Last week I asked a question on my Facebook page which was:-
“QUESTION! For anyone looking to get a job in the music business. I’m looking for 7 questions that you would like answered as to how to get a job in the music industry. What would you like to know?”
I got a couple of questions back which I thought I would answer in blog form as the answers would be too long for Facebook comments so here there are – incidentally if anyone else has a question that they need help with please post it on my Facebook page and I will answer it for you.
“Does my Master’s degree in music business mean anything?”
I have a Masters and I don’t regret doing it at all. The old adage of “it can never be taken away” from you is very true. However, as a graduate I can understand that one might wonder whether having an MA will get you a job in the music industry and the simple answer is - it depends on the person interviewing you and the person deciding whether you get the job. This is because they aren’t always the same person of course. In my experience there are a few attitudes to higher education in the music industry. One is that higher education is valued and a degree is an extra feather in your cap, another is that a degree has no value at all and then there is the approach that a mixture of degree and experience is of value.
I remember working for a digital marketing agency and one day when walking to a meeting my boss brought up the subject of my first degree. The conversation went something like this:-
Boss “So, what degree did you do again?”
Me “Er… BA (Hons) Commercial Music and then a Masters”
Boss “Oh yeah I wanted to do Commercial Music at the University of Westminster. I applied the year you did. You took that place away from me.”
I think it would be more accurate to say that I was the better choice in the eyes of the university or I wouldn’t have gotten the place. There were other people on that course as well by the way maybe they took his place too? However, it didn’t stop this guy from being a success or employing me and my degrees. I tell this story however to point out that some people may be nervous about your level of education especially if you have more qualifications than them. They don’t always have the confidence and maturity to think “Let me hire this person because they have a bank of knowledge and skills that I don’t have around me right now that I can use.” Some people need to make sure they are seen to be superior in their role. They just aren’t curious enough. They might be worried you will show them up.
Unfortunately, a degree alone won’t guarantee you a job in the music business. This is a combination of a myriad of factors at entry level including your qualifications, experience, how well you get on with the interviewer, your online profile and how well connected you are. However, what you will find is that later on in your career your degrees will become invaluable. So remember that your ability to think critically, understand trends and create your own intellectual property will give you a distinct advantage over the competition, especially should be heading up your own business or the business of a company in the future
A degree is like a large pile of bricks. It has all these building blocks. It is up to you as the architect of your destiny to construct your degree and make it into a fantastic piece of architecture. I don’t just mean that figuratively - you will be writing a thesis which a great place to create the architecture of a fresh theory or business model.
So, you are not wasting your time by doing a degree.
The second question was this:-
Is there ever any chance that I would be employed full-time, or is the future of the music industry short-term projects that have a specific aim and then dissolve?
The answer to this question is “yes” there is. Especially at graduate level, however it this is not the way you want to think as the higher up you get the more “project based” roles become. The music business is being fashioned and re-fashioned due to PESTAL forces (Political, Environmental, Social and Technological) this tends to create a more project based way of working much like Hollywood where people come together for a project and then disperse.
The way you might want to consider thinking is rather than attempting to get that permanent full time job; think about being one step ahead. You want to have a few scenarios mapped out mentally when you are re-planning your career and what roles you might go for, but think about your next step ahead being the right move for you. To stay in work you have to keep moving. Even if you get a “permanent full time position” you need to consider that you have you get through your probation and have a back up plan should that probation fail you. Then you need to consider where you want to move to once you have completed your probation. Yes, that’s right once you have completed your probation start thinking about your next step because it will be a year into the role before you have really worked out what your job is about, where you want to go and what your next step might be so start the thinking on this ahead of time rather than when you are feeling stagnant in the role. And no, you don’t have to have a year under your belt or any amount of time under your belt before you jump ship that is the decision of your future employer not you. I was in one job for 4 months before I went on to Peoplesound.com - sure the previous employer wasn’t too happy about it but hey I got to work for a better firm! I got offered the job on the spot after a round robin interview with 5 people with £5K on top of what I was earning previously and the location beat the crap out of where I was working before. I had a bulging black book and enough experience because it isn’t just your time in a preceding job that counts it is all the experience you have from the day you were born that counts.
Just so you know, it is entirely possible to be made redundant a year into a role so you want to have a plan for that. You really don’t want to be a victim of a spate of redundancies and be out in the market with your colleagues fighting for a few roles. Line it up before hand. Casually talk to the people you would one day like to work for. Sound them out. Get information. I see no harm in telling an admired industry executive that you would like to work with them one day in the future when you have more experience should you have the rapport. This is a bit like making yourself hot property. You want to be the sought after person in your field so that employers come to you not the other way round.
So whilst it is possible to get a permanent full time job in the music business - never stay in a job for too long. You’ll know when it is time to make your move there are signs such as talk of mergers and acquisitions, your boss leaving, redundancies in other parts of the industry or competing firms or questions that you might ask yourself such as “is this all there is?” Look out for clues that people want to hear from you such as senior execs handing you their card.
Keep an eye on the trends, work out your objectives, strategy and tactics based on your environment. Move forward and keep growing - make it your decision to change jobs rather than anyone else’s decision. Get yourself the reputation for being head hunted so that you get offered the roles no matter what shape the music industry is in. ;-)
Leena Sowambur is an established expert in digital music business. She has two music business degrees and ten years in digital marketing and PR. Leena has held roles within Sony, award winning digital marketing agency Outside Line and the pioneering music dotcom Peoplesound where her clients included Universal, EMI and Warner. Leena also has indie sector experience with clients such as Sanctuary, Echo/Chrysalis, Beggars Banquet and Ministry of Sound as well as boutique labels such as Tummy Touch, Warp and Wiiija and Telstar.
Some of the artist campaigns that Leena has worked on include:- Shakira, Longview, Chris Brown, Destiny’s Child, Darren Hayes, Take That, Angie Stone, John Legend, Rod Stewart, Luther Vandross, Paul Oakenfold, Pulp, Pink, 50 Cent, Eminem, Bon Jovi, Empire Magazine soundtrack compilation, The Total Music Mirror Premium CD Giveaway comprising of Pet Shop Boys, Cream, Kaci, Muse, BBMak, Zero 7, Beverley Knight, Cher, Depeche Mode, Oxide and Neutrino; Red Magazine Feel Good compilation including Moloko, Lisa Stansfield and Catatonia; Metro Life Live In London covermount CD including Suede, Basement Jaxx, Turin Brakes and Carl Cox; Instant Music Premium CD Giveaway comprising of Stereophonics, Travis, Marti Pellow, Stereo MCs, Feeder, Shaggy and Gabrielle; Eve Magazine compilation including Groove Armada and The Orb.
Leena speaks all over the country on the subject of digital music business. Events regularly include University of East London, University of Chester, University of Westminster, The Manchester College, London Metropolitan University, Croydon Council, Southwark Council and Portobello Business Centre. She recently spoke at TEDx.
Leena’s business “Positively Music “is a coaching business that helps top music industry organisations create communities of raving fan customers. She is writing a new book called “The Fan Experience” focussed on the music fans’ growing role in the music business with the audio visual product and training courses to match.
You can get the first chapter of Leena’s new book here.
If you want more freebies visit the links below you can get the full report for ” The 7 Big Mistakes That Indie Musicians Make In Music Business” at:-
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Find out more about Positively Music www.positivelymusic.co.uk
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