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Though his days may be spent keeping UW Medicine’s Strategic Marketing & Communications projects on track, Michael Henrichsen spends his evenings unlike most project managers — rocking out with his band.  

Project manager by day

Henrichsen started with the Strategic Marketing & Communications team almost 9 years ago as a marketing coordinator. He’s now a marketing project manager and an undeniable force that guides the team through UW Medicine marketing campaigns including everything from print ads about healthcare equity to radio and television brand ads, to Husky Athletics swag and just about any other UW Medicine branded content you see out in the world.

When asked why he loves working for UW Medicine, Henrichsen says much of it is about his team. Aside from everyone being hard-working and communicative, he enjoys working with like-minded people.

“I love the mission of UW Medicine. I love what we do, especially with what we went through during COVID-19 and helping lead the charge. It’s exciting to be a very, very tiny piece of that,” he says. 

Rockstar by night

When he’s not juggling his various UW Medicine projects, Michael is usually rehearsing with his band, Nite Wave – an 80s New Wave Tribute Cover Band.

They regularly play gigs around the greater Seattle-Tacoma area and even played at Seattle Kraken games during this past NHL season — helping to keep the energy levels up no matter the score. 

Nite Wave performing at Kraken home game

The story, though, of how he got into his band and into marketing at UW Medicine, starts with Billy Idol.

A fun, farfetched idea

In 2010, Henrichsen was working in retail. He knew he wanted to go into marketing, but he didn’t have the traditional marketing experience necessary to nab a job. Through a clever plan to get Billy Idol to play at his birthday party, he successfully captured the attention of UW Medicine’s director of marketing at the time, who gave him a chance despite his marketing inexperience. And, he landed a gig in a band that initially never gave him a post-tryout callback.

“I was working at the Puma store when suddenly, a Billy Idol song came on the loudspeaker,” says Henrichsen. “I’m a big eighties enthusiast, and I thought it would be cool if somehow, though I had no money, I could convince Billy Idol to play my birthday.” 

Marketing a Billy Idol birthday

Henrichsen started with the marketing basics: he built a website dedicated to getting Billy Idol to play at his birthday party; got out in the community by attending local book-signings and album release parties of visiting (or Seattle-based) celebrities and convinced them to voice their support for his mission; and networked with local radio stations and news outlets.

About a year into the project — Billy Idol’s manager called. Henrichsen gave him the pitch (acknowledging that Idol probably couldn’t play a private show, but maybe a public event, right around his birthday?) — he got the response that they’d “think” about it.

Henrichsen turned up the volume on his marketing tactics. He secured a spot for a Billy Idol tribute music charity event at the Showbox in Seattle.

There was one problem — his Showbox event needed a headliner. Henrichsen called up the eighties cover band he had auditioned for earlier in the year (and never heard back from) asking if they could just do this one show together — and Nite Wave was born.

They sold one-thousand tickets to the event and raised almost $25,000 for the American Red Cross. Plus, Henrichsen had created the opportunities he needed to get the ultimate marketing and project management experience.

His efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Billy Idol agreed to play at the Showbox on his birthday the following year.

As Henrichsen says, “Billy Idol had no album to promote, no book to promote and he wasn’t on tour. Luckily enough for me, he lived in Los Angeles, so it wasn’t too much of a trek. He ended up playing his show at Showbox SODO and our band Nite Wave opened for him.”  

Henrichsen and Billy Idol — together at last

Everyone from Good Morning America to the Associated Press, to CNN and the Today Show in Australia wanted to talk to Michael about his epic journey of convincing Billy Idol to play a birthday show. And so did UW Medicine’s marketing director.

Marketing and music

Beyond helping him land a spot in a band (in a roundabout way) and playing a show on his birthday, Billy Idol is the reason Henrichsen now works for UW Medicine. 

“The director of marketing had heard of the effort and seen all the press and publicity that I scraped together for free, and I think she realized — this guy must work pretty hard,” says Henrichsen. “So, when I applied, she rolled the dice on me.” 

And he’s grateful she did. He sees important similarities between his work as a project manager for UW Medicine, and playing in his band.

“Like in marketing as in music, you have to know how to appeal to your audience. You need to know who your demographic is and what your ultimate goals are. And, in the end, you have to have a product that people believe in,” says Henrichsen.

The members of Nite Wave with Henrichsen on far left