Make it in the music business (part 3): My first music business job

my first music business jobThis was the 90s. We did not have cell phones. Long distance, cross country calls were still expensive. To get a phone number that was not in the local directly, you would dial ‘0’ for operator, of course after you had figured out what the area code was and where something was located. I rang, no pun intended, up a bill of $40, which was a LOT OF MONEY for me then, just in trying to figure out where MTV was located (I knew it was New York, but WHERE in New York? What was that pesky area code?), then trying to get the phone number of someone, anyone, who would talk to me about interning there.

That was the thing to do- and still is: to intern at places that you are interested in, or seem like potential opportunities of places you may want to work in the future.  The problem is, MTV, and so many other places, I later found out, wanted you to have some ‘experience’ in the industry, e.g., already having had worked or done some sort of interning before you applied to be an intern for them. So here I am, working full time, going to school full time, how do I possibly get experience interning for a place that I want to intern at?  It seemed super hopeless- yet I felt strangely empowered, as instead of drowning my seemingly bleak future in the bottom of a keg of beer at some random fraternity party that I may sneak into on the weekends, I was actively DOING STUFF to figure out WHAT TO DO. And just doing that felt good.

I started looking around the small college town that my University was located in. There was a university radio station, where people interviewed bands. There was an events council where the students, with the help of a ‘real adult’ (read: non-student) put on shows. We had a school newspaper, where some of my friends were WRITERS, and got GIVEN tickets for shows to review. For each of these possibilities, I put myself forward. I cold called, I randomly stopped in, I took on anything that was offered. Grave yard shift sorting records for free at the radio station? I AM THERE. Putting additional loo roll in the venue toilets- SIGN ME UP. Nothing was below me, or too small, or too, well, seemingly irreverent. I learned that the loo roll and having sorted albums were important parts of the overall smooth running of each of the places that I was volunteering my time. My goal was to make myself indispensable. Eventually, I was helping book gigs- the biggest one being Faith No More. Having my picture taken backstage with a band I had loved for a long time was amazing; but more incredible was being a part of the process of getting the band there, booking the show, doing all the marketing for the gig.  It was just as fun and exhilarating as I had hoped for.

One day, during my grave yard shift (it took a LONG TIME to get a decent time slot at the radio station), one of the other DJs tossed me a flier that had been sent in. Sony Music was looking for a College Marketing Rep. The job would be creating marketing and promotion campaigns for Sony bands, going to gigs, bringing bands to interviews. It paid!!! A grand total of $60 a week. PLUS I GOT A FREE PHONE CARD! FREE LONG DISTANCE! Like the MTV gig, you needed previous experience to even be considered. By this point, I had more than six months of work placements under my belt. It seemed like a HUGE HUGE HUGE glamourous job, too big, too amazing for someone that just half a year ago was kipping in a sleeping bag in their own childhood home. But damn it, SOMEONE had to get the job…why could that someone NOT be me?


Jen developed our BA (Hons) Commercial Music course and you can read more of her story in Make it in the music business (part 4) : The resume.

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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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