How To Break Into The Music Industry

This is a post I wrote in 2009, when I was still very active in the music industry. Re-reading it now, I realize this works just as well for any other industry, especially in creative fields.

Today Heidi, a college student hoping to work in the music industry, wrote me a note telling me she was a fan of the things we do at Family Records. She also asked if I had any direction or tips for a young person like herself to help break into the music industry on the business end. Here’s a short list of things that came to mind from my own experience.

  • Immerse yourself in many different parts of the industry, learn and make meaningful connections. The more people you meet and help, the more knowledgeable you will be about all the different elements of the industry an artist has to deal with. Review a show for a better known blog. Put on shows in your hometown and promote them. Even if they’re small. Intern for a studio, a label, a press outlet, a band or a radio station, work on a street team, etc.
  • Become a presence in your local music scene through the activities above, and by attending many shows and meeting people there. It takes time. Be patient.
  • Be friendly, helpful, professional with everyone you meet in the industry, however small or big their role. It’s a small world, and your reputation matters. Think of yourself as a brand with a reputation. If people have a bad experience with a product/brand, they will stop buying it.
  • Stay true to your beliefs and tastes. Be honest about them. It goes a long way. The cynic’s take on anything is that you should scheme and lie, I think you can definitely be successful doing that, but it comes at a cost I am not willing to pay, and you shouldn’t either if you don’t want to. It’s not a requirement.
  • If you really want it, make it happen, no excuses. Go above and beyond.
  • Don’t half-ass anything. Be consistent.
  • Be prepared to work harder than anyone else, for more hours, for less money than you think it will pay.
  • Make sure you love what you’re working on, because if you don’t you won’t care enough to go all the way.
  • Find mentors in your community and learn from them. Write them a short, well-written e-mail. Seth gives some good advice on how to go about that.
  • Surround yourself with good people, that will be supportive and honest with you. There’s a decent amount of people in the business that are full of shit. Accept it, and don’t let it bother you. Stay professional and friendly. There are some amazing people to meet too, focus on that instead.
  • Realize you can do more than you think you can. This business is not rocket science. It’s about passion, hard work, creativity, consistency and persistence. If you have that, there is no reason you can’t do anything you want to do in this business. It will still be very hard regardless.
  • Know that it’s not a job, but a lifestyle. It’s not something you just do during the day to pay your rent. There’s much easier and better paying work to find if that’s your prerogative.
  • If you are not already, become tech savvy. Learn how to make short videos on iMovie, know how to record simple demos on garageband, know how to use social media tools like twitter, wordpress, etc. All of these skills help you help artists.
  • Start doing something right now. Anything. It will take a long time to establish yourself as a person in the industry. Start building your brand.