By Aisha Winfield
It seems like a simple question that should have a simple answer. If I want to be a manager, producer, songwriter, or executive in the music business how do I get started? The advice that I hear time and time again from executives at every level in the business is to take the path of Puffy and begin as an intern. As an aspiring music executive you should try to gain some experience in a few major areas of the business: Recording, Marketing & Promotions, Distribution, Retail, and Performance.
As a high school or college student in New York or Los Angeles that might be easy, but what if you live in Philadelphia or St. Louis. How do you find out about internships in the music business? Your first call should be to the area radio stations. Every major city has a radio station and they are always looking for interns to work in the office or as a part of the promotions team. Don’t just contact the major radio stations, but also call the community and college radio stations about opportunities. Your objective is to get your foot in the door and learn as much as possible.
Obtaining an internship at a local studio might be a little more difficult. Try working at a store that sells production equipment. This will help to get you up to speed on the latest technology, and ultimately make you an asset to any producer or engineer.
Working at a record store can give you some insight on how music distribution and retail sales works. As a future recording artist or executive it is important to know how to get your music to consumers. As music sales begin to shift with legal downloading and online record stores, it is important to study the trends and new developments in technology.
Another opportunity that is overlooked is volunteering at your local theater. Think about the last concert that you went to… someone sold you the ticket, someone escorted you to your seat, someone was behind the scenes working the lights, someone was controlling the sound, and there were volunteers assisting with these behind the scenes tasks. Jill Scott has often mentioned that she learned a lot by being a stagehand in the theater.
Now once you secure your internship there are 4 key things to remember:
BE PROFESSIONAL – This is your opportunity to learn and to make an impression. As an intern you are often asked to do small and seemingly unimportant tasks. Make sure that you do whatever task you are given 110% so that when more important tasks are provided you will be asked.
YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO ANYTHING – Don’t expect to meet celebrities, get free tickets to concerts, or even to be hired after your internship. Although those can be some of the perks of hard work, it is not promised. Always be appreciative if you receive gifts, but don’t expect them.
STAY FOCUSED – Your goal is to learn and make a good impression. You want people to remember you as a dependable, hard-working, and self-motivated intern.
ASK FOR FEEDBACK – At the end of your internship request a brief meeting with your supervisor. Begin the meeting by saying thank you for the opportunity. Ask for specific feedback on what you did well and what you can improve. Don’t take any feedback personal, but use it to your advantage.
For more information on internship opportunities visit www.yestojobs.org, www.sonymusic.com/about/jobs.html, and www.mtvncareers.com. Also check out the books “From Intern To President: Make It Happen” by Kevin Lyles and “Best 109 Internships” by Princeton Review
Note: I got my start in the music business as an intern at the Sony Music Entertainment Minority Summer Internship Program.