I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about jobs in the music world, especially for those who may just be starting out. I hear the voices of my younger siblings, both of whom are musicians in their twenties. They were very nervous and anxious after finishing school (both completed masters degrees in music recently). They said, “All of the job descriptions say they want someone with experience, so they won’t hire me. But, if I can’t get a job, I’ll never get the experience they want.” I can certainly understand the dilemma. So, how can one begin a career in this seemingly unsolvable “experience puzzle?”
I think back to my very first job, which was at my alma mater. I was looking for something—anything. I was visiting my best friend on campus, and she said, “Just go into that office—they have jobs.” It was the Conference and Events office, and I was lucky enough to be hired on the spot for a job with the college’s summer music programs. I said to the woman interviewing me, “When do you need me to start?” She quickly replied, “Yesterday.” Well, I think those days may be long gone since the job market is so tight, but there are a few things I learned from the experience.
That first job was classified as “full-time part-time,” which meant it was full time, 40 hours a week, but for part of the year. Yes, I remember telling my younger brother that he needed to gain experience, but that it might come from temping or from jobs like my first one, which was only for 6 months of the year. Also, I think back to when I was in college, and I regret not having summer internships or even volunteering with different organizations at home during the summer. The key is to follow your heart and do what you love—and get some experience.
So, if you are interested in a job in the music world, whether it is in the arts or the music business, there are a couple of things to do. I worked as an arts administrator for several years with orchestras, operas, and youth music programs. About four years ago, I went to the “other side of the fence” as I like to say. I accepted a position with the largest manufacturer and distributor of band and orchestral instruments in the U.S. (I actually played one of their brands as well). Now I am with another company, and I have traveled to the NAMM show over the years. I was asked by music business program directors if our companies needed interns for the show. Aha! Magic bell. Seems a bit odd, since you may think of an internship as a summer-long program. But, there are opportunities where even a few days or a week can bring you critical experience that can be your “foot in the door.” At the very least, it is EXPERIENCE that you can add to your resume.
Not everyone may be enrolled in a music business program, so regardless of where you may be, the best thing to do is ask—and realize that experience does not have to mean a paid, full-time job. If there are no jobs available at your local music store, or with any music/arts organization that can pay, just ask to volunteer. “Make” your own niche – perhaps offer to teach lessons with an after school program or with your local community center. If you enjoy performing and have friends closeby, form an ensemble and create your own “concert series.” There are so many possibilities, and they all count as experience. Just realize that it might not be paid experience at first, but it will help you connect with people and give you the opportunity to do what you love, which can eventually land you that job with a music store, and then a larger music company, and… perhaps to will ultimately own your own business. Every experience counts. Stay humble. Don’t think a part time job at a music store is meaningless. Don’t shrug off being a music camp counselor. If you are a musician, and you are part of the music making/buying/selling/teaching process, it counts.