Welcome to music industry week! Instead of heading down to SXSW this year, we decided to highlight a bunch of music industry professionals who work in various parts of the business to keep it running all throughout the year. A single week down in Austin might seem glamorous for a time, but the truth is the music is an industry just like any other, and if it’s your goal to work in music, that goal is totally attainable without a “networking” trip that costs hundreds of dollars.
You don’t need to travel down to Texas and brush shoulders at overcrowded showcases full of cheap beer, questionable immigration policies and ubiquitous corporate branding. If the point of going to SXSW is to get familiar with the music industry, skip all that and read our interview series instead to find out where you may fit in. There’s so many areas to work in aside from playing music, or even writing about music, and the purpose of this series is to spotlight lesser-known but essential roles that keep the music world spinning.
This week we spoke with a music publisher, an artist manager, a music and entertainment lawyer, and a music supervisor. Today, to wrap things up, we’re focusing in on the advice they have for young professionals — or old ones — who are trying to succeed in this tumultuous, often confusing business.
“Well, if there’s any opportunity to intern, absolutely do that. I know that there’s been a lot of people saying it’s not fair for interns to not get paid and that kind of thing, I actually disagree with that. You don’t have to intern 40 hours a week and be a trust fund kid. You can intern two days a week and work the other five. And, you know, have a roommate and make enough money to do it. At Bug Music we had plenty of interns who ended up getting jobs and doing really well there. I started as an intern, and even if you don’t get a job at the place that you intern, you meet so many people who are your contacts that can help you get a job somewhere. Also just get to know other people who are interested in music. It’s easier now than when I was doing it because you can just reach out to people online.
And if you’re not somewhere where you can intern, if you’re not based in a city that has a music industry, there’s still internships at local venues that you can do, you can be a music journalist, you can blog. There’s all kinds of ways to get involved in music and make connections with people who can eventually refer you to music publishing if that’s what you want to do. Be nice to everybody! Even if you meet somebody who is kind of talking about being in the music industry but they don’t know when they’re going to do it. Still be nice to them, because you never know when they’re going to get that job in the music industry at some place where you might want to work or do business with. I’ve been surprised at people who I met a long time ago, who I just kind of exchanged cards with, who later on reached out and were able to do some really cool business or project together. So you never know.”
“I think you should love music and not care about money. Be observant. I’m always trying to observe smart people and surround myself with smart people, whether it’s the people that work for me or the people I work for — they’re all way smarter than me. Always try to be the dumbest person in the room, and find artists whose music you’re passionate about. A lot of the groups we manage have soundtracked super important moments in my life — the night I fell in love, the night I turned 30, the night a friend died. I can remember our artists doing all of that stuff. So I would find music that you really care a lot about, and if you have decent taste, it probably means other people will care about it.
My biggest thing is that it’s okay to make mistakes. I didn’t go to USC like a lot of people in the music industry. I don’t have any contacts, it’s all just you try to do something, and if it doesn’t work out, then you learn from that and you move on. The most important thing is to have a long term view. Glass Candy used to give songs away on Myspace, and people thought it was stupid. When the music industry says you’re killing music by devaluing it, and there shouldn’t be a free tier on Spotify. It’s like have you heard the ads? They suck. If you have $10 a month — which a lot of people don’t have — if you have that luxury, you pay it. Just because somebody doesn’t pay that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to have music. We decided recently that all of our groups’ new records will be free downloads somewhere, they’ll be for sale too, but somewhere, on our website or our Facebook we will make it a free download. But I would hate to have somebody not be able to hear music because they don’t have money. I know my artists feel the same way.”
“You have to be able to deal with a certain type of personality, because artists are unusual. They’re temperamental. They think in a very non-linear terms, and you have to be able to explain very linear, analytical, difficult concepts to people who are creative who naturally think in non-linear terms. The better of an artist they are, the less linear of a thinking pattern they have. [Laughs] Then, there’s also the fierce competition. There’s a lot of competition, even among the attorneys themselves. There’s ego, there’s all of that stuff. It’s an extremely competitive field.
If you want to get into music law, stay the course. Be dedicated to it. When you go to law school and graduate, your first job leads to your second job leads to your third job etc. So if you go to school and you’ve got all these student loans — it’s expensive because it’s graduate school — it may take you longer to land that first job in music and entertainment, but you’ve got to say the course. If you take a job at this bankruptcy firm thinking you’re going going to switch later, and it’s just a job for now, it’s not going to happen. Because when you go to get that music job, they’re going to ask what experience you have. So you’ll start going down this other path. You’ve got to stay really passionate and stay the course. Music is a community and I think it’s a great community to be part of because it is about passion. This is one of these fields… where it chooses you. Music chooses you, you don’t choose music.”
“Obviously, people really tend to romanticize music supervision: “I have f*cking awesome taste in music, I’m a crate digger, I can do that.’ And that’s not really it. Good taste is important, but the job is like 60% to 70% paperwork, dealing with egos, managing egos, managing expectations of producers and directors. Supervision is a lot of being a voice of reason. But I’ve also been put on jobs where I disagreed with the director or the producer’s vision for music, and you can’t get defensive about it. You’re the middleman a lot of the time, it’s more about getting fair deals, in terms of what you have to offer the artist and the publisher.
I think a lot of tastemakers or people who think they have amazing taste — and they probably do — can be a pretentiousness about it. For me, that’s not very welcome. Like, sometimes a Carly Rae Jepsen song is the best f*cking song for a scene and you have to be okay with that. And, I mean, I’m okay with it because I love Carly Rae Jepsen, but it doesn’t always have to be this super-weird obscure thing. A lot of the time, that works really well, and that’s awesome, but like, if you want to pay $1 million for a Beyonce song, it’s probably because the Beyonce song works really well there, and you want that recognizability.
But, a lot of music supervision is complementing the visual. A big part of the job is you want to complement what you’re seeing in the picture, you don’t want to overwhelm it. You don’t want to overtake it, take the focus away from it. You want to complement it, and lift it up. I would never say that I’m an artist. I’m definitely using other people’s art and I remain a fan. But I do view supervision as storytelling.”
Check out the full series here.