Advice For Getting A Job In The Music Business

This guest post is by Ty White at Outside The Box Office.

image from I'm often approached by my friends and fellow twenty-something's who are looking for advice on entering the music business. It's a really fun business to be in, but it can also come with a great number of surprises if you haven't done your homework up front. As such, I thought I might offer some tips on how to navigate the particularly challenging parts.

So here goes, my advice to someone in their twenties looking to break into the music business:

1. Read Confessions of a Record Producer and Kill Your Friends. Know what you're getting yourself into. The industry doesn't work the same was as it used to, but what you'll learn from these books is what the industry was like when most of your future cohorts were coming up and making a name for themselves (if you haven't read Plugged In, it's about having a better work experience by understanding the generational mindsets of your coworkers).

2. Understand your motivations for getting into the music business. Are you mainly a fan? Do you like to perform? Do you like curating? How technical are you? In no way should these questions scare you, they should just direct your efforts so you don't wind up grinding yourself (and your love of music) down in a role you hate. It's a $65 billion business -- there are more than enough ways to get involved, so don't accept a job that doesn't speak to your interests just to "get in." That said, once you pick a track, pay attention to the others as well so you know how everything comes together -- read everything you can get your hands on (Google Reader + Google Alerts will get you a long way) to keep up.

3. Leave your ego at the door. Don't worry, you'll get it back. But back to bullet point #1 -- the majority of folks you'll encounter got to where they are by navigating a complex corporate structure over many years and decades. Even if you think you know more than they do (you very well might), don't ever act like it.

4. Be ready to separate music from business. This is often the most difficult part of the job. Plenty of perfectly good records have been ruined for me for life because of the circumstances I encountered while working on them. Even more than that, you will likely be working with lots of music that you wouldn't want to listen to on your own. Do your best to appreciate it for what it is, understand it from a business perspective, and make the most of it.

5. It's a relationship business, and (most) people have feelings. This means a few things. First, go to every show, event, dinner, meet up, etc you can, regardless of whether you think you want to or not (hat tip to my friend Margaret Gregory for that one). Second, position yourself for introductions from your bosses -- they will undoubtedly know far more people than you, and will usually be happy to introduce you if you're at events together or if you ask to sit in on meetings (you might have to stay later to get work done, but it's SO worth it). Third, be nice. Not fake nice, genuinely nice. As your mom taught you, if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all (see #3).

6. Learn to use every online tool you can get your hands on (and learn to code if you can). Even if you don't find yourself particularly savvy, you'll pick it up far faster than anyone who is currently in the industry. They'll rely on you more than you can imagine.

What about you guys? What advice would you give?

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