Top 10 Tips: How to work in the music business
Living in Nashville, it seems like every other person we meet is trying to get into the music industry. Either they are trying to make it as a musician/band or get in on the business side of things. I recently met with a gal who is in the same boat as many recent college graduates who have moved to Nashville: she's looking for a job in the music industry. Problem is she's having an incredibly hard time finding a job in her desired field and she's getting frustrated, incredibly discouraged, and has no clue what to do next. I thought back to the feelings I had after I graduated college and, oy, it's stressful. I've been working in the music industry for 11 years and there have always been people struggling to find a place where they fit in and it can feel hopeless at times.
So here is the #1 piece of advice that that I tell college grads or those looking for a way into the music industry: CREATE YOUR OWN OPPORTUNITIES.
The truth is, the music industry is a bit of a mess right now. Record labels are struggling, companies are restructuring to try to find their footing, and it's just financially tight all around. If you are convinced that you absolutely have to work in the music industry, you will need to create some opportunities for yourself.
What does that look like? Here are my Top 10 tips:
1.) GET A PAYING JOB: First of all, you'll need to find a "day job" that actually pays to keep you afloat. Anyone in the music industry will tell you if you want to get rich here, sorry to break it to you, but you're chuck out of luck ;) You might be working for free for a while, so best find a way to keep food on the table.
2.) FIND A BAND OR ARTIST YOU BELIEVE IN: Nearly every musician that I've ever met has said, "All I want to do is write songs and play...I don't want to do the marketing/administrative stuff." This is where you can step in to a.) gain some experience, b.) help establish your name & talents and c.) help a band out for free. The key is finding an artist that you BELIEVE IN. It might take some time, but finding the right fit for you and the artist/band will be essential.
3.) ESTABLISH YOUR STRENGTHS: If your skills are in organization, help manage their day to day activities. If it's marketing, help them out with their social media sites. If it's PR, help them get some local press or reviews of their album. Whatever your skill set is, there is a need. You also need to be the one thinking ahead to what the band will need to do to continue to push themselves ahead. Having someone outside of the band or of a solo artist who is looking "in" is very helpful and essential to helping them move forward and branch out.
4.) STRETCH YOURSELF: You might discover skills and gifts that you had no idea you possessed, so use them! Who knew you knew how to book a show or create amazing graphics for a flyer or show poster...jump on it!
5.) PEOPLE ARE WATCHING: If you are doing a good job, working hard, and you are an incredible asset to an artist/band, people will notice. When you work hard to make things happen people can't help but notice. You never know who will be watching! So work hard, treat everyone with respect, and do your job with excellence.
6.) GAIN EXPERIENCE IN ANOTHER FIELD: Are you interested in marketing? Work for a company outside of the music industry to gain experience and do music on the side. If you have the chance to work within your specific field but not within the industry you want, TAKE IT! You can always do music on the side and build up a base to stand on down the road.
7.) EXPECT TO MESS UP: Like I mentioned before, I've been in this business for 11 years and I still make stupid mistakes. I think anyone in any industry will say the same thing. Let me break it to you...if you're afraid of trying because you think you will mess up, get over it. You WILL mess up. But it's how you deal with it that will set you apart from the rest. It's a learning experience...but you actually have to learn from it.
8.) GIVE YOURSELF SOME TIME: If things don't happen for you right away, just keep at it. It takes time.
9.) EDUCATE YOURSELF: Keep yourself updated on what's going on in the industry as well as with technologies that might help a band or artist. A great blog to start off with is Hypebot.
10.) BE CONFIDENT BUT NOT COCKY: Nothing is more of a turnoff than someone who is completely full of themselves and a know-it-all. Yes, confidence is important, but there is a fine line between that and being downright annoying. Your job is to help the band, be there for them, and at the same time, help yourself. Put the band first and what you need to do to help them and the rest will follow.
It's a crazy time to be in the music industry, but I also think it is one of the most exciting in the history of music. But to be a part of it, you might need to write your own story to see how you fit into it all.