I get a lot of messages asking pretty similar things and I always feel quite bad that I can sometimes take quite some time to get back to people so thought this might be a good idea. Obviously, I don’t work in HR, I’m not a career expert (I also am not in A&R, so please stop trying to pitch me your artists/music 😉.), but I talk with a lot of people about music & entertainment and this is often my advice.
1. How do I get a job abroad?
I grew up in the US and have lived in Stockholm and now London, so this one is pretty common. Short answer for me is work in tech (or have a partner that works in tech), but generally…
The three easiest ways I know to get a job abroad is to:
- Work for a company that has multiple offices and then ask to be transferred
- Go to school in a new country–find countries that have flexible laws for staying to find a job
- Look into your ancestry or citizenship privileges, for example, youth mobility visa in the UK is reciprocal for places like CA, AU & HK
The most difficult is often finding a company to sponsor your visa. In many countries, you have to legally prove that someone already located in the country couldn’t do the job. Because of this, tech roles are often much easier to get jobs abroad.
2. How do I get a job at a major label/in music?
Even if it’s the case, no employer likes hearing you just want a job anywhere in music, so having a spray and pray approach likely won’t help you much. Building up your network thoughtfully and staying informed is the best way:
- Make a list of 5-10 companies you actually want to work for and check their websites, socials & job postings regularly.
- Following key people on LinkedIn (you don’t have to connect, you can just follow)
- Reach out to people at the same or just slightly higher seniority as you to connect (they often have a much clearer idea of what roles entail and get far fewer messages, so more likely to respond and have time to talk).
- Unless you already know someone well, or they’ve posted about a job, don’t just blindly ask people at companies about roles or recommendations. Most companies don’t work in a way where everyone knows every job or every team.
- Attend events relevant to the industry and meet people, make sure you have an elevator pitch of yourself for when you’re networking or if you send a follow-up message to someone that spoke. I run a free conference/hackathon called Measure of Music and many amazing conferences exist in music that are free or discounted for students.
- Build up your experience any way you can. Part of the reason the music industry is so hard to get into is that anyone can work in the music industry! Start a blog, a podcast, create a data visualization project, manage your friend’s band, do anything.
Most importantly, I always tell people to apply for roles that they are uniquely qualified for and consider your transferrable skills, so instead of competing against thousands of people, you’re only competing against a few. For example, if you’re fluent in Spanish and English, applying for roles on Latin music focused teams will likely give you an advantage. If you have experience in TV or film, sync teams might really find your profile interesting. You have to always think about what makes you the obvious best choice for a role and place your effort there rather than just applying to any role.
3. Should I Do Work for Free/How Do I Get Experience?
I don’t believe in working for free but I’m not saying that that should be everyone’s ethos or stance. I will say if you are going to work for free, make sure you get something out of it. (The only unpaid internship I ever had got me unlimited free concert tickets 😉). That thing should be tangible not just exposure or experience. For example, if you work on a project for free, you should ask to be able to put it on your website or share in your portfolio to show to future paying employers.
People often ask me if they can work on any projects for me, but unfortunately, there’s quite a lot of approval & procedures needed for me to just casually bring someone on to work on a project. Places like small start-ups and indie labels are far more equipped to do such a thing. And also, as I noted above, you can make your own experience or look at some amazing companies that are really focused on getting people experience like Fan to Band & Jonas Group Entertainment.
4. What roles should I apply for?
Stop wasting your time applying for every single role you see. Not only is it incredibly discouraging to receive so many rejections (or worse, silence), it’s also not allowing you the space to really focus on roles that are actually a good fit and tailor your resume to those roles.
Things to consider when choosing roles:
Are you likely to be more qualified for this role than the majority of people applying?
I’m not saying you need to check every single box (that’s a trap!) but if you’re applying for a marketing role and you didn’t study it, have no experience in it, and have not done any side projects on it, think realistically as an employer… why would they hire you over someone that handles social media for their own blog, someone who studied marketing in school or someone that has even a mock marketing plan on their portfolio? No matter how passionate you are, it literally doesn’t make sense from an employer perspective for them to do that.
Is it the role you actually want?
Sometimes job titles and teams can be confusing (which is why following people at the company on LinkedIn you can see the types of things they post about & projects they work on!) so getting an understanding of what a team actually does is important. For example, a role at a major label in the UK could easily be UK-focused, ex-UK focused, EMEA-focused, or globally focused. It could also be specific genre focused or departmentally focused, for example, an analyst role could be at a label, in the finance team, on the business development team, on a research team, etc. Make sure it’s something you actually want to do and make sure you go into interviews prepared to answer questions based on what the role is so you don’t have irrelevant examples!
What level is the role I’m applying for?
Each company is different so nothing I’m about to say next are the absolute rules but will help you set expectations. When I say experience I mean full-time relevant experience and generally if you do not have an undergrad degree, you may have to start off as a full time apprentice/intern. Usually, entry-level roles at companies are Assistant & Coordinator roles with 0-3 years of experience, after that you usually see titled roles like Analyst or roles like Specialist, Executive, Junior Manager, Associate, or Manager. Generally, these roles manage things (marketing, project, etc.) not people. These are usually 3-6 yrs experience. From there you will usually see Senior Manager or Associate/Assistant Director, this is generally the lowest title you see managing people but often these roles are still only managing things and are usually 6-8 yrs of experience. From there it gets much less standard. When you start seeing Director, Sr. Director, Lead & Head of roles, those roles often have small to large teams and can range from 8-15 years experience quite easily. After that it’s VP, SVP, EVP, President & C-level roles which is usually experience levels of 10+ years.
5. What skills/courses should I take to get a job?
If you’ve made that list of companies you’re interested in, this is a pretty easy one. Identify people that have jobs you want and find job descriptions that look interesting. Write down any skills, courses, degrees, experience, etc. that those roles ask for or those people have. Make note of ones that come up most frequently and prioritize those.
Part of the reason why it’s good to narrow down roles and companies is so you don’t go down the rabbit hole on a skill you don’t actually need. For example, if you’re interested in data and the companies you’re interested in all use PowerBI, it wouldn’t make sense for you to prioritize learning Tableau, even though generally it’s popular in the industry. While it’s good to know, in your case, obviously PowerBI would be better.
6. How do I transfer from whatever industry I’m in into music?
See above about what makes you unique & see how you prove you have transferrable skills. If you’re working in a hard science, you may have great data skills that could work in a music analyst role. If you’ve worked in eCommerce before, an artist services team that handle things like merch could be a good fit. If you were a student-athlete but love music, an agency that handles athletes and musicians would probably be a great fit. Be creative and connect the dots.
Again, not an expert, so take everything I say as a person just hoping to help you out and so whenever you have informational calls with me or anyone else you can skip the basics and get to the good stuff!