As industry leaders, it’s our responsibility to learn all of the Vincentian, ethical lessons that I feel DePaul does a really good job at emphasizing in the MBA program—that people in money decisions aren’t just data.”
— Miss Alex White (BUS ’07)
In 2008, Miss Alex White (BUS ’07) made a pact with her brother, Francis White, to commit full-time to their newly formed punk band, White Mystery, for the next 10 years.
Throughout the next decade, the sibling rock duo fulfilled that pact by living and breathing music 24 hours a day. To date, White Mystery has played more than 1,000 shows on three continents with music icons including Iggy Pop, Garbage, Mavis Staples, Patti Smith and even Sir Richard Branson; appeared in a national Levi’s Jeans ad campaign; performed live on the NBC late night TV show, “Last Call with Carson Daly”; and self-released 10 records – all without a manager or publicist. White partly credits her band’s success to lessons she learned in the DePaul class, Effective Business Communications, that she took as an undergraduate business student with Associate Professor of Marketing Joel Whalen — lessons that include how to properly introduce yourself and market your business to others.
“I use the lessons from Dr. Joel Whalen’s class every day,” White says. “So many times you’ll receive an email from somebody and it’s just a too-long-to-read autobiography about the person’s experience and the reality is that a lot of business people in music and beyond receive dozens and dozens of emails every day.”
Using these skills, White has turned White Mystery into a sustainable music business through which she and her brother produce outdoor festivals, consult for artists and mentor music business students.
Now, White has returned to DePaul to earn her MBA with a concentration in Real Estate Finance & Investment. She juggles school with a full-time job as the senior market and experience manager for Do312, a virtual Chicago network that helps people discover happenings in Chicago, and side gigs that consist of spinning records for clubs and parties, writing a column for High Times magazine and working on freelance consulting projects that have been featured in Forbes magazine.
Hitting the High Notes On and Off the Stage
Born and raised in Chicago, White and her brother grew up listening to rock ‘n roll classics on her parents’ vinyl collection – The Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin and The Who. She and her brother began playing musical instruments around 5 and 3 year’s old, respectively, and began jamming together at 13 and 11 year’s old.
As a high school student at Northside College Prep, White played in a number of bands. She also held a part-time job at Laurie’s Planet of Sound, a music store in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, where she developed an appreciation for vinyl records. She discovered she could manufacture seven-inch vinyl records – also known as 45s – from a record-pressing plant in Nashville. Under the name Missile X Records, White began producing 45 records and selling and releasing music through a one-page website.
“We took the punk approach where we Xeroxed black and white covers for these 45s and got a bunch of friends together, folded the covers and then we mail-ordered them all around the world,” she says.
Although White thought she might study art, she was exposed to the idea of being self-employed from a Chicago Tribune article that highlighted the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center at DePaul. “Jumping into entrepreneurship opened up a whole new world to me and a method of uniting my love of the arts with actually creating a career,” she says.
She enrolled in the Driehaus College of Business where she studied business management, sales leadership and entrepreneurship, later graduating with a bachelor’s in business cum laude. On the day of commencement, White was busy touring Europe under with her band, Miss Alex White & the Red Orchestra.
A year later, White, who added “Miss” to her given name to create her stage persona, and her brother started performing as White Mystery and playing up to 250 shows in one year. “My brother Francis and I started White Mystery as an all-encompassing band and brand, where it started as just a sibling rock duo and transformed into what it is today, where we produce outdoor festivals, and help brainstorm solutions to challenges in the entertainment industry,” she says.
Shaping the Future of Music Business
I hope that in going through the DePaul MBA program that I become a better leader and help shape the culture of music and the arts to be a more diverse place for entrepreneurs to thrive.”
Today, White Mystery performs fewer shows while White continues to focus on her MBA. She served on the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center’s advisory board and helped form an alumni association, called eMerge, for emerging entrepreneurs. In the last 10 years, she’s mentored more than 30 college and high school students as well as the DePaul Blue Demons Men’s basketball team interested in entrepreneurship through guest-teaching, networking programs and consulting projects.
“Now that I am so overwhelmed by my workload from morning until night, I now am seeking mentorship,” she says. “Just because you mentor other people, it doesn’t mean you have it all figured out. It’s nice to actually have leadership from someone who is maybe a phase ahead of you but they can help you with the obstacles that you face.”
White also served as vice president of the Chicago Chapter of the Recording Academy, the organization responsible for the annual Grammy Awards. One of her proudest achievements while serving on the board of governors was successfully advocating for online streaming artists to be considered for nominations. The rule led to Chicago native Chance the Rapper winning multiple Grammy awards in 2017.
Following years of professional growth and experience, White says getting her MBA at this point in her career felt right, especially as the pandemic has impacted the music industry. She ultimately hopes to use her MBA to work in an executive leadership role and open doors for other musicians.
“I hope that in going through the DePaul MBA program that I become a better leader and help shape the culture of music and the arts to be a more diverse place for entrepreneurs to thrive and a place where women and people of color can also achieve leadership goals in creating environments that are more progressive,” she says.
“I feel that we, as industry leaders, have a responsibility to learn all of the Vincentian, ethical lessons that I feel DePaul does a really good job at emphasizing in the MBA program—(such as) that people in money decisions aren’t just data. There’s a very real human element that needs to be considered in decision-making and, as Blue Demons, we need to make sure we are the voice in the room that really emphasizes that.”
By Jaclyn Lansbery | Photos by Diane Alexander White