Love music? Know loads about it? OK with a measly starting salary? Grafter? Able to cope under pressure? If you answered ‘yes’ to all of these questions, read on.
There’s no doubt you’d enjoy (and thrive in) the music industry. Before you start firing off those CVs, however, you need to select your targets carefully. Flinging mud at the wall and hoping some of it sticks will leave you exhausted and potential employers unimpressed – they want to know it’s their specific area you’re interested in, not just ‘a job in the music biz’. First of all, ask yourself: what’s your ideal genre – pop/rock, jazz/world or classical? Are you a behind-the-scenes kind of person or do you like the limelight? Are you an indie type, or drawn towards a large corporation?
You may then begin your job search. The bad news is, entry-level positions are rare, and news of them usually spread by word of mouth. The good news is, if you plot carefully, an exciting and varied career is within the reach of anyone with the right know-how and personality. Get yourself a copy of Music Week Directory and if possible subscribe to the weekly trade magazine Music Week. At school or university join the social/entertainments committee, or set up your own society dedicated to your fave genre of music. Start a band, or a club night – or offer to help promote someone else’s. Go to gigs. Read the music press. Edit a fanzine/webzine. Buy/borrow all the new music within reach.
They’re not strictly necessary unless your chosen career path involves technical skills (e.g. sound engineering), but at the last count there were about 500 different music industry-related courses at over 150 colleges/universities. The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has a huge database of them on its website. Short- and long-term student placements are available at many record companies and are hugely oversubscribed.
Alternatively, contact companies directly for unpaid work experience, and if you’re fortunate enough to get some, slog your heart out, make friends and stay in touch afterwards. Network at recruitment fairs – find out dates via your careers advisor, The Guardian graduate and Creative/Media jobs sections and major companies’ websites. Temping is a brilliant way to get a foot in the door – if you have all the basic necessary office skills contact one of the temping agencies that supply London record companies.
And while you’re waiting for that big break, don’t sit around – jobs in record, musical instrument or sheet music shops, box offices, ticket agencies, live music venues, entertainment company warehouses, any sort of sales/promotion/events work will support your case should you get an interview.
Live the dream
And if you do – be prepared to answer questions like: “What was the last album/EP you bought/downloaded?”, “What was the last gig you went to?”, and “What are your favourite top ten albums and why?” These separate the wannabes from the die-hards. And you’re a die-hard.
Anna Britten, author and journalist
Anna Britten has spent many years working in the music industry, for record companies such as Warner Music and Naxos as well as music publishing and journalism. As a freelance journalist she writes for Time Out, Q Bang and Classic FM Magazine. She has also written a book entitled “˜Working in the Music Industry’.