How to Get A Job in the Music Industry. Chapter Two. Why Geography Matters. This is your music industry geography lesson. On the map in the book are the most important cities in the United States for the combined music and entertainment industries: New York, Nashville, and Los Angeles.
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This is your music industry geography lesson. On the map in the book are the most important cities in the United States for the combined music and entertainment industries: New York,
Nashville, and Los Angeles.
Certainly, for the record business in North America, these cities represent the top of the mountain. If you aspire to make it to the top, at some point you’re going to go to one of these three cities. So if you’re recording, if you’re a songwriter, if you’re an engineer/producer, or if you’re going to work for a label, sooner or later you will be living or working in one of these three regions.
Don’t despair if you aren’t living now in one of the major cities. If you live in or near Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami, Boston, Austin, St. Louis, Denver, Memphis, Houston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, or another good-sized metropolitan area, you can develop an excellent skill set and put it to use in the regional music industry. For instance, you might work at an indie label, or with a radio station, or learn how to make a great-sounding recording at a studio, and then build up your skills without having to be in such a big shark tank where there is such intense competition that you need a fully developed skill set along with buckets of ambition and drive to succeed.
Rather than jumping feet-first into one of the top three music markets, its an excellent strategy to work in a smaller market to really learn the basics of how the industry works. It may be helpful to work with a concert promoter, a booking agency, or other related firm in your area of interest. One day, you will feel that you have outgrown your situation and that you’re ready to take the next step in your career development.
When my former students tell me they are ready to make their move to the big markets, I suggest they visit first.
I encourage them to take two weeks off from their current job, travel to one of the major markets, and rent a room or stay with a friend to do some networking and some interviewing. You need to make sure that you’re ready to go on to the next level. Moving to one of the top markets is expensive, and it’s emotionally intense. Check it out before you pull up your stakes and jump in. You have to have your eyes open before you take the plunge. Prepare yourself to succeed when you make your move to one of these three regions. Those are the practicalities of music industry geography.
Pick one of the three major entertainment capitals and research the following information:
1. Identify three firms in your chosen city that have business operations in the area of the industry that most interests you. For instance, if you are planning to work in entertainment marketing, you might identify the marketing department at a record label, concert promoter, and a radio or TV network.
2. Using a localized resource such as Craig’s List, look up the cost to rent an apartment or a room in a house or apartment.
3. Next, make a short list of your current living expenses. Replace your current rent or housing costs with what you’ve researched on the major market.
4. Finally, think about whom you currently know that might provide an introduction to a working professional in the city you’ve chosen to research. Finding a “local expert” is an important step toward learning about the actual working situation, job market, and cost of living in one of the major markets.
In my career development classes for the music industry, my students ask, “What jobs are out there, in addition to songwriter, musician, or recording engineer?” Look carefully anywhere that music or sound is needed, and you’ll discover dozens of jobs to investigate. The list at the end of this chapter reveals just a smattering of the hundreds of jobs in our industry. Affiliated music and sound careers abound in the film, theater, and educational arenas. Education is an often-overlooked career path, but it’s essential, because if no one is learning how to make or appreciate music, there won’t be any music-and certainly many less savvy music consumers.
Television and radio, computer hardware and software, video games, and theme parks. At Disney, rather than calling their audio staff, “engineers,” they call them “imagineers.” I like that terminology. Think of all the sounds that are at a theme park such as a Disney or Universal Studios location. Imagineers not only create the sounds, but they also design the playback systems and keep the sound running around the clock.
Mobile audio, recording equipment, the latest concert sound equipment, recorders, compressors, reverbs, amplifiers, mixing boards, and microphones. Someone has to imagine, design, and build them all. Perhaps you’re interested in music publishing or journalism?
Or what about working at a record company, as it will have all the positions of any other going business, from mail clerk to president. You will soon read about careers in recording studios in much greater detail.
Do you know what a “Foley artist” does? A Foley artist recreates the background sounds in feature movies, such as an Indiana Jones epic. When the actors are running through the jungle, the sound of the actors running wasn’t recorded while they were filming. All of those sounds you of the hyenas, the tropical birds, the footsteps, body hits, punches, doors being opened and closed, even the sounds of bedclothes or curtains rustling in a breeze. It’ a fascinating field, and the artists who do the work are in great demand.
If you go see a low-budget movie, then perhaps most of the Foley and sound effects are coming out of a sampling keyboard or computer that plays back sounds from a digital sound effects library. But when you see a movie by Peter Jackson, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, James Cameron, or other mainstream Hollywood directors, Foley artists have added the Foley work the old-fashioned way. If you listen very carefully to both types of films, you will hear that the old-fashioned way sounds most realistic.
For the sound of the T-Rex in the film JurassicPark, a team of sound designers at Skywalker Sound spent days developing that one growl to make believable. After all, who really knows what a T-Rex growl sound like? But the sound they imagined, and then created, has a strong impact.
Music editor, sound editor, singer, songwriter, personal manager, publicist, music video director, record producer, and videogame project manager. For example, a project manager plays a huge role for a software company like Electronic Arts or Sony. These firms have twenty, thirty, or more project managers on staff, managing teams and developing new games.
On each team, there are programmers, writers, consultants, digital artists, cinematographers, sound editors, composers, sound designers, and budget analysts. A complex interactive videogame has to come together in a precise manner. The project manager is the person responsible for making sure it’s al rolling forward and will make the target dates.
Music editor, music librarian, orchestrator, and copyist. What do copyist do? They copy music notation. Computers using music notation software, generate more and more music scores. But copyists can also arrange music used by bands, symphonies, or orchestras for films, television commercials, music dates, and the like.
Newcomers to the music industry have often been attracted to the field by the glamour of a particular job or artistic pursuit. There are thousands of successful recording artists, and there are at least fifty support people behind each one, many in high-paying, exciting careers. They may not share the spotlight on stage, but they have very rewarding careers in the music industry.
In the resource section at the end of the book is a listing for two books that provide snapshots of many different jobs that relate to our industry: Career Opportunities in the Music Industry by Shelly Field and 100 Careers in the Music Industry by Tanja Crouch.
Field’s book details job descriptions, salary ranges, and necessary skills. Crouch’s book is much more intimate, using first-person interviews with many leading professionals to profile exactly what they do in their work and how they got their start in the industry. Each book compliments the other. I recommend you find a copy of each and keep them handy to see the diversity of music industry jobs. Many libraries may also have a copy of these books. Also, if you are enrolled in a college or vocational program, your school may have a career day where local professionals visit and talk about what they do every day in their jobs.
Getting to know about the variety of jobs and what kinds of skills and aptitude are required for each is one of the most important activities you can undertake!
How can you find out if you are well suited for a job if you don’t know what it takes to do it well?
After reviewing some of the general fields listed below, as well as a few specific jobs, start your own list of jobs that most intrigue you. Keep your list handy in your Career Binder (You have started your Career Binder, haven’t you?)