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Question: How Can I Get a Job in the Music Industry?


Ah, how to get a job in the music industry. It's the million dollar question, really, and unfortunately, it doesn't have an answer. Despite what some people may try to sell you (usually online for a big price), no one can really tell you exactly how to get a job in the business. Sad, but true. There are, however, things to you can to INCREASE your chances of landing your music biz dream job. Consider the following:

  • Create a Job - Many people get their start in the music industry just by doing their own thing. Let's say you want to be a promoter. Don't wait around for a promotion company to hire you. Find some local musicians, arrange a few shows for them, do a good job promoting them and wait for your phone to start ringing off the hook with calls from other local bands who want the same treatment. From there, it's your choice if you want to keep doing the indie thing or if you want to parlay your experience into a good resume to send to a larger promotion company. And yes, this course of action can be repeated for just about any music career.

  • Be Flexible - Ok, so you want to be a promoter (why break our theme?). You can't find any promotion work, and no one in town is playing any music you can convince people to buy a ticket to see. There is, however, a record store that needs a product buyer for the genre of music you know the best. Go for it. While working at the record store, you will get to know label reps and local music scene types. These contacts could help you get to the job you really want. Plus, any job you do in the music industry helps you to understand the overall functioning of the business better, which will help you whether you end up starting your own business or getting a job with another company.

  • Internships - Internships are another great way to learn the ropes and make contacts who can help you get a music industry job. Some large music companies make internships available only to college students, but don't think your chances are over if you're not hitting the books. You can find internships that are open to all applicants, of course, but another method that works especially well with indie music companies is to approach them and offer your services. Some companies may have never thought about hiring an intern and may let you come by and make some coffee and stuff some envelopes just to see what it is like. Work hard, pay attention, and this could be your big break. You can learn more about finding internships here.

  • Job Listings - Many music industry jobs are filled through word of mouth, but you can find out about job openings and how to apply on company websites


You do not need a degree to work in the music industry. That's the short answer, however, in reality, it's not really that simple. The answer really comes down to what music industry job you want to get and what your goals are.

Let's look at it like this. If you plan to start your own record label, promotions company, management firm or some other music related business, you don't need a degree to get the job. That's not to say a degree may not help you - after all, having a business education, for instance, will acquaint you with things like writing a business plan, budgeting and accounting. Further, if you are looking for outside investment, having a decent educational background on paper may help convince some purse string holders to take a chance on you. However, many a thriving music business has been started by someone who struggles to calculate a tip after a meal but has an ear for good music.

To that end, many people who run music businesses don't require degrees from the people they hire. What really wows them is experience.

There are some instances in which you do need a degree to get a job in the music industry. Of course you will need to go to law school and pass the bar if you want to work as a lawyer in the industry. Beyond that, some major labels require their employees to have degrees. If that is the world you are trying to get to, then yes, a degree is a benefit.

If you do go to school, and specifically if you decide to go to school for a music business degree, then make sure the program is up to par. To be worthwhile, a music business degree program has to offer you a lot of experience outside of the classroom. If the school doesn't have a good history of placing their students in internships during school and jobs after graduation, stay away. Try to find a program that incorporates student run labels and businesses into the learning process. The best way to learn the industry is through experience, so any degree program worth its salt will provide you with plenty to put on your resume.

If you can't major in a music business related field, consider a business degree. If that doesn't float your boat - and I can't blame you - it doesn't matter so much what your degree is in as much as what you do with your time while in school. Get involved with campus radio. Book shows at local venues. Promote releases by musicians who are also enrolled in your school. Do whatever you can to get hands on industry experience, however trivial it may seem, while you're earning your degree. Degrees are great as a fall back, but chances are that outside experience you gather is what is really going to open the most music industry doors for you.


Booking and promoting concerts involves a lot of moving parts, so it's pretty easy for confusion to enter the picture. If you're new to playing live, just starting to cut your teeth on the live music circuit, then that confusion can go through the roof for a lot of reasons. In fact, this can be a tough time for a lot of musicians, not only because the whole process is new and more than a little intimidating, but also because musicians at this stage are the perfect targets for getting hustled. When you get to the stage where you're booking your own shows, you can make better decisions if you understand the role of everyone involved. Now, there can be some overlap in these positions, but here is the general idea to keep in mind:

  • Promoters: On the indie circuit, the most typical way for a promoter to work with a musician is to decide they want to work with the musician on a show, make a deal with the musician (or the musician's reps) and then go out and do the work of putting on the show. That means booking the venue, contacting the local press, marketing (running ads, printing posters, etc, as appropriate), making sure everything is in place for the night of the show (tickets, sound/tech requirements, booking the opening bands, buying the rider and so on) and then generally making sure the show runs smoothly. When a promoter makes a deal with a musician, the deal usually (really, should) take into account the expenses associated with the show so that when the musician sees the deal, they know how much they stand to make. For instance, a promoter might offer a flat rate for a show or they may offer a door split deal in which they pay the musician a percentage of the ticket sales money after the costs associated with the show are met. The real defining thing about the deal structure is that the promoter does assume some of the risk and makes a decision about that risk before they decide to run with the show.

  • Bookers: Sometimes, venues have someone in charge of booking the shows for the club - but it is really very important to not confuse these people with promoters. SOMETIMES, venues have in-house promoters that book the shows and fulfill the traditional role of the promoter, but venues often have someone who just books. They may include your name in their standing run of advertising and monthly calendar things, but the onus for promoting the show - and meeting the venue's financial requirements - falls on you. They may have a bar minimum that you have to meet or they may require a certain number of ticket pre-sales or they may have some other financial guideline you have to satisfy. As a musician, it is REALLY important for you to understand these rules. Of course venues can't have losing nights all the time, but weigh up what they're offering you versus what they're demanding from you. Are they throwing you on a bill with four other bands who sound nothing like you (or each other) and requiring a huge number of "ticket pre-sales" - which really translate into you paying hundreds to play there? In other words, are they setting you up for some crap gig that no one wants to come to and getting you to pay them for the privilege? If you are acting as a promoter for your own show, it makes sense that you would have to assure the venue that they aren't going to lose money on the night, but don't be too intimidated to speak up to find out what you're getting when you book a show at that club and definitely don't be too afraid to look for another venue who wants to make sure you BOTH have a winning night.

  • Agents: An agent books shows for you. In other words, the agent calls the promoter, works out the deal and brings the offer back to you with all the details ironed out (in accordance with what you've agreed in advance, such as "must have a stage large enough for 7 cellos" or "will only play Albuquerque on Tuesdays.")

As you can see, your real danger zone as an up and coming musician lies in the difference between working with a promoter and simply booking a show with someone in charge of a venue calendar. Make sure you understand the set-up any time you book. And note, someone who pencils you in on a certain date, contributes nothing in the run-up to the show and then sits at a door collecting money and asking people what band they came to see is NOT a promoter - pure and simple. Don't pay for services undelivered.

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