So You Want to Work at a Record Label? (Awesome, Here’s How)

want to work at a record labelWe’ve done a great deal of statistical analysis lately to better understand our audience and one thing has become abundantly clear – many of you want to work in the music industry.

Honestly, who can blame you? The idea of discovering bands, publicizing your genre, marketing performers, managing huge concerts and events or getting to work at a record label sounds pretty incredible.

But how?

There is no one way to find work at a record label, like anything there are multiple paths – but we’ve reached out to our experts in the field to structure some of the things you must do to get things rolling in the right direction.

1: Understand Why You Love Music

I thought about subheading this “Develop a Love of Music” but that just sounds silly for step one of finding work at a record label – I mean it’s kind of obvious. If I started that way you might click outta here thinking there was no true value in this article.

But alas, there is value here, lots of it the further you read on.

Want to work in music? First step, figure out why you love it. #musicbiz Click To Tweet

BUT, before we really can go anywhere you have to really desire musical knowledge and understand if music is a hobby or something you yearn to make your living as part of.

At this stage you don’t have to be able to break down chorus and verse or spend your nights studying lyrical symbolism, but, if uncovering the layers of music isn’t important to you, you will never be passionate enough to make this a career.

find jobs in music

2: Become a Musician

This is not essential, but is really, really helpful.

work at a record label

Being a musician can really help you relate to other artists and gain further credibility in the industry

It’s all about credibility in the music business – if you have performed, practiced and have some real deep knowledge of music it will help you be more trustworthy to the artists you work with.

In the early steps of your career growth it’s important not to become too niche focused, of course you will have a favorite genre but in order to stay versatile and open to opportunities you need to have a wealth of performance knowledge.

If you are a musician, learn many genres so you can speak the language of the many artists you will come in contact with. This is also a great way to build a network of contacts deep within the music industry.

Focus not just on your playing ability, but your understanding of the business side of music.

3: Set Realistic Expectations

If you think working for a record label is going to be a standard life, hanging out in a cool office space decked out with music memorabilia – think again. The majority of your time will be out and about at gigs, possibly even 4-5 nights a week.

Want to work at a music label? Here are 5 tips to get started #musicbiz Click To Tweet

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.

If this isn’t your personality or your preferred work environment – run away before you waste your time on an expensive degree!

4: Educate Yourself

While some positions in the music industry do not require a specific degree, you are limiting your career potential without some professional training or advanced schooling.

work in the music industry

Advanced schooling gives you the foundation necessary to be successful in the music industry

If you want to work on the production side, you better learn the technical skills required to produce music. There are many programs out there for audio and sound engineers, don’t expect to learn this on the fly.

If you are unsure your exact angle in the music industry, go for a degree in music business where you will learn publicity, marketing, management skills, economics, accounting, sales, recording, publication and more. This will give you a strong foundation that you can rely upon for any non-technical side of the music industry.

While in school it is paramount you do as many internships as you possibly can.

For Ashley Kyle, Music Programming Manager for MTV World, her internships were the way she gained the experience and network necessary to land a job.

“There were no Music Business classes offered at my University, the real, hands-on life skills I learned were from my internship experiences,” says 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!”

5: Gain Focus While Staying Broad

Contradictory for sure, but while in school you need to start getting clarity into what you want your role in the music industry to be, while still learning as much as you can across the spectrum.

Focusing on a specific element in the music industry like marketing, design, or writing while in school can help focus your experience and build a network towards your first job.

For example:

  • If you’re a passionate writer, try writing for a music blog and building your name
  • If you’re a people person, set up informational interviews with managers and publicists to pick their brain
  • If you like to travel, consider volunteering on a tour one summer

These are just a few ideas that can help you gain specific experience while still remaining broad in your knowledge.

 6: Don’t Aim Too High

Post-graduation you are a nobody.

breaking into a record label

You won’t graduate and start working in publicity for Fall Out Boy – plan to work you way up from the very bottom

I know, it sounds mean to say that but it’s important to frame your mind correctly so that you stay open to any opportunity before you.

You will not jump right into A&R at a record label, more likely you will begin as a personal or executive assistant, or even some menial data entry type jobs. At this point it is more important where the job is instead of what it is.

If you can get in the door at a record label in any capacity – do it! And then work your way up by demonstrating your passion, knowledge and work ethic.

7: You’re in – Now Don’t Mess it Up

It may not feel like you’ve made it, and you may wake up in the morning thinking “I spent 12 years playing the bass and got this fancy music degree to be someone’s assistant for 22k per year?”

The answer – Yes, yes you did.

But this is the start that so many people aren’t willing to endure. You need to be different and see the path before you.  Now is not the time to give up on the dream, now is the time to show off your music degree, engage in conversations with important people, demonstrate how you will fulfill every task to the best of your ability.

And grow.

Upper level managers started as interns and assistants too, they are looking for people that remind them of themselves – ambitious, aggressive, detail-oriented and determined to a make their way.

Get yourself together, don’t be mediocre, be exceptional, and that low-level job at a high level record label will be just step one of a long fruitful music career.

 

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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.

Comments

  1. reginald ellis says:

    i am a vocalist that would love to b in on working with new artist///i have many years of music in my life…ihave a great EAR an im 61yrs of age // an would love to b involved part time //any time// i have a LOT to offer im still singing with sideeffect…we do high end after parties of wedding//we just did lebron james wedding also jessica simpsons after party….threw westcoast music…so for my self what ever a label could use me for im interested….. give me a chance….no job is to small..THNX REGGIE ELLIS 424 477 9589

    • Good luck Reginald! If anyone out there has some vocal opportunities for him, contact him directly!

      • Dear Brian Clapp. I am aspiring songwriter whos song Tearless Young Girl Gone Wild is rising on NumberOne Music.com and I have another one called Look What Cat Drug In that Sun Music Group is going to demo master it professionally then I will send to you . I hear quite frequently that I sound and look like Jenniifer Nettles someday If I get come to Nashville do you think you could be my mentor to help me find band to go with my voice I know with all my heart I could rock that stage someday in Nashville but have start out as job like with record label to learn about business. The jobs here NC are only temp around 8.00 hr is whats holding up dream I have talent just need professionals to help me pull altogether. I mean when I audtion for Americas Got Talent and Xfactor they always say why arent you Nashville as staff writer for record label they say my songs have hit potential so how do I get job where record label hear me I mean I would be receptionist at front desk housekeeping running errands I believe in song so much I will even stay shelter Nashville for 30 days if I have too to show you how serious I am I know that be a little drastic but I feel I need break out here please please help me find professional band I could at least make start by singing soon at Nashville Rising Star can you please let record labels know about me on NumberOne Music .com and Tearless -Young Girl Gone Wildis in top ten on Reverbnation also have on Soundcloud at https://soundcloud.com/mary-ann and country rap Im working on about not being bullied can you let Music Row about me can you help me get staff writers job I feel I have hit yo or records labels can call me on my cell at336-745-1569 or 336-983-6745 at home Thanks so much Mary ann Chatman home Thank yo so much Sincerely Mary Ann Chatman

        • Mary Ann – I wish you the best but I am not the one to help you with this step in your career… I don’t live anywhere near Nashville and I’ve never booked musicians or helped them form bands — not my forte. Keep pushing, you’ll make your break! So what happened on AGT, did you make a cut? What was the honest feedback? – Brian

  2. Being 35 and having a college degree in media/comm and being laid off from a major cruiseline company was very hard for me. I have had no luck finding a full-time job in any industry. One of my problems is being a visionary and wanting to be all over the place in interests rather than pinpointing one talent or forte. A ideabox is the best way to describe how much of an asset I am to the world.

    • Best of luck Jason! Keep a look on our job board we have thousands of available jobs and try really hard to dig deep into your expereinces to pull out things youve done over your career that can be valuable assets to the employers you are looking into – Brian

  3. Rithu Gs says:

    Hey my name is Rithu and I 17 years of age. I love music and it’s my number 1 passion. I want to be a recording artist I want to sell millions of albums and tour world wide. Education is very important to my family and since I live outside the United States ( ps I live in India ) the only way for to get there is by getting into a college. So I thought I would get a degree is music business and work in The music industry/ in a record label for a few years while doing my music on the side. And hopefully if my songs do make it big I either get signed by a record label or I continue as an independent artist. Do you this is the right way to go about for an aspiring artist ?

  4. Robin C says:

    I sort of spent my whole life hearing other people telling me what I can and cant do, except my parents. My parents allowed me to believe that I could be and do whatever I wanted as long as I was willing to work for it. I joined the US military at age 26, after being told by a family member that I was too old and that they are looking for a “specific” type of person. I spent 8 years serving our country. Once I was released from the military I decided to chase my dreams. I am in the process of developing my own fashion and entertainment magazine which will be Native American/Indigenous focused. I’ve become more and more aware of my natural skills and abilities plus I’ve always dreamed of having a career within the music industry. I’m not a musician, I don’t sing or rap, however, I’ve always gravitated towards people who do all of these things. I have a natural ability to create opportunities for myself and others. I love being out and supporting new talent or at least listening to them, I mean we all have to start somewhere…. What’s your best advice in becoming an A&R?

  5. Hi my name is Reginas i have a long standing passion for singing. I just hope its not to late in the game for me. I desire to learn more about music, i desire to be a singing Artist or use my speaking voice. If given the chance it would be an awesome oppertunity to use my voice for radio,tv,and or voice over i just havent found a place to call home for my many talents. I’m hoping i will be discovered soon acting as a voice is a snap for me. I enjoy doing impersonations of a variety of character voices via speaking and singing. Im also a closet Artist in painting and in arts & crafts im an over all very handy kind of talented person that can and will fit right in excited to share my multitalented side so on that note just let me know if singing voice overs etc.. pops up untill then i can be reached at the following below.
    Thank you for the shout out chow.
    smaland213@yahoo.com
    203)200-8343
    Reginas D Jones
    AKA Darlean J

  6. Luc Arnaud Brokatzky says:

    Dear Brian,

    Thank you for such interesting words, it is definitely a tough business. As you wrote, I think the best idea is to go out of your home, meet the most people you can, be resilient ans so passionate people can’t miss you.

    Best!

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