Most of the career advice for the Music Industry is dated or is generic advice which doesn’t apply to the Music Industry. This guide well give you the best chance of landing a job in the Music Industry.
Recently Burstimo began advertising for new roles, where I had to assess every single CV which was submitted, and this allowed me to spot recurring mistakes which people were making, even from those with Music Business University degrees were not offering what the music industry is looking for.
Do you really want a job in the music industry?
The most frequent line I see in cover letters and interviews is applicants stating their desire to work in the “Music Industry” and this may come as a shock to you, but the Music Industry as you know it doesn’t exist. When you say the words “Music Industry” what comes in to your head?
Is it the life of hanging around famous people, attending parties, music industry events, backstage passes at festivals, prestigious award ceremonies?
In fact, working in the Music Industry involves mostly sitting at your computer sending emails to people just like you 12 hours per day and it doesn’t stop on weekends.
How the Music Industry fits together
The Music Industry is very much spread out, it’s not one big symbiotic industry, it is very compartmentalised with areas such as:
Major Labels (which mainly involves licensing catalogue music)
And the list goes on…
And all of these aspects never cross one another. You’ll very rarely find yourself conversing with a music industry lawyer if your expertise lies in Music PR for example.
I wanted to make this clear because we see so many applications from people who have “Music Industry” experience, however the skills don’t translate, you won’t land your dream job working in Music Sync if your experience is in promoting festivals. It is the required skillset you must focus on rather than your experience being from the same industry. If you want a job in Music Sync for example, you are more likely to land a job by having a strong sales background. The ability to sell music and license it out is far more valuable than understanding the industry and a knowledge of music from 1950s – present.
Why Working in Music is so Awesome
Now I’ve began to paint a picture of how the music industry really fits together (or doesn’t) lets cover the benefits of working in the music industry. Working with music is exciting, there is no other product like it, music has the power to change people’s mood, opinions or even help them through a difficult time in their life. Working with tracks which you just can’t stop listening to, and your day is dedicated to making the artist as successful as possible whichever your role is one of the most rewarding aspects you could ever hope for in a job.
The day to day activity of a job in the music industry is usually so varied and thrilling compared to any other industry. The industry has had to adapt to some major overhauls which means things are moving faster than ever and changed so dramatically that it has left a gaping hole filled with opportunities for people with new skills and ideas to jump in to.
Do I need Music Industry experience?
Not necessarily, needing music industry experience to land a job is one of the biggest misconceptions. Usually this is sold to you by Universities with the intentions to sell you their course or companies who insist you need to intern in order to progress your career, when in reality they are just looking for someone to do the tasks no one else wants to do.
In fact, you are more likely to land a job in the marketing department at Universal music by having a background with various digital marketing agencies or large companies than you would by specialising in music marketing.
My first realisation of this was when I met the Head of Marketing at BMG, who actually previously worked as a Marketing Executive as Unilever before taking the job at BMG. Once again, this person had transferrable skills which could be applied to the music industry, bringing new expertise in to the company.
How much does the music industry pay?
It’s widely known that the music industry isn’t generating a huge amount of revenue like it used to, which has taken a hit on the smaller companies, so if you’re looking to earn huge amounts of money then the music industry really isn’t one for you. And entry-level job in the music industry is likely to pay £16k – £18k, and there’s a high likelihood you will have to live in an expensive city such as London, New York or Los Angeles.
Intern – £18,000 per year
Marketing Assistant- £24,000 per year
Marketing Manager – £40,000 per year
The highest paid recorded salary at Sony Music London was Legal Counsel at £64,000 which required a huge amount of expertise and education. To give you perspective, a Legal Counsel at Barclays bank will earn up to £132,000 per year.
This gives you an idea of the salaries available within the industry, and how similar skillsets will receive a higher salary in other industries, so you’re really doing this for the love of music!
Should you go to University for a career in the Music Industry?
It’s not just the music industry which is instigating this question, with University tuition fees dramatically increasing, potential undergraduates are now considering their options and wondering if gaining experience through work is the best option and this is especially the case in the Music Industry as we’ve seen the potential low salaries may never see you pay off your entire student loan.
There are several music business and music industry courses around, but we really wouldn’t recommend them because in your 3 years of studying you are merely going to get an introduction to every aspect of the industry, however very few job roles require you to have knowledge of the entire industry.
To succeed in the music industry you need to have a specialism, something that you are an expert at, have a willingness to learn and are able to instantly add-value to the company you are applying to join.
Trying to sell an employer on your Social Media skills because it was a module covered during the first half of your 2nd year at university just isn’t going to cut it, especially over applicants who have proven they know how to build a social media following, whether it is in music, travel or food, the skills will always be transferrable.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, such as going to University to study Law and Accountancy would still be beneficial as these topics require a full 3 years to learn.
First steps to getting in to the Music Industry
Instead of spending 3 years at University and leaving with eye-watering amounts of debt, the best way in to the music industry is to simply start working in the music industry. The barriers to entry are perceivably high, but that’s only because there’s so much competition for so few jobs at major labels, and smaller companies don’t employ many people, but the barriers to working in the music industry are incredibly low.
If you really want to follow your passion for music, find an artist or band who needs help with their music, whether it’s management, marketing, licensing or royalties, there will be so many things that an artist will need help with.
You can usually find a band’s email address on the ‘about’ section of their Facebook or Youtube channel.
Find an unknown artist who you really like and reach out to them saying how much of a fan of their music you are and if they’d need any help in certain areas. There aren’t many artists who’d turn down free assistance.
Here you can really begin to learn and execute as you go, slowly building your experience and reputation in the industry. After you’ve proven to get results, you now have a case-study to take with you in to job interviews proving that you have a skillset and track record. At this stage you may even decide not to apply for jobs and elect to go freelance which is a perfectly reasonable route too.
How to apply for Music Industry jobs
Mistakes you probably don’t know you’re making
Expressing your desire to work in the music industry
There’s nothing more of a turn off for employers than stating in your cover letter your desire to work in the music industry. Your knowledge of music, the industry and love for the industry only makes up 5% of your job, the rest of your job is based around tasks which are not exclusive to the music industry, you could be working for any company, so employers are looking for people to have a passion for the work that needs to be done because the novelty of working in music will wear off in a matter of weeks.
Listing irrelevant jobs on your CV
This is probably the most frequent mistake we see in applications. On your CV employers are only interested in previous roles which are relevant to the job. If you are applying for a Digital Marketing role, then your previous customer service and retail roles only muddy your applications and take the emphasis away from the key points on your CV. If you don’t feel you have the relevant experience to fit the role, then list your hobbies and voluntary work which could be relevant.
Phoning them up to show you’re keen
I don’t know where this tip came from, but it appears to be something we get told to do by our parents and career advisors who say “call them up to have a talk about the position, and then it shows them that you’re a decent person and will be on your radar”. However in 2018, we have so much more information available to help profile someone. Perhaps you have a blog or Linkedin profile, if one person is constantly sharing articles about the industry or even write their own content, that’s going to give you a far bigger advantage. There is nothing worse than receiving a call from someone who’d like more details about the job, but you haven’t seen their CV yet and judging by the other applications there’s only a 5% chance you’ll interview this person anyway.
What Should be on your CV
The key to writing the perfect CV is to keep it clear and easy to understand. In smaller companies the person whose job it is to review applications probably doesn’t want to be doing that task and has been asked to do it as a one-off. Not only this, because of the nature of job sites people can apply for jobs at a click of a button, which means there are floods of garbage CV’s filling up their inbox. This means the attention given to each CV is literally no longer than 5 seconds, so you don’t have time to tell your full story.
Your CV should only contain 2-3 key points which would be attractive to an employer. If you are applying for a creative role, then the employer will be more interested in your portfolio than your CV.
Be sure that the points are easy to read and are the first thing the employer will see. You can do this using bullet points in your cover letter, or have them as a summary at the top of your CV.
If you feel you don’t necessarily have the key points on your CV, you should take a step back, and spend a month learning the key requirements for the job. There are so many online resources where you can learn skills such as Youtube, Udemy and Cousera.
In my personal opinion, I would rather hire someone who has shown the initiative to go out and learn something new on their own, with no guidance from a university. This shows that if I need them to go and learn another new skill they have the ability to do it. It also demonstrates a desire to work in that industry rather than feeling obliged to complete a course because they’ve already paid for it.
Best Places to find a job
There many music specific job sites available, here are our top 5 places to find jobs in the music industry.
Now named Media Match, Music Match is the leading job site for the music industry. They also pull a lot of jobs from Indeed which are specific to the music industry to save you some time.
Music Match doesn’t get every job, so be sure to check Indeed too and subscribe to their notifications to get notified of new jobs with the keyword “music”.
Music Week don’t usually post many jobs, but the jobs that do go live tend to be from the best companies in the industry, where you’re likely to see job posting from Sony, Universal, Warner and more.
Are the recruitment company who appear to represent most of the major labels for their marketing roles and often some other. They do create a further barrier to getting your CV considered as you have to pass their filtering process too in order to be shortlisted.
Linkedin is becoming an incredible tool for job searching, posting exclusive jobs as a direct feed from the companies themselves. Applying via your Linkedin profile can give you a head start, especially if you have maintained your profile and consistently demonstrated your passion for the jobs you are applying for.
Glassdoor are the newcomers to the online jobs board scene, which can give you a new level of detail to the jobs available, including estimated salaries and reviews from past employees on what it’s like to work at the company.
How to reach out cold to a company
Companies often get calls from speculative applicants hoping that they happen to have a position available. The chances of you calling up and there happens to be a position is very rare, especially in smaller companies.
Most people make the mistake of taking the approach of speculatively contacting companies with the approach of “do you have something for me?” ie you’re asking for them to give you a job. You should really be taking the approach of “Can I do something for you?”. If you’ve defined your skillset and know you can add-value to a company, make them an offer to apply your skillset and help them for a couple of weeks, not only are they more likely to take your application seriously, you will now be on their radar to secure a full-time job. You could be given 2 weeks to prove that you are somebody worth taking on and land your first job in the music industry.
Choose your Specialism
In order to really succeed in the music industry, you need to have a specialism, having music industry experience just isn’t enough. Choose one specific area of the industry you’d like to focus on and create a route-map to get there, and it doesn’t necessarily have to include the music industry from the very beginning, you could learn your skills at a digital marketing agency and have the music industry as your final destination.
Choosing the Music Industry first and your role second is a recipe for disaster.