How it works: Hi folks. Because I tend to get a lot of questions about how to get a job in the music business, and because it is difficult to craft a new response for every one I get, I’m going to start sharing a few of my more common responses here on the blog. Each time I do so, I’ll ask if I can post the message online before doing so, and if I receive your approval, as I did with today’s question, I’ll put ‘er up.
Today’s question comes from a reader interested in breaking “back” into the music business after interning several years ago. He initially asked about recruiting agencies in the New York area, which I also comment about briefly. Below is the text of a few emails back and forth with the names and places of the innocent removed for the obvious reasons, and as well as some of the extraneous stuff like the ‘”thank yous” and “hellos”
What sort of questions do you have about a career in entertainment? Place them in the comments section of this post. If your questions is chosen as our next “Reader’s Question”, I’ll send you a free copy of my book: “The Music Industry Guidebook: A clear guide to getting a job in the music industry. . .fast!”
First email volley from our intrepid reader:
“I’m currently looking for a job in music marketing/promotions. Do you know of any music industry recruiters based in New York? The recruiters that I have investigated so far do not help with promotions/marketing placements.”
My initial response:
“Thanks for the note. Recruiters in the music business are mostly for entry level admin jobs, unless you’re an exec already who needs an “agent”of sorts to help you get a bigger paying job. Can I ask what sort of work you do now? Are you a college grad, or still in school? And what sort of music you’re into?”
His second reply:
“For the past eight years I have been pursuing an acting career. While I have had success, I am now searching for a more traditional means of employment. I graduated with a Marketing degree from XYZ School in 1999. I also minored in Music Merchandising. My current job is as a customer service representative for XYZ Company. I’ve been working there for about a year and a half and still act as a hobby.
During college, I interned at Mercury Records and Roadrunner Records for a year each. I have had many jobs in street promotion, bar tending, administrative work and temping to supplement my acting income.
My present goal is to work in music promotions or marketing preferably in the heavy metal and rock genre. companies like Roadrunner Records, Sirius Satellite Radio, Revolver Magazine and Metal Maniacs magazine would be ideal. A place comparable to the now defunct Concrete Marketing and Concrete Management would be great too.
There’s nothing better than promoting music to people especially at events like concerts. The look on a person’s face after hearing a great band for the first time is priceless. I feel music is the impetus to bring people together in an increasingly isolated world and I thrive to make those connections.”
My second response:
“I like to shoot straight on these things, so here’s my take. First off, you’re lucky you’re be near NYC. By your area code, I’m guessing you’re in Long Island, so you’ve really got the music business right in your backyard. A lot of folks think rock music happens in LA, my opinion has always been that it’s really out East.
You’ve also already got experience in the business which is really good and can put you ahead of the competition for gigs.
The negative in this whole thing is that because the industry turns over so frequently, as often as every two to three years, many of the people you knew at Roadrunner and Mercury, and more importantly, the people THEY knew are most likely not working in music anymore, or are doing something not related to record promotion at least. I did independent promotion myself from 97-99 and probably know some of the folks you once worked with. Do you remember any names?
Question: after your internships with the labels why did you leave the business on the record side?
(he addresses this, later saying that he went to pursue a career in acting)
You mentioned Concrete. If I recall correctly, they were an independent promotion firm and are “no longer”, like many independent promotion firms, because the rules regarding indie promotion have changed, and the labels stopped paying most indies to do promotion the way they were doing it. What that means for folks interested in promotion, is that most of the real paying gigs are back “in-house” at the labels, and the labels can be hard to break into unless you’re starting from the bottom.
That said, since you’ve already interned you might be able to step your foot back in the door again at any of the labels you’re interested in as a volunteer/intern, and once you’re in and being recognized as a contributor, ask what the realities of becoming full-time staff are if you were to stay on as a volunteer. Many places will take interns of all ages. . .they might require credit. . .which you can get cheap at local community college, but it should still work. The main thing is you’ve gotta’ be willing/able to work for free again, which sucks, but might help get you back and rolling again. There are never any guarantees, but it’s a shot.
The other way is to take a look at any outlet in your area that plays the type of music you like. If you’re into metal, look for metal shows on the air (tv or radio) or the magazines you mentioned, and try to get a part-time or intern job there. Then you’ll want to aim to be someone the labels know and need to get their music played/reviewed. Once you’re that guy, then its MUCH easier to make the transition.
It can all involve starting over in a sense, and I’ll remind you that the turnover is high at labels, particularly in promotion as its a sales job. If you’re not sellin’ you’re not stayin’ is the mentality. If you’re a great salesman, then more power to ya!
I hope this helps a bit. If I were you, I would make a list of 10 places you think you would like to work. First go in with the idea of you’re looking for work, FT or PT. If that doesn’t work, THEN go for volunteer.
Radio doesn’t pay well, neither does journalism, records does pay well, but the lasting power is short. Can’t win either way, eh? If I was independently wealthy, I would work in radio the rest of my life.
BUT, if you love it, then sometimes its worth it. I always recommend that people first think about WHY they believe they want to work in music, consider the realities of the business, then think again about how much they want it. If the pull is still there, then they’ll probably never stop dreaming about it. I’m that way in a sense too. . .most will say the bug never leaves you. Finding the happy medium is the best way. Once, I met a guy who was a major A&R guy in the 80′s and worked with Guns&Roses, and a host of Seattle bands. The band dynamics and deaths of a few notable artists in the Seattle scene whom he had known hit him hard.
He’s out now and working at a college advising students on classes (another job I’ve had). What he said to me one day when I was asking him why he didn’t want to go back to music has always stuck with me. He smiled a bit, looked me in the eyes and said: “Right now, I’m just happy being a fan.” And sometimes, he’s right. You’ll have to make that call for yourself. For me, being a fan only works for a short period of time until the “itch” returns.
Let me know if there is anything else I can do for you, and good luck!”
So, I hope this helps a bit, if you’re in a similar situation. If you’re not, and just starting out, there are nuggets in here as well! Don’t forget to send in your own questions by commenting on this post for your chance to win a copy of my book.Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that this is my advice to this one person. It should not be taken as gospel, is certainly not the only way to tackle the dilemma, nor will following my advice guarantee any success.
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