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Working in The Music Industry
Songwriting & Music Business Basics

How do I get started on the “business side” of the music business?

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Trevor Gale, SESAC, VP, Writer Publisher Relations, NYC

The music business can be an exciting and rewarding career option but can be a challenging field to break into as well.  That’s why possessing a thorough understanding of how the business works and how all of the pieces and “players” in our industry fit together is essential.  Familiarizing yourself with the record companies, publishers, distributors, promoters, live concert business, merchandisers, songwriters, engineers, studios, managers, and producers is key to learning how the business works. You should become knowledgeable of all the different facets of the music business and concentrate in areas that interest you.

Networking is key!  It is extremely important to get to know others in the business and learn from their experiences.  If you’re just starting out, landing an internship at a music company is a great way to get your foot in the door.  Take advantage of your internship and ask your colleagues or executives if they will sit with you and talk about their experience and also share your career aspirations.  Most executives would be happy to give some advice or insight to a motivated intern.  If you’re clear about what you would like to do in the business, perhaps they could introduce you to someone who might have a lead on a job for you.

Attend music conferences to learn “who’s who” in the industry and to become aware of new opportunities.  It’s a great way to network and meet industry professionals who have come in from all parts of the country.  Take advantage of what’s going on in your hometown.  Local acts may attract industry professionals, especially if that act has a substantial buzz. Take advantage because you never know whom you’ll meet!  There are more opportunities in the major music markets (New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Atlanta, Miami) but if you have no desire to move, then seek out the possibilities near you.

Music Conferences… What are they about?
There are many music conferences, seminars, expos, etc. around the country.  Some are better than others.  SESAC has been involved with many throughout the years, as it is one way that we get around the country to meet new songwriting talent! These music events are also a place where industry experts gather to network, showcase their new artists, and search for undiscovered talent.  It’s a great way to spend a few days and to cover a lot of ground.  Industry experts from the major music companies usually are the featured speakers at these events.   You can learn so much from just listening in on a panel discussion, and even more if you ask questions and participate.  It’s a great opportunity to meet experts from all aspects of the industry.  While they may not take your resume (or, if you’re an artist, your CD), you may have an opportunity to ask permission to send it after the event.   Also, if your band is lucky enough to land a showcase slot at one of these events, do your best to market yourself at the conference to insure a large attendance at your show.  Industry insiders take note of great marketing.  And it makes a great first impression!

See a list of different music business events

Do I really need a degree to work in the music business?
The music industry is a very competitive market place and you will be competing for a job with others who have a degree.  A college degree says that you’re serious about yourself, and it prepares you for the work force.  There are many colleges offering degrees in Music Business.  While you don’t need a specific degree in this field to work in it, it is impressive to our industry if you do because you would be entering a position with a lot more knowledge than someone with a different degree.  And that would be considered “a leg up.”  It is a busy business, so the less that one needs to be trained for a certain job, the more attractive they become as a candidate when a company has a job to fill.