One of the beliefs posited in the Information Age is that there is an abundance of music industry jobs online and that if you are diligent in searching the internet, you will find a music job, maybe even the perfect job, if you just work hard enough at it.
Right. As someone who has been working in the music business for more than 30 years, I’m sorry to state that this is nothing more than a lie. Although there are a number of music jobs posted on the web, actually landing a job of any sort in the music industry boils down to three essential things, each of which I liken to a self-contained project, or even a military campaign. Collectively, they require an investment of your time, energy and perseverance, but the pay off can be what many have dreamed of – a career in the music biz. Here’s how to make your dream a reality.
1. Job Seeker: Know Thyself and thy Field
Before you can rightfully suggest that you are ready to make meaningful contributions to the music industry, you have to take the time and initiative to learn about how the industry works. There are a number of ways to go about accomplishing this first goal, and foremost among them is your own self-education. Whether you go to school to study music or particular aspects of the music business (engineering, music business, performance, arts administration, entertainment law, etc.) or you simply check out every single book at the library about the music industry and read them cover-to-cover, you have to develop a solid understanding of how the industry is structured and what the relationships are between its many companies and people. Although this is a time-consuming task, you won’t have to master every aspect before you can get your feet wet as an intern or volunteer helping out a local music business which will accelerate your learning even more. Stick with it, keep learning and your knowledge base will quickly expand.
As far as knowing yourself, ask what types of activities you’re most enthusiastic to tackle. Are you a “people person,” who loves to connect with new acquaintances or do you prefer solving problems and coming up with new ideas on your own? Do you play well with others (in the music business, we call this skill collaboration!) Are your computer skills up to snuff with basic business programs like the MS Office suite (word processing, spreadsheet and database)? Take an inventory of which skills you currently have as well as what you know and don’t yet know that relate to the skills required in your area of interest. Think about how a particular music business might be able to use your skills. If you need to update your skill set, consider taking a class or two at your local community college to refresh or learn new skills while you continue to hone your plans for landing your music industry gig.
2. Pick Your Target Music Industry Segment
The music industry today is increasingly spread out over a wide range of related fields. For instance, persons who compose, record, edit and mix the music we hear in major motion pictures, likely consider themselves as working in the film industry. Ditto for video games, cell phone music apps, online music stores and so forth. So don’t limit yourself too narrowly in your early research into various career paths in the music business. Read as many articles about different careers, especially ones that include how someone got their start in their field. (A good online source for these types of interviews is www.artistshousemusic.org.)
Once you’ve identified the field or a few fields that interest you the most, make sure you have a solid understanding of what the various types of jobs are in that field, if there are geographic “hot spots” where more opportunities may lie, and what trends may be affecting that market segment.
Here’s an example.:
Market Segment: Songwriting
Type of gigs: The songwriting industry provides jobs for songwriters, music publishers, performing rights organization staff, song pluggers, entertainment attorneys, print music distributors, lyricists, arrangers, producers, and more.
Hot Spots: Nashville and the surrounding area is ground zero for songwriters, followed closely by New York and LA, with pockets of songwriting activity in most major urban markets.
Recent Trends: Writers and music publishers have been working with television producers to place more and more music that hasn’t been in the public eye on youth-oriented TV shows, generating license fees, but more importantly helping writers and bands build a national audience. (The Shins success was in part, due to their exposure on the hit TV series, The OC.)
Next, identify which companies or organizations in your region are working in your chosen market segments. Find out if you know anyone who works for those companies. If you don’t, learn whether or not there is an organization or association that employees of that company are likely to belong to. Sticking with our example above, performing rights organizations such as ASCAP, BMI and SESAC have loads of resources for writers and may even host workshops, information sessions or seminars that you may be able to attend. The Recording Academy (the people who bring us the Grammy Awards each year) also host dozens of regional industry events all around the country. Make it a priority to get involved with your local or regional organizations that support those who work in your target market segments. Doing so will help you meet and connect with people who can offer advice and tip you off to career opportunities that are seldom if ever advertised.
3. Get Off the ‘Net – Get into the Networking Flow
In my book, How to Get a Job in the Music Industry, I wrote that nearly 2/3 of all job-seekers that land their first job in the music industry did so through a referral from a person they have met. The person giving the referral is either working the industry or has a close connection to the business. Many others end up transitioning from an internship or unpaid position into a paid position after demonstrating what they are capable to adding to a company’s bottom line.