Combining a Love of Music and Writing to Launch a Career

music jobs writing jobs

Combining a passion for music and writing led Taylor Ferber to a career at VH1

When the first question you ask an interview subject begins with a response that is frank and honest, you know you have the potential for something really great to come of it.

My initial question to Taylor Ferber, writer/producer for VH1, was simple: “You completed an internship while in school with Viacom, parent company of VH1, and now you work for VH1, how did you go from internship to a job?”

Her answer was profound in its simplicity, “I worked my butt off!”

Ferber went on to say much more, adding insight, vulnerability and determination to her initial five words, but the stage was set and the wheels were in motion.

Combining a Love of Music and Writing to Launch a Career Click To Tweet

The Penn State broadcast journalism graduate has advanced quickly in her early career, beginning as a Production Assistant

“Being PA at VH1 didn’t mean getting coffee and running errands on set like it might at other networks. Within my first week or two I was already writing scripts and producing promos.”

…to a Junior Writer/Producer…

 My main responsibilities included putting together budgets for projects (and staying within those budgets!), brainstorming, pitching, writing scripts, supervising edit/audio sessions, getting approvals, directing shoots, working with talent, making sure spots delivered and aired when they were due/scheduled…”

…to a digital editorial writer on the VH1 blogs

What I’m doing now is just so much more rewarding because it’s closer in line to what I love to do and on the path I want to lead.

 But there is so much more to her story that lies between those pillars of advancement (especially on that first question). To explain how she discovered and pursued this career path which deftly combines her love of music and writing, here’s more with Taylor Ferber:

You completed an internship while at Penn State with Viacom, parent company of VH1, and now you work for VH1 – how did you go from internship to a job?

Ferber: (get ready for it) I worked my butt off! (there it is)

When my time interning was over, I made sure my bosses didn’t forget about me. When I went back for my final semester at Penn State, I continuously kept in touch with the people I worked with, kept tabs of what was happening at VH1, what they were working on and let them know what I was up to as well.

taylor ferber vh1 jobs

Taylor Ferber, entertainment writer for VH1 and aspiring on camera talent

Whenever I was home in Connecticut for a break, I would take time to go visit them in the office so they knew I was still invested. Two months after I graduated, I was hired!

Speaking of graduation, you got your degree from Penn State in Broadcast Journalism – what were your career goals at the time that you decided to commit to this major?

Ferber: Funny you ask, I actually went into Penn State with an Elementary Education major and after one year, decided to switch to Journalism.

I’ve always been obsessed with music, movies and pop culture and also had a passion for writing so I thought, what would be the best way to combine the two? When I committed to the major, I liked that there were some options and flexibility in terms of paths I could take (writing, on-air hosting, reporting, etc). I knew I eventually wanted to report/interview/host on camera, but I wasn’t sure to what capacity/environment.

This is still a goal of mine.

How as your transition from the college classroom into the workforce? Did you feel prepared by the Penn State curriculum and opportunities?

Ferber: Out of college, I landed a job at VH1 and let me tell you, they threw me right into the mix and had me hit the ground running. I honestly don’t think I would be nearly as prepared for what I had ahead of me unless it were for Penn State.

My boss at VH1 was extremely impressed that I knew programs like Final Cut Pro, knew script structures and how to write them and even specifics like types of camera shots.

At Penn State, we had classes as small as 15 people and as large as 300. Students in media even had our own, segregated area of campus with top of the line equipment, called Innovation Park (we were spoiled). Once I hit junior and senior year, classes were smaller and concentrated, and we had real “in the field” experience.

I remember one class was treated like a real AM newsroom where we had to report, write and actually call our own sources for interviews and stories within a two hour deadline. In another class, we had to shoot and cut docu-style shorts, interviews and news pieces where we covered various stories, events on campus, etc. We even recorded and used our own voice over.

I wouldn’t even know how to work parts of a camera, store or cut footage if it wasn’t for my experience in school.

find jobs in music

Looking back now, what class from school helped you the most in your early career?

Ferber:  Definitely my video editing class. It allowed me to think about all different aspects of broadcast and video, from the pitch phase and shot list to the story and execution (which I still have to consider everyday in my job!).

My professor, who had also worked in broadcast, told us to remember the small details that can make a story great, rather than just going from A to B, whether it be a close up of someone’s hands, an establishing shot, etc. that make the story interesting and one of a kind. I’ll never forget it. I still use this advice all the time.

I used to be an on-air promotions producer at VH1 and now I’m a digital editorial writer, and when I take both jobs into consideration, I still think the video editing class was the most beneficial because it helped me learn to tell a story and think about what I want from my subjects, whether on camera, off camera or writing, it all relates.

Did you have a strategy for choosing and completing your internships? What were your goals from each and did you achieve them?

Ferber: My first internship was after my sophomore year in college and it was actually in a promotions department at a Clear Channel radio station. During the internship, I realized that while radio might not be for me, I knew I was in the right area (music, entertainment) and wanted to make the most of my time there.

During that summer, and others that followed, I wanted to get the most out of the time I had in these buildings, with the access to the people and opportunities that came with them. At Clear Channel, I realized I didn’t necessarily want to pursue the promotional side of radio, so I took time to shadow on-air personalities during their shows.

It never hurts to ask!

music jobs vh1

Interacting with the VH1 on-air talent and learning the business from behind the scenes has helped Taylor Ferber immensely

Even though I wasn’t crazy about promotions, I signed up for as many events as I could and no matter what, gave 100%. I figured, if I didn’t learn and experiment then, then when would I? Everything’s a learning process, when I first started out, I didn’t even know what opportunities in media existed.

Unless you do trial and error, branch out, and get as much face time with different people and experiences as you can, you won’t know what you really want to do, what you like or what you don’t like. Interning is the perfect time to do that, before you really have any commitments.

How much of a whirlwind was your first year at VH1? Did you feel overwhelmed, or at least a little prepared based on your college experiences? 

Ferber: It’s funny, when it comes to day to day working life, my editor always says, “They can’t teach this stuff in textbooks or in classes.” And it is so true. I’m thankful for all of the skills I learned at Penn State, but a lot of what I learned there had to do with logistics, terminology, etc. of media.

In the real world, there are actual deadlines. No exceptions. You may have fifteen projects on your plate all at once, and there’s nothing you can do but get it done. Spots have to air. Articles have to go live on the web. It is what it is and you learn to make it work and deal with it.

You also learn how to deal with people in the work environment. How to address your higher ups but also build personal relationships. They can’t teach that in a classroom.

You started out as a Production Assistant at VH1 – explain your basic roles and responsibilities in that position.

Ferber:  Being a PA at VH1 didn’t mean getting coffee and running errands on set like it might at other networks. Within my first week or two I was already writing scripts and producing promos.

After a few months my boss referred to me as his Jr. Writer/Producer. Responsibilities included putting together budgets for projects (and staying within those budgets!), brainstorming, pitching, writing scripts, supervising edit/audio sessions, getting approvals, directing shoots, working with talent, making sure spots delivered and aired when they were due/scheduled. And do it all over again when the next project rolled in!

Within my first year, I also traveled to Los Angeles to direct a shoot with some of our show talent on the Paramount lot, which was awesome. I was in the co-branded promos dept, so worked closely with Integrated Marketing and had to go through rounds of approvals with that team as well before getting client approval.

You’ve already moved up and lost the Jr. part of your title  – why do you believe you have found success early on in your career?

Ferber: I’m flattered, thanks! Recently, I’ve made the move from our On-Air Creative/Promotions team to our Digital Editorial team, completely different departments at VH1. I would say I’m still somewhat of a Jr. but I wouldn’t call the move lateral, either. The teams are just structured differently.

music jobs at vh1

Working at a large, well established organization like Vh1 helps teach you the right way to do things in your career

What I’m doing now is just so much more rewarding because it’s closer in line to what I love to do and on the path I want to lead.

About six months ago I told the Executive Producer of Editorial (my current boss) I wanted to contribute to the VH1.com blogs, so after I wrote him some samples, he accepted and I got that rolling. I sent pitches to the team weekly and wrote about 2-3 articles a week… for free! It ended up being completely worth it because after about two months of writing for them, he had an opening and offered me a full time job. I accepted!

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that sometimes you have to put in the extra hours and work for free (I get it, it sucks), but the pay off is worth it. After all, I interned for free, and I wouldn’t even be through the doors at Viacom if I hadn’t.

Your resume makes it clear you have an ambition to work in front of the camera – I like the fact you have jumped into a major organization and worked behind the scenes first, I believe that prepares you better for long-term success – what have you learned from watching the pro’s at VH1?

Ferber: So true! I couldn’t agree more.

After working behind the scenes, I have a better sense of what producers/directors/writers are looking for on camera.

During an interview, I think to myself,

  • What sound bite could be standalone in itself?
  • What will make the piece?
  • What can we get that no one else has?

Honestly, I could have jumped into on camera work right off the bat, starting up a video blog, etc., but I chose to get behind the scenes experience first. On camera work is definitely about personality, but I think only to some extent. Learning the different facets of what happens when the cameras aren’t rolling has been invaluable.

Watching the on camera pros at VH1 has really taught me to just be myself. I saw on-air talent that seemed forced, inorganic and it didn’t end up working out for them. I’ve watched and interacted with other on-air talent that are the same exact people off camera as they are on camera. And guess what, they’ve been our most valuable players over the years. You have to give the audience credit, when you aren’t yourself, it translates on screen and they can tell.

Also, when it comes to interviewing, do your research!!! People will be impressed and willing to open up more when they realize that you have.

Your writing skills got you hired – what advice would you give to young people if they want to become better writers?

Ferber: Practice makes perfect. I would recommend practicing different writing styles, too. Short form, long form, even making a point in 140 characters on Twitter. It all counts and comes into play some how.

In my interview for the on-air writing/producing job, they asked if I had more experience and was more comfortable in short or long form writing. I actually had more experience in long form (college essays and whatnot), but I took that skill and adapted to short form by practicing writing short form scripts and getting to the point.

Before I got hired, I started my own blog on entertainment/pop culture news, and although no one probably read it besides my mom, it was worth it to take some time aside and brush up on my writing to keep it fresh. I would also recommend reading a variety of publications, aside from your typical news sources, Buzzfeed is entertaining and great for short, to the point writing that is so, so popular right now.

If you have any questions or comments for Taylor, please add it below in the comments!

email
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.

Trackbacks

  1. […] This is where your personality comes into play, you can not be a wall flower and work at a record label – you have to be outgoing, seek out relationships, talk to everyone and make a name for yourself. […]

Speak Your Mind

*