I get a lot of questions asking about working in the music industry and for recommendations on how to have a career in the business side of music.
Before owning my own marketing business and starting this blog, I too worked in music. In college, I got really lucky and got a job working at a gear company. I was in school at FIDM working on my degree in Product Development & I had the opportunity to set up the company’s promotion merchandise. Basically, all of the t-shirt designs, pens & stickers… it was my job to figure out what the company should make and find the best / most cost effective route of getting them made.
I later went on to work in the accounting department and then worked in the Artist Relations department. Don’t get me wrong, it was an amazing opportunity and a lot of fun. But it wasn’t just “going to concerts and listening to music”.
So I wanted to give you guys my unfiltered opinion on working in the music industry. My main piece of advice to people just getting started in their careers: Go to school. Whatever you want to do, you’ll have a better chance of achieving it with a degree. Whether it’s starting at your community college, going to a trade school or jumping into a 4 year University. Do it. You’ll be happy you put the time in when you were young.
To be 100% honest, the music industry job market is almost impossible to penetrate. I’m not trying to be a downer or tell you not to follow your dreams. But it’s not for the faint of heart. If you want to get a job in music, you either need to know someone or work your ass off for years and years… and even then it’s not guaranteed.
When I was in college, I had dreams of working for a record label. Thinking it would be action packed and full of exciting opportunities, travel & people. What I figured out along the way is that 1) most of the jobs people imagine aren’t real 2) you can do the same job in a different industry and make twice as much money 3) most of the jobs are unpaid or internships that don’t guarantee advancement 4) there are about 800 other people who want the same job and are willing to work for less.
Oddly enough, the same is true in most competitive industries. So if you have your heart set on moving to LA or NY to immerse yourself in the industry, do it. I just think it’s important to be aware of what you’re up against.
Yes, working in entertainment has it’s perks. You get to listen to music, meet interesting people, often times travel to new places… Ultimately, I left the industry for a lot of reasons. Primarily because I worked my ass off for years on my education and to advance in the industry. When it came time to move up or move out… I decided to move out, because I knew that I could both have a more balanced life (meaning, time for myself and people around me) doing something else. Do I miss it sometimes? Of course! I loved being busy and making deals all day long. It was awesome seeing all of my hard work pay off and successfully navigate negotiations and deals.
If you’re interested in working in music, here are my top tips:
- Be Flexible: Be open to do different types of jobs at different companies. Your first shot might not be exactly what you had in mind, but it will help open more doors. Maybe it’s working at your local record store or writing a music column in a local blog or newspaper. That might be a good in to meet other local and national music folk.
- Be an Intern: A lot of companies offer internships to college students in exchange for school credit. If you’re not in school, reach out to local or smaller companies and offer your help. Give your best elevator pitch and offer to work free of charge.
- Be Diligent: Check job boards and apply to anything and everything. Maybe it’s working as a receptionist or doing something you’re not that interested in. But that job may open up other opportunities within the company. Most companies try to hire from within or through word of mouth.
- Be Open: Try looking at other similar industries. Maybe there’s an opportunity that you’re qualified in TV, Entertainment, Sports, or something else creative. Experience is key in having a competitive edge, so try a stepping stone!
- Be Specific: Just wanting to “work in music” isn’t specific enough. What are your skills? What are you good at? Figure out exactly what you want to do so that you can build up a resume of experience that applies to that job.