by: Natalie Dickinson
People ask me all the time how they can get involved with the music industry. Many times, they live in rural areas, and are unsure of where their opportunities lie. Some even live in the middle of a city, but still can’t quite find their direction. This is a guideline for you to find opportunities and make opportunities no matter where you live!
If you live within an hour driving distance from a decent sized city or urban area:
Go to local shows and talk to people
Meeting people in your local music community is key if you are looking to get involved. Every scene has an existing community. The local people in your community thrive because they care about music and want to support it— hence their presence at local shows or events. Find out who these people are are what they do for work. Be outgoing and confident—introduce yourself to local merch people, band managers, people working at venues. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about how they got involved. Next time you’re at a show, maybe you’ll see them again, and eventually you’ll form a relationship. Once a relationship has formed, it is more likely your new friend will help you out if you are looking for an opportunity.
**When talking to people in your local scene, it helps to have something credible to identify yourself with. By this, I mean, join a street team, or marketing company (cough cough The Syndicate). That way, when you introduce yourself, and are talking to someone new, you can mention how you work for X company. If you’ve been asking them a bunch of questions, and then they hit you back with, “So what do you do?” you’re going to want to have a couple things under your belt to support your intentions of seriously working in this industry. I used to identify with The Syndicate. Now I say, “I run a website called We Are The Kids”.
Research events and venues in the city
Know what’s going on in your local scene. Research events, and go on local venue’s websites to look for upcoming shows. Stick every show in your ical or organizer so that you can remind yourself when it’s coming up. Shows are where you’re going to meet people, and knowing people is what is going to help you get jobs and opportunities. So don’t miss any good shows!! Local shows are the best to meet people. Don’t spend all of your money on $25 House Of Blues tickets. The likelihood that you’ll have a five minute conversation about the music business with the manager of a band playing a venue that size is very unlikely unless you are very good friends with that person. If you’re tight on money, pick and choose which shows you go to based on a) whether you like the bands or not and b) whether there might be a lot of local kids/people there that you can get to know.
Eventually you will become a part of your local music community. Keep working hard and looking out for potential jobs!
If you live farther than an hour driving distance from a city:
Throw your own shows
This may seem daunting if you have no idea how to throw a show. I really don’t have much of an idea how to throw a show, but that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t make it happen. Use your back yard or basement as a venue. Make a facebook page, and get the word out. Then, have bands in the area come play. If you don’t have any bands in the area (as in reasonable distance) contact the closest bands you can think of and try to pull together funding for them to come play. I”m not an expert in the ways of throwing shows, but this is just one idea!
Get your friends into your music, especially if you are younger and can’t drive yet
I’m sure a lot of us know what it’s like to feel like the only kid in town who listens to “this kind of music”. Before you can drive, it is tough to get your parents to drive you to every show. Also, most parents won’t let their high school kid go to a show alone. SO, get your friends into your music! Introduce them to some of your favorite bands and share your experiences with them. If you can get a group of friends on the bandwagon (pun intended!) then it will be easier to get parents to carpool to shows that are farther away, and they’ll feel better if you’re with a group of people.
Get involved using the internet
You can do anything from at home infront of a computer. Look at me for example- I created this website, and this post that you are reading right now. There are TONS of opportunities to get involved online, and you don’t need to live near anything urban. Join a street team, and kill all of their online campaigns. Offer to help a band with their twitter. Do you have a favorite magazine or photographer who doesn’t have a tumblr to help promote their work? Message them, and ask if you can start up a tumblr page for them. They may be reluctant at first, but if you show them that you work hard, and get a significant amount of followers on board, you will be opening the door for more opportunities to help out. If you’re a photographer or writer, promote you work by creating a website for yourself.
Start something with your school, propose an idea
Do a music related research project through your school. Propose an idea, and use their resources to your advantage. Your research will help promote awareness of the lack of a music scene your town has. Once more people are interested, it will become easier for you to create content. Find the answers to questions you wonder about the music industry. Poll kids and ask how many of them illegally download music and why.
General tips/ideas no matter where you live:
Make your own opportunity
I touched on this before, but if you don’t have an opportunity one of the easiest ways to get involved is to make your own opportunity or job. Find a site that needs better web development, and offer your service for free. Make a tumblr for your favorite local band. Offer to screen print shirts for a local band at a low cost. Look for gaps, and fill them in with your skills. The other way to do this, is to think of an original idea and make it happen. That is how WATK started.
Put in the work yourself. One of my pet peeves is when kids go on tumblr and blow up photographer’s ask boxes with questions about what specific lenses to use with different lighting. WHY ARE YOU ASKING THESE QUESTIONS??? You are never going to learn for yourself or get better if you can’t figure it out on your own. That applies to everything. Before you ask a question, put in the research and figure out the answers, or engulf yourself with new experiences to figure out the answers yourself. Don’t ask online if somebody can help you find companies or internships in your area. Go on google.com and figure it out yourself!! Seriously!
Creep/know who people are/follow their twitters
This sounds weird, but it is extremely helpful to have a sense of who some people are and what they do in this industry. Find some hard working people and follow them on twitter. Twitter is a less intimate way of figuring out what people do, and who they work for. If you have a sense of who people are, when you go to a show with touring acts, you can think of more things to start a conversation with one of these people-opening the door for you to ask them questions in person. Don’t necessarily friend them on facebook, unless they accept everyone.
Be confident in yourself
Confidence is very important if you are going to find success and opportunities. The more outgoing you can be the better. This industry is about who you know. The more outgoing and confident you are, the easier it will be for you to make friends and contacts. If are still a bit shy, start small and introduce yourself to people in just your local scene. As you get more comfortable, start talking to people who have a higher status in the industry.
Ask questions, but find your own opportunities
Questions are great, and they are a huge reason why you are going to learn and get farther. However, make sure you are asking the right questions. If you are talking to someone who has a lot of experience, think about what you want to ask or say before you say it.
DON’T WANT TO BE THIS OR THAT
If somebody asks me how they can achieve their goal of having a production internship on the Vans Warped Tour, my first bit of advice would be “don’t try to be a production intern”. Don’t try to be a tour manager, don’t try to be an production intern. Don’t focus all of your energy and time onto on thing. In some industries that might work, but in music things change very quickly, and nobody’s current job is what they thought they were going to do. You are not going to graduate college, and one month later, be a tour manager. I don’t know what I want to do in this industry, and I think that fact alone has been a huge part of my success. It has made me more versatile, and I have learned new skill sets. Sure, there are jobs that look amazing that I would love to have, but my goal is not to have those jobs necessarily. My goal is to work hard at what I do, and create as many opportunities for myself as I can. That way, when the time comes that I can take on a full-time job, or 6 month internship, I will have options to choose from—I will be able to choose what interests me most. And that is extremely important. I work on WATK and I work with EIY because both of those ideas are things I am very passionate about. When I got my job at Brighton Music Hall, in the interview, I literally didn’t even know what my job was going to be—all I knew was that I was going to be working at the venue. I later found out I was working in the box office. I hope you understand my point on this. Just don’t try to be anything. Work hard, and try as many different things as possible so that you don’t pigeon hole yourself.
I hope this was helpful for you guys. I am just speaking from my own experiences, so keep in mind this is my opinion on what you guys should do to become successful and create opportunities for yourself. A lot of it just comes down to who you know, but hopefully if you follow these guidelines, you’ll be meeting people and finding new opportunities in no time!