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.
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 coffee shops. 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.
Image by Dennis Brekke
If you’re interested in getting involved with festivals, you can check out the Work Exchange Team (WET). The WET lets you attend your favorite festivals in exchange for volunteering. 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.
Image by Thomas Xu
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, 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.
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. Mashable spoke with Jacob Moore, the creator of the popular music blog Pigeons and Planes about how he got started, and the importance of blogging.
“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’ll have something you can show them — you’re not just another person who loves music, you’re willing to put in the work every day.”
We also spoke with a lesser-known music blogger, Natalie Dickinson, who created the blog We Are the Kids to share her experiences and advice as she pursues a career in music.
“I started We Are the Kids because I wanted more experience, but I was too young to work at a venue or get an internship
“I started We Are the Kids because I wanted more experience, but I was too young to work at a venue or get an internship — also because I wanted to meet other kids like myself who were trying to get involved in music. Tumblr was a great platform to meet people from all over the country.”
Because of her tenacity and dedication, Dickinson is now volunteering at Warped Tour this summer — a dream she has had for years. She is also collaborating with her university’s entrepreneurship and music departments to improve her site so she can better serve her followers.
Image by Virtual Sound
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.