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Last week I was having lunch with a college-aged friend of mine, and while our meandering conversation took many turns over the course of an hour, a big part of it centered on music. If you know me, you’ll know that this is a common diversion, and it’s easy to make the leap to music as I find it is a great icebreaker in any conversation. Generally speaking, even if people have nothing to talk about, they enjoy talking about music.
Even growing up, I remember music tended to define who we were in a sense. . .and it was almost the very first question you would ask in a conversation. “So, what kind of music do you like?” It was the schoolyard demographic identifier. Every click had their own tastes in music and, to a degree, you knew where you fit in, based on what folks were listening to. Of course, there were, and still are, crossover acts that hit all crowds, but it was a pretty good rule of thumb. Isn’t it funny, how that question of what kind of music you dig morphs into the: “So, what kind of work do you do?” question we all ask as we exit college and enter the working world. Ah. . .how much better it would be if we stuck to the first question. . .then followed it with: “And how is your family?” Anyway, wishful thinking. . .we’re so detached from what really matters anymore on the whole, I think.
Regardless, this conversation about music started because my friend was playing some funky tune on his iPod that I had never heard of, and so I asked who it was. . .that, in turn, led to the remaining free flow of conversation that concluded with us talking about a few friends of his who also dig music, one of whom even went to engineering school, but can’t seem to find jobs in the business and are now living at home working in retail. Eh? What a drag. So, of course, the former academic advisor and music business vet in me perked up. I asked. . .”What sort of work do they want to do?” His reply, “Not sure, but they say they just can’t get anything.”
Hmmm. . .okay folks, so it’s time for me to pull out my pedestal a bit, because this advice is critical to your success. And, if I sound like I’m preaching to you, I am. But take it with a grain of salt, because if you take my advice to heart, you’ll be thanking me later. Here goes.
First of all, not knowing what kind of job you want in the music industry is insane. There are so many books about the business, so many people talked about these days on the news and all the entertainment shows, that it’s a wonder you don’t have five or ten jobs you think you could do. Come on, really. Let’s get some focus! Second, I will never accept that there are “no jobs” in music for those first out trying. It is just NOT true. The music business is full of people who are where they are today because they have dedicated their lives to working in this business, and most, if not all of them started out as volunteers. If you’re not open to volunteering to get your feet wet, then you might as well start looking for a career elsewhere. Whether it makes sense or not, people who work in music often consider it a badge of honor to have worked for free, and with all the people willing to work for free to get started, if you’re the one out there looking for a paying gig with zero experience under your belt, who do you think they’ll hire? Even the Beatles put in extra “free” hours in Hamburg when they were getting started.
And hey, I don’t care if you live in the most podunk town on earth. There are opportunities to get your start in every town.
According to census records, Dellview, North Carolina is the smallest incorporated town in America, with only 11 residents, most of whom are related. Now that’s a small town. However, to its immediate north is a town named Cherryville, with upwards of 6,000 people. And low and behold, Cherryville has a music instrument store (McNeely Music and Sales), bars (with live bands so you can roadie, do lights/sound), The Iris Room an event/wedding reception room (can you say DJ??) , at least one record label in Almost Standing records, and all these additional music oriented businesses within a half hour of the town. It’s ridiculous really, more than even I thought I would find! Then, of course, if you’re really determined, and want to make an impression. . .only one hour from Dellview, the smallest town in the entire United States of America, is the Charlotte-Mecklenberg region where in Charlotte alone there are 705 listings just for recording studios!!!! Imagine what else is there. If you can’t get a job sweeping floors and filling pencil boxes for free with 705 options then. . .wow. . .
Look, it takes effort, folks. Sometimes climbing the ladder is tough, and sometimes it can be a breeze if you get lucky. Sometimes the money is good, other times, its slow in coming and often low at best. But there are plenty of other professions that have the same kind of sacrifices. Do you think doctors enjoy working 20 hour shifts and sleeping in locker rooms for a few years before they get to actually practice? How about architects? Almost ten years of schooling and apprenticeships before they even get a chance to sign off on drawings? Getting there is hard work, but for those who want it badly enough it’s all worth it. And don’t forget, it’s okay to stumble. . .you’re not always going to get it right just out of the gate, just dust yourself off and keep going.
Getting a job in the music industry, or in any business you really care about, is all about setting goals, being persistent and following-through. No one element stands alone. . .they all must work together, and they’re driven by your own desire and passion for whatever life goals you possess.
You can certainly toss each one of these elements out the window if you’re happy working in a job you don’t like that just “pays the bills,” but wouldn’t it be better if that job you had that paid the bills was also a job you loved? And, by the way, it certainly doesn’t have to be in music to be the right job for you. Maybe your life’s calling is helping people as a research librarian, or as the manager of a hotel, or owner of a nail salon. . .whatever it is, think about would make you happy, and do it. And to make sure you’re successful in your efforts, be vigilant about incorporating goals, persistence and follow-through in everything you do along the way. Do those things, know you can do it, and you’ll eventually figure out the path to success. Get a resume together, create a cover letter that opens doors, make yourself the fish they won’t want to toss back into the water. Do it now.
Please, no excuses! Get that gig!
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