Make it in the music business (part 2): The notebook

the notebookI went home for summer. I was still a psychology major. I was still working full time, once again as a life guard in my home town of Santa Cruz, for the three sunny months between school years. All my friends that I had grown up came back with stories of new horizons, new mentors, new classes that they were actually excited to take in the fall. I, on the other hand, was working 60+ hours a week to return to my crappy grades, and a possible future of a rental car salesperson. I wasn’t even sleeping in my old bedroom- my sister had moved in the second I had departed to go to Uni. I had been shunted onto a make shift blow up mattress and sleeping bag in the tiny storage room at the end of the hall in the house that I grew up in. I was literally camping out in a bad version of my former life, before I had gone away to conquer the world at college. Tail between legs is an understatement.

One night after work, I was out with one of my friends that I had known for A LONG TIME (at that point, 19, anyone that you had known since like 13 seemed like a LIFE LONG FRIEND. I had known Seb since I was 12, so we were like BESTIES). He had this gorgeous vintage forest green MG convertible. We sat by the beach, and drank beers. I told him about my bleak career path that had been laid out for me by my own colleges career counsellors. I told him about my horrible grades. I was so downtrodden. I really just needed someone, anyone to tell me that I was not completely mad for wanting to pursue 1. Something I loved, 2. Something that was unconventional, e.g. not a doctor, not a lawyer, not a banker, not a GOD FORBID RENTAL CAR SALESPERSON. Sorry to keep harping on this point- but it haunted me. Was I really already written off? Had I already messed up any possibility of any sort of creative and inspiring job? Was it too late? The way that someone in a position of power just completely dismissed me, my ambitions and really, even though I was doing shockingly horrible mark wise, I was working my tail off to put myself through school- and that did not seem to ‘count’ for anything.

Seb thought about all this. He took it all in. He looked out to the ocean, the same ocean that we had surfed in so many times before, the same ocean that we had sat by and talked until the last minute of my curfew for years.  He took a sip of his beer.  ‘Screw them,’ he said. ‘You get a notebook. In this notebook, you write down everything that you find exciting, interesting, inspiring and aspirational about music. Then you figure out how it is- like how it becomes a thing. How a show is booked. How someone gets on the radio.’

Just someone listening, someone taking this idea of working in music seriously, was a huge, huge relief. It was a turning point. I could do this. I would do this.

So I got a new notebook. It was not anything special. It was a spiral bound. I started writing down everything that I thought of that could be music related.  ‘MTV VJ’ – this was when MTV still played a lot of videos.  ‘Radio DJ.’ ‘Music Writer.’ ‘Show Booker.’ I had no idea how or where to begin researching these seeming dream jobs. But I had written them down. I had started.


Jen developed our BA (Hons) Commercial Music course and you can read more of her story in Make it in the music business (part 3): My first music business job.

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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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