Cady B.M. '09 was taking harmony and ear training courses at Berklee, he never considered how the material might give him a foothold in the world of marketing and brand strategy.

But sure enough, a few years after graduation while he was working in an entry-level marketing position at Spin Media in Los Angeles, he was invited into a meeting with a client, and his ears perked up during a demo of the client’s new karaoke app. “Did your app just perform modal interchange?” Cady asked, before then calling out the actual chord progression used in the demo. His deep knowledge impressed the room, and he realized that his music training had given him a competitive edge in the professional world, a trait he’d leverage into his current position as head of brand strategy at internet community giant Reddit.

“Musicians are creative directors. When you’re putting a band together, you’re putting together your vision of how you think the world should be."

—Will Cady B.M. '09

“I feel so much more equipped to take on other things because I knew the way I’d proved myself in one aspect of life,” Cady says of his music education. “Even if it’s taking on a new career like marketing and advertising, I knew how to practice and redeploy those parts of my brain that were trained through music. It’s the same thing, just different material.”

Remember the Human

Reddit is a particularly apt home for Cady, not just for his branding skills, but because the online platform played a significant role in helping him find a larger audience for his own music when he was first starting out as a solo musician. “I could put my music on Reddit and get a lot of people watching my videos,” he says. “Even if you’re not on the front page of Reddit, you can access smaller, but much more highly engaged sub channels.”

A key feature of Reddit communities, according to Cady, is their deep level of intimacy and trust. He found forums to help him with everything from personal finances to relationship advice. On one occasion, a local venue fell through at the last minute, and it was Reddit users that came to rescue in finding a new one. “The dedication that people had to talking about creativity was impossible to discover anywhere else,” he says, and he was pleased to find that that dedication didn’t disappear when he joined the business side of the company. In fact, the slogan, “Remember the Human,” greets him every time he enters the building, he says.

It's Not 'Who Am I?' It's 'What Can I Do?'

Cady admits that when he got to Berklee, he had lofty rock star dreams, and had a difficult time seeing any other path as viable. So, what changed? For one, those harmony and ear training classes, but also courses in songwriting, production, and the liberal arts. Not unlike those Reddit sub channels, these courses allowed him to explore his own identity while giving him a longer, wider view of what makes art stand the test of time. “They allowed me to tune myself to the expectations of a longer cycle. Berklee allowed me to draw from a much deeper pool of ‘what is good.’”

It set in motion a chain reaction of self-actualization. He began to think, “Well maybe I’m not just a bass player, I’m a musician. And then later, maybe I’m not just a musician, I’m a creative. As I’ve let go of these specific identities, I’ve been able to flower out into a broader scope of opportunities.” This allowed Cady to stop worrying about who he thought he should be, and more about what he could offer the world as he was. “You recontextualize yourself into what you can do and how you can be of service," he says. "It’s way more exciting, way more fulfilling, and way more lucrative to see things this way.”

Your Band Is Your Brand

And for all those wondering how you get from the rehearsal space to the board room, Cady offers that “musicians are creative directors. When you’re putting a band together, you’re putting together your vision of how you think the world should be, how you think life should be. You have to come up with a name, a logo, photos that represents your image, a stage presence that transports people to a certain place. It’s worth taking that genie out of the bottle of just music and bringing it into the world in a bigger way, and musicians are the best ones to do that.”

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