On his first Saturday night at college, when nervous freshmen go out and mingle or bond with their new roommates, Brian Zisook ’06 was starting his career in the music business.
The Skokie native asked Illinois State University’s student-run radio station, WZND, if he could pitch in. As fate would have it, the late-night disc jockey had to miss her shift, so the eager Zisook filled in.
Ten years later, Zisook is still making bold moves, now as vice president and editor in chief of DJBooth.net, a fast-growing online music magazine that’s pulling more than a million unique visitors per month.
Zisook, now 28, actually wanted to be on television as a kid, dreaming about hosting The Price is Right—or at least being paid to speak.
“My entire life, my parents told me I talked a whole lot,” Zisook said. “They said, ‘You better find a job where someone pays you to do it.’”
After working all eight semesters at WZND and building up what he calls a “ridiculous Rolodex” of industry contacts, the mass communications major got a job at a radio station in 2006 but was let go only six months later because of the station’s financial problems.
Instead of taking another radio gig, Zisook decided to devote himself to DJBooth.net, then just a side project with the site’s creator, Dave Macli.
“There was no better time in my life to roll the dice,” Zisook said. “That was tough mentally, but I knew I could take it on and succeed.”
Zisook put in 80-hour workweeks, building content that attracted 700,000 monthly visits within a year and a half. Today, the site has five full-time employees and its rankings, reviews, and downloads make it the seventh busiest among the Complex Media Network’s 102 Web properties.
Zisook remains connected to the campus, returning to Illinois State to speak at Communication Week career day events.