Wondering How to Start a Music Career? Ashley Kyle Knows.

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A passion for music led Ashley Kyle down a path to MTV

Sometimes a true passion doesn’t present itself as a career path until later in life. We all suffer from an ingrained perception that a career is something stoic, impersonal and planned – while a passion is something you do solely on the weekends.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

For Ashley Kyle, Music Programming Manager for MTV World, her passion was always music but it wasn’t always her plan.

“I’ve always had a passion for music stemming from my childhood, but never thought about working in the music industry and making a career out of that passion until college,” says the St. John’s University graduate. “But there were no Music Business classes offered at my University, the real, hands-on life skills I learned were from my internship experiences”

Wondering How to Start a Music Career? Ashley Kyle Knows. Click To Tweet

Those internship experiences cleared a path in Kyle’s mind and helped her realize that pursuing a music career was not only possible, it was what she needed to do.

“When I realized I could actually get paid to work with music every day, the decision was easy – I was convinced.”

To find out more about how to start a music career, Ashley Kyle shares her journey from passionate music fan to Music Programming Manager at MTV World:

Internships are often the way you turn a wide focused major into a more specific career path – how did your internships help convince you your future was in music? 

Kyle: My first internship was in the summer of 2007 at a startup social networking/music site located in New York City. Because the site hadn’t launched yet, there were at least a dozen other interns hired for that summer. We were responsible for testing the site, picking artists for the site and ultimately marketing/promoting the site upon its’ launch.

how to start a music career internships

Kyle’s first internship, at music startup Jango, helped her realize her future was in music

I met many people from a variety of different backgrounds yet we all had one vital thing important – we loved music. Some of us loved pop, some folk, some classic rock and together, all of those unique tastes created a successful website.

When I realized I could actually get paid to work with music every day, the decision was easy – I was convinced. So I applied for a second internship, this time in the content department at a major radio company, Clear Channel. With the help of a wonderful, encouraging supervisor who later became my mentor, I became a part of the music team there and fully on board with the whole “I’m going to work in music” thing.  

What specific skills did you learn on your internships that helped you get hired after college? Or was it something else that helped you land your first job? 

Kyle: I got hired because of my second internship. It just so happened that an entry-level position was opening up around the time I was graduating and two of my supervisors referred me for the position. I applied, went for an interview, and landed my first full-time job!

It helps to make a good impression at your internships.

It takes much more than being a fan of music to make a true career of it – what do you think are the primary skills someone wondering how to start a music career should concentrate on developing? 

Kyle: Being a fan of music is a big part of it but I’d suggest focusing on another element like marketing, design, or writing and then incorporating music into that.

For example:

  • If you’re a writer, why not try writing for a music blog or becoming a music journalist?
  • If you’re a people person, why not try getting into music publicity?
  • If you’re organized and like to travel, maybe a band manager might suite you better?

For me, I honestly learned most of my skills (music research, talent booking, artist/label relations) AFTER my first job. So it is still possible to get a job and then hone your skills after. Especially when you are a recent graduate just starting out!

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Digital media and content creation is such a huge part of our world – but barely even existed 10-15 years ago – how did you learn the skills necessary to be viable in this side of the industry? 

Kyle: I think having grown up with computers and the Internet and staying on top of technology trends definitely helped me learn the skills I need to work in digital media.

You may not realize it, but knowing how to send email, browse the web and utilize social media sites are all huge parts of working in digital media. Those tasks may seem simple, but they are important skills and usually a requirement when applying for digital jobs.

A few years ago you made the jump from Clear Channel to MTV as a Coordinator of Music Programming – which seems like a dream job – what were the basic roles and responsibilities of that position?

Kyle: Working for MTV has definitely been a win for me professionally. My main responsibility upon being hired has been to manage the music video ingestion process for the MTV World brand. This is still my main responsibility in my current position as Manager of Music Programming.

how to start a music career marlene swedish r&b singer

In her current role at MTV Kyle searches for international music talent like Swedish R&B singer Marlene

Basically, I have to research/scout videos, reach out to record labels to see if they are interested in us featuring them, collect the video files, license the videos, and then build, publish and finally program the videos on the website. Aside from music videos, I work directly under the Music Director and together we pitch artists for various sponsored programs and live events.

It doesn’t seem like your role exists in a silo pounding out words on a keyboard – you were always talking to record labels, artists, publicists etc – what is the hardest part of communicating with people outside the building? 

Kyle: The hardest part is not being able to meet the people I’m working with at the record labels.

Since the site I work for is international, I work with all types of record labels from around the world including ones located in London, Jamaica, Finland, France and South Africa among others. I don’t get to travel in my current position, so unless my contacts come to NYC, all communication is done via email and/or phone. Additionally, language barriers and time difference are also factors I have to take into consideration when working with international record labels and artists.

So many people go to work and come home unhappy and unfulfilled – and while I’d never imply your days are all unicorns and ponies – how does it feel to go to work everyday pursuing something you love? 

Kyle: No my days and even weeks are not all unicorns and ponies. However, knowing that I’m going to get to learn about a new artist or discover a new song tomorrow gets me excited to get on the bus and go to work. Additionally, it helps when you are working with group of people who share similar interests, as in my case, a passion for and love of music and media.

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


  1. Love the article. Ashley’s career path is definitely an inspiration to those looking to pursue a job in a position that you cannot attain through an education. She found her job through working hard, gaining experience and harnessing passion. Congrats Kyle!


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