Faces of UMSI: Kyle Bylin
Charting a path to Billboard and beyond
The year is 2000. A North Dakota farm kid sits on his couch watching the music video show that airs after pro wrestling, “Farmclub.com.” A new band is featured this week: Linkin Park playing “One Step Closer.” The connection he feels is instant.
He has no idea that in the course of a decade he’ll become the editor of the popular music industry blog Hypebot, then move to L.A. to write for Billboard magazine.
For now, he’s just sitting on his couch, discovering a cool new band.
“I always reflect back on that moment,” says Kyle Bylin (MSI ’24). “I think, isn't it so weird that the music business figured out how to find a 12-year-old on a couch in North Dakota, who liked professional wrestling and — boom — hook, line and sinker: Linkin Park is my favorite band.”
This is such a user researcher thing to say. Now in his second year as a master’s student at UMSI, Kyle spends a lot of time thinking about the impact of digital technology and big data on the music business.
“My journey to UMSI is a little bit longer, because I didn't know what graduate school was when I started looking at colleges,” he remembers.
A first-generation college student, Kyle grew up on an Angus cattle farm outside a town of 145 people. There were 16 students in his high school class. "We all got told to go to college,” he says, “but no one told us what to do when we got there.” He went to nearby Mayville State University in the fall of 2006 but dropped out after a single semester.
In 2009, he earned his associate’s degree in music and entertainment business from a program in the Twin Cities, which he found through a Google search. He spent the next 10 years witnessing the streaming revolution firsthand — first as a music technology journalist, then as a user researcher for Live Nation Entertainment.
Kyle had no idea what “user research” was before taking the job. It would be a while longer before he would learn, over a happenstance lunch with a UMSI alumnus, that the interest he had been circling for a decade — how people interact with technology — is something you can get a degree in.
“That put this idea in my head,” Kyle says: He wanted to go back to college. During the pandemic, he earned his bachelor’s degree remotely from Berklee College of Music. Then he applied to UMSI for graduate school and was admitted with a full scholarship.
“At UMSI, my interests have evolved in unique ways,” he says. While taking courses on UX research alongside a course at the School of Social Work on strategies for community change, he has begun thinking about “how research can be used to engage with communities, learn their wants and needs and develop programming based on that.”
He and his classmates find themselves immersed in a field that is rapidly evolving — a feeling Kyle has had before.
“Right now, we're going through a once-in-a-generation change where artificial intelligence is going to transform so many different industries — much like the digitization of music has fundamentally transformed how people experience music and interact with artists,” Kyle says. “And we stand positioned to help guide those experiences, both for the public and for the end consumer.”
This is where the core skills that UMSI teaches become important, he says. Even as “a first-generation college student at 35, getting a master’s degree in a field that’s being reinvented by technology,” he feels supported and prepared. His future career might not exist yet, but he gets to be part of creating the future of technology.
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