Make it in the music business (part 1): We don’t do jobs like that.

we don't do jobs like thatI went to a very academic, highly ranked University in my native California. In the US, you have to ‘declare’ a ‘major’ at the start of your fourth year of high school, when you are 17, or sometimes even 16. I remember totally stressing out about this- I was still getting used to driving, for goodness sake, my curfew was still 11pm, and now you want me to choose the MAJOR that is going to steer the entire career path that I am doing for like the REST OF MY LIFE!?!?  It was seemingly huge and unbearable and scary. After some thought, I just put down ‘psychology.’  Wasn’t really sure what it meant, or what it would entail, but hey ho, I had no other ideas.

So I get to Uni. I drink a lot of beer. I am working full time to pay for my tuition fees. I am not enjoying the entry level psychology classes.  All my money that I have left after getting my weekly supply of super noodle (I was so poor during this stage, that I used to literally get a loaf of day old bread, and dip it into BBQ sauce and call that a meal) went to going to shows and buying records. Even if it meant forgoing the BBQ sauce and literally, like some sad Charles Dickens character, eating only stale bread for a meal.

At the end of my freshman year (that is what we call the first year of Uni in the States), I was bloated from beer and bread, broke and almost flunking out of school. While all of my pre-med and pre-law friends were excited about all of the new ideas and knowledge they were obtaining in their classes, I just could not get engaged or truly motivated to even get up and go to mine. Here I was working my butt off to pay a tuition for a course that I was not even excited about NOW let alone the possibility of an ENTIRE LIFE TIME of having to do this totally uninspiring (for me) job. My pals were thrilled with the possible road unfolding in front of them, of opportunities and new things and the glimmer of what could be.  I, on the other hand, felt most alive and happiest when I was blasting a new record, or in the mosh pit at a gig. I wished that I could somehow figure out how to work in this- this place of music.

So, I did what all my friends suggested- I went to the career centre on campus. They looked at my abysmal grades for psychology. They looked at my CV, which was filled with oh-so-California jobs- pool lifeguard, beach lifeguard, swimming teacher.  I told them, I love music. I love going to record stores. I love going to shows. How can I make this a job? IS there a job? What should I be studying at Uni?

I may as well have announced that I wanted to set up a Breaking Bad style crystal meth lab right there in the middle of the career centre and start producing snuff films as a side project- the look of disgust, horror and dare I say, belittlement that I got was unreal. ‘We don’t do jobs like that. There are not any careers in that sort of thing. Maybe you should think more along the lines of working at a rent-a-car agency? Then you could have a nice car every other year.’ Somehow, at age 18, my high falutin Uni had already advised me that 1. There were no jobs in the area that I wanted to be in, 2. Smart, thoughtful people would not go into such a industry, 3. I was doomed to work at a rental car agency (not that there is anything wrong with rental car agencies- it was just a very ill advised idea for me).  So, one year in to college, I found myself longing for a job that I did not know existed, without any sort of idea or guidance as to how to even go about thinking about starting it. I felt utterly alone. I desperately wanted to follow my passion, but literally felt like it was a stupid, fantastical thing to even dream of.


Jen developed our BA (Hons) Commercial Music course and you can read more of her story in Make it in the music business (part 2): The notebook.

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Originally from California, Jen spent her early career working with a variety of big name record companies before becoming the West Coast Marketing Director for Interscope Geffen A&M Records at the age of 25.

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