4 Smart Guidelines To Break Into The Music Industry By Jackson Bassey
It’s not always easy to follow your dreams, and there are certain industries that pose a greater barrier to entry than others. The music industry is definitely one of those. Whether you have dreams of volunteering your summer at Warped Tour, or you want to represent emerging talent — there are smart steps you can take to enhance your chances of breaking into the competitive music industry before you start talking of the money.
1. Join a street team
Street teaming is a great way to get your foot in the door and make some important connections, especially if you don’t have a resume bursting with music-industry experience. As a street team member, you would typically hand out promotional materials such as stickers, posters and CDs to businesses in your market area — including record stores and localshops. When you’re promoting different artists or shows in your local community, you’re forming relationships with others who are interested in music — you’re networking without realizing it. There is a low barrier to entry with street teaming — most labels or companies just want to find people who are enthusiastic about the work.
If you’re interested in getting involved with festivals, As you volunteer at more events and establish yourself, you’ll begin to get special opportunities such as working backstage or pre-festival
positions. This is a great way to meet music professionals from many different departments, ultimately helping you decide where you want to work in the industry.
Another way to get into street teaming is by contacting your favorite music labels directly and asking if they need someone to pass out promotional materials. This type of grassroots marketing is an easy and
fun way to get involved as you start to build your resume.
Lastly, there are third-party companies that often take care of street teaming for artists. The Syndicate is a marketing and consulting agency that offers street marketing to its clients — contact them or a similar company and ask about any upcoming opportunities.
2. Network, network, network
The platitude “It’s not what you know, it’s _who_ you know” perfectly describes the importance of networking in the music industry. When it comes to job openings, the music industry is especially sparse and extremely competitive.
In addition to street teaming, being active on social media is a great way to start networking — especially if you live in a rural area and you don’t have many opportunities to go to shows. On Twitter and Tumblr, Facebook fan page, Reverb Nation, follow people who work in the music industry, and most importantly, _engage_with them. If you’ve got a specific question — ask them. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to pass along advice if you just ask them for it.
One last and important note about networking: Once you’ve established a relationship with someone, it is important to _maintain_ it. It is particularly important to maintain your weak-tie acquaintances — those people you met at that one networking event, or that friend of a friend who does marketing at a record label. Stanford professor Mark Granovetter conducted a study called “The Strength of Weak Ties” that showed “weak-tie acquaintances were often more important than strong-tie friends because weak ties give us access to social networks where we don’t otherwise belong.” In other words, it’s good to touch base with people in your broader social network every few months — you never know who is going to give you your next big opportunity
3. Start a blog
One way to get noticed in an industry is to position yourself as an authority figure or a thought leader in the space. Starting a blog is a great way to show others what you’re interested in — and it’s a great way to interact with a community of people with common interests.
“I would tell everybody to start a blog, and even if you’re not doing it to make money or get tons of views, it’s good to have something to show people. Even now, I get people who really want to write for my site and it makes such a difference if I can get a feel for their taste. Then, when you start applying for jobs at labels or marketing agencies, you’llhave something you can show them — you’re not just another person who loves music, you’re willing to put in the work every day.”
4. Find a mentor
Finding someone to tap for advice who already has experience and connections is a great way to gain traction in any industry. Because so many of your opportunities will come from who you know, aligning
yourself with a connected mentor is invaluable. However, it’s not always easy to figure out whom you should ask, and how.
Through street teaming and attending shows you will eventually build your own network, and undoubtedly connect with someone who has experience in the industry. A great way to start is to ask that person
to have a cup of coffee with you for an informational interview. Informational interviews are helpful. You simultaneously get to learn from someone else’s experience, as you show them how deep your interest
runs and how serious you are.
Pro tip: Always ask to be connected to someone else at the end of the interview. For example, if the person you’re talking with isn’t an expert in client management — ask if that person knows someone you
could be introduced to so you can learn more about that area of the industry. In general, people love showing how well-connected they are, and most will help connect you, if you just ask.
Have any other advice about getting started in the music industry? Let us know in the comments.
Writing by Jackson Bassey (@CaptainJackNG)