I talk to A LOT of people who want a job in the music business. But, most of them never act on it because, in their own words “don’t know how to get a job in the music business.”
Let me start by saying that making up excuses and listing all the reasons why you can’t make it happen are NOT going to help you.
I get it. Music industry jobs are coveted and in-demand, but you have as good a chance as anyone to land that dream job. As simple as that sounds, it’s true. Music related companies are no different than other companies. They need graphic designers, accountants, janitors, customer service reps, managers, etc. If you’re looking for a job that allows you to sit around and play drums all day, you may have to create your own company. But if that’s not in the cards, keep reading.
Most people never attempt to apply for employment because they think there’s too much competition. The truth is, there’s less competition at the top.
The following is an excerpt from Tim Ferris’ “4-hour workweek” to explain the concept in more detail:
I was offering a round-trip ticket anywhere in the world to anyone who could complete an undefined “challenge” in the most impressive fashion possible. Results plus style. I told them to meet me after class if interested, and here they were, nearly 20 out of 60 students.
The task was designed to test their comfort zones while forcing them to use some of the tactics I teach. It was simplicity itself: contact three seemingly impossible-to-reach people — J Lo., Bill Clinton, Warren Buffett J.D. Salinger, I don’t care — and get at least one to reply to three questions…
Of 20 students, all frothing at the mouth to win a free spin across the globe, how many completed it?
Exactly… none. Not a one.
There were many excuses: “It’s not that easy to get someone to…”, “I have a big paper due, and…,” “I would love to, but there’s no way I can…” There was but one real reason, however, repeated over and over again in different words: it was a difficult challenge, perhaps impossible, and the other students would out-do them. Since all of them overestimated the competition, no one even showed up.
According to the default-win rules I had set, if someone had sent me no more than an illegible one-paragraph response, I would have been obligated to give them the prize. This result both fascinated and depressed me.
The following year, the outcome was quite different.
I told this cautionary tale and six out of 17 finished the challenge in less than 48 hours. Was the second class better? No. In fact, there were more capable students in the first class, but they did nothing. Firepower up the wazoo and no trigger finger.
The second group just embraced what I told them before they started, which was…
Doing the Unrealistic is Easier Than Doing the Realistic
From contacting billionaires to rubbing elbows with celebrities — the second group of students did both — it’s as easy as believing it can be done.
It’s lonely at the top. 99% of the world is convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre middle-ground. The level of competition is thus fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time- and energy-consuming. It is easier to raise $10,000,000 than it is $1,000,000. It is easier to pick up the one perfect 10 in the bar than the five 8s.
If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.
— [end of excerpt] —
The main objective is to DO. Apply for that job, network in the right circles, call in favors, etc. The same way you’d work towards getting a job at Amazon or Google is the same way to approach getting a job in the music business. It may take a few years and you may have to challenge your comfort zone, but 80% of the equation is just showing up. Or, in this case, applying.
Maybe you don’t have a strong resume or maybe you’re a hustler and don’t like to sit around and wait. Here are a few ways you can accelerate the process.
1. Start something
There are plenty of opportunities to start a website, blog, podcast, etc about the industry you’re interested in. I’ve had a ton of employment opportunities in the music business since I launched Drummer’s Resource. DR has opened many doors to consulting with big drum brands, working with smaller music companies, passes to networking events and much more. By creating your own “thing” it gives you a reason to email, call, and network with people while avoiding the “can we meet for coffee so I can pick your brain” email.
2. Play the long game
Start building relationships as soon as possible. The music business, like any other industry, is all about who you know. If you’re a graphic designer who has been friendly with someone for a few years and they’re looking for a graphic designer, guess who they’re going to call. Example: Four years ago I was sitting at Starbucks and I read an article about a local drummer, Dylan Wissing, who had just won a Grammy Award. I emailed him, asked if I could check out his studio and chat drums. Over the past few years we’ve become friends, have worked together on many different projects, and Dylan even recommend me for two consulting gigs. Yes, it took four years, but I invested in the business relationship and gained a good friend out of it too.
3. Don’t generalize
If you’re sending form letters to every company and spamming their social accounts by tagging them, along with every other drum company you can think of, please stop! This is a small industry and everyone knows what you’re doing (or trying to do). Do yourself a favor and be original. Make your message specific to the company your contacting. You’re looking for a JOB…not a shout-out on Twitter. Before anyone takes you seriously you have to take yourself seriously. Be professional and be personal. Think about how well you respond to spammy, form-letter content directed at you. That’s how you look to companies if you’re doing the same thing.
4. Leverage your strengths
Everyone is good at something. You may be a great web designer, writer or accountant and you should use that to your advantage. If you have the ability to create compelling videos it may be an asset to someone’s company. You may be such an amazing drummer that you can be the poster child of a brand and help them sell a million drum kits. Or you may be a great copywriter who can craft a company’s story so well they sell a million drum kits from your ads — same outcome, different angles. Play to your strengths and don’t try to be someone you’re not. I have strong business skills…that’s what’s given me an edge in the drumming world. It’s not because I’m the most amazing drummer anyone has ever seen — and I’m ok with that because it’s who I am.
5. Work for free
Yes…work for free. I understand this isn’t the sexiest tactic, but it works all the time. You start as a volunteer and your services become so valuable that they hire you part-time or full-time. As long as you continue to produce good work you’ll continue on a path to transitioning to a full-time position. A prime example is Justin Thomas. Justin reached out to me and offered to produce the podcast for free because he believes in the mission of Drummer’s Resource. I was extremely appreciative (I still am) and last month I was able to offer Justin a monthly salary to continue to work with me. The goal is to bring Justin on as a full-time employee at some point. (Click here to thank Justin for his amazing work on the podcast)
6. Network your ass off
Every single opportunity you have to get out there and meet people, do it! Go to PASIC, NAMM, jam sessions, networking events, cold call people, send emails, etc. I’ve literally sent thousands of emails to people I’ve never met. Some respond and some don’t but it’s a numbers game. The harder your work the “luckier” you’ll get. I went to NAMM, alone, for 3 days to meet people. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done but was 100% worth the effort. The relationships I gained that year are still thriving today, including Dave Reid (founder of Boso Drumsticks) who I’ve worked with for the past 3.5 years advising his company. I also consider him one of my best friends on the planet. Ah, the power of networking…or as I call it, “fostering relationships.”
You can sit around and make excuses or you can make things happen. The choice is yours. I hope you’ll choose the latter.