Like any other business, record labels need quality employees. Likewise, bands need good record labels, primarily because of how much time it takes to get everyone in the band together, hone skills, write good music, and learn how to perform.
With the internet and affordable software at everyone’s fingertips, it’s true that the DIY approach is gaining ground for musicians. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find a successful band that isn’t on a record label. It takes a ton of effort to be a good band. Record labels do the things that bands don’t have the time and resources to do.
Are you attracted to the industry side of music? Are you a musician yourself? Do you find yourself attracted to the music scene wherever you go? Working at a record label might be just the right fit for you. Here are the steps to make it happen.
Get to Know People in the Scene
First and foremost, you want to know what it takes for bands to operate. Hang out at venues, chat with musicians and promoters, talk to booking agents and talent scouts, meet producers, marketers, and graphic artists — immerse yourself in the world of music. Getting to know the local scene has the added bonus of networking. If there are any local labels, this is how you’ll find out about them.
You’ll want to know the technical aspects of what bands do — in that sense, it doesn’t hurt to be a musician and start a band (if you haven’t already). You want to know the technical jargon, and you want to know the hurdles bands face. Band life is a great way to build a network and learn things from people already working in the music business. If you’re not the artist type, befriend a band, find out what they need help with, and offer to give them a hand.
Educate yourself on the industry, too. You can find a lot of industry information on Music Think Tank. The education section of the Kobalt blog is also helpful (Kobalt is a music publishing, recording distribution, and neighboring rights platform) for understanding the current state of the music industry and artist rights. Musicindustryhowto.com is an advice site for every aspect of the music biz and it’s worth checking out, as is musicbusinessworldwide.com.
Glean broad knowledge of the music world from the artist and industry perspective. Next, consider what specialty you might want to aim for.
Identify Your Specialty
After you’ve spent time in the scene and gained some broad knowledge of the industry, it’s time to ask yourself where you want to go with this. By now, you’ll have a pretty good handle on what your passion is, whether it’s marketing/promotion, booking, administrative (finance and accounting), A and R (artist and repertoire), production/recording, events, publishing, or band management.
Consider Getting a Degree if Your Specialty Requires You to Have One
If you want to work in a label’s marketing department, it will help to have a degree in marketing, PR, or communication. If you’re into the visual aspect, a degree in graphic design could also land you in the marketing department, and you could get a job designing record covers and posters.
If you’re interested in live music and recording, a degree in sound engineering will serve you well.
If you’re interested in the administrative side, get a degree in business admin. If you’re finance-oriented, get a degree in accounting, bookkeeping, or finance.
Do some research on the different degrees available. Some universities offer a Bachelor of Science in the Music Industry, which can include general education, writing, musicianship courses, and foundational business courses.
Throw an Event
Throwing an event is a great way to get perspective and practice when it comes to the marketing and organizational aspects of what record labels do. Although you’re now aware of your preferred specialty, it helps to understand a label’s role in making things happen live.
Be aware of the pitfalls to avoid when planning an event. You need to know how much it will cost, therefore how much you should charge for tickets. You need to know who should be involved — it’s not a good idea to do everything yourself unless you absolutely have to.
Basically, throwing an event will give you good practice with the following:
● Engaging bands and liaising with visual artists (you’ll need fliers, posters, and swag)
● Arranging a venue and corresponding with venue personnel and a sound engineer
● Doing promotion and creating promotional products (swag)
● Doing publicity during the event (radio, social media)
Most importantly, you’ll find out what it takes to make bands and fans happy.
Apply for Internships
If there’s anything record labels need, it’s unpaid interns. All joking aside, an internship is a great way to learn on the job. Do research on record labels in your area, but prepare yourself for the possibility of relocation. If you’re willing to relocate that’s a bonus because you could land a paid internship at a big label.
Put together a great one page resume as if you’re applying for a regular position, not just an internship. The more a label can see how serious and on top of it you are, the better. Do a great deal of research on the label and its competitors, and let your knowledge shine during the interview.
Parlay an Internship into an Entry-level Position
Once you’re on board at a label as an intern, show them your value through hard work and strong interpersonal skills. Building good relationships is the best way to assure you’ll end up working full-time at a label. Good work makes you hard to replace. People skills make you irreplaceable.