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Last fall I was a teaching assistant for an introductory business class. During my office hours several students came to me asking about my experience in the music industry and how they could follow in my footsteps. They all wanted to work for big labels but had no idea where to start. Personally, I lucked into an internship. I was at the right place at the right time to meet my future mentor. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen for everyone. However, there are many other ways to break into the music industry. Below I outline a few of the best ways.
Learn everything you can about the music industry
You’re already off to a good start if you’re reading this blog. While you are definitely going to need some hands on experience at some point, it’s best to prep yourself ahead of time any way you can. Read music blogs & books [I recommend the Indie Band Survival Guide], and listen to podcasts. If you soak up everything you can before you start working you’ll make fewer blunders in the beginning. See my top educational resources for musicians and find out where you can learn about music business for free.
Hang out at local shows
Fortunately or unfortunately, it really is about who you know and not what you know. Start making contacts by hanging out at local shows. Talk to the venue staff, the sound guy (or gal), the merch guy (or gal), and the band if/when they come back to merch booth. Don’t get in their way though. If you’re too pushy you’ll make enemies and not friends. Aim for polite persistence. You also shouldn’t just be trying to get something from them. Cheer for the bands and get the crowd riled up. Bring your friends to shows. Buy merch even if a sticker or a button is all you can afford. Show that you are willing to give as much as you get and you’ll make friends much easier.
At large festivals like Warped Tour occasionally the vendors will look for volunteers to help run with their booths in exchange for part time passes (much like conferences). Large bands will also sometimes look for volunteer help for their merch booths. This will sometimes come from the band, but more often from their current merch managers. Keep a look out on twitter and other social media sites for calls for volunteers. Much like with the previous section, making contacts will help you immensely, even if they aren’t necessarily music industry specific contacts. This also give you experience working at festivals and/or behind merch booths.
Make sure everyone you know knows your goals
Finally, you might be surprised at who in your current network can help you in your goals. Make sure everyone in your network knows what your goals are. Offer your help to any musician friends. Make it known that you’re looking for an internship/job. Make sure that it’s obvious that you’re willing to work hard and that you’ll put in as much as you get out of any jobs. Again, be polite but persistent.
To those who are already working in music: how did you get started?