Posts Tagged ‘Advice’

Recently, I was brought onto a startup company in the music tech world. Was that my plan? No. Do I know much about music tech? No. Am I excited and passionate about what we’re doing? Hell yes.

We’re both first-time entrepreneurs, upper semester music business students, and woefully uninformed on the specifics of running a company such as this. It’s not going to stop us though, because of a number of things that I know to be true of entrepreneurs.

1. Entrepreneurs Wear Mistakes and Failures Like A Badge

I was talking to a friend of mine about this the other day. We’ve been raised in a world where mistakes are seen as an embarrassment – something to shun and hide in the closet. Entrepreneurs, however, have a completely different mindset, one of pride. The most successful entrepreneurs will brag about their worst mistakes, their biggest failures, and think of them as a rite of passage – one step closer to the goal.

Even hopeful entrepreneurs know they don’t have it all figured out. My business partner and I know that we will be making all kinds of mistakes, but we look at every error as an opportunity rather than a setback. We’ve already learned so much in just two weeks and right now we’re soaking up all the knowledge we can get our hands on.

2. Entrepreneurs Don’t Listen To Naysayers

If someone has an entrepreneurial tendency, they come with a certain attitude of dismissal when it comes to naysayers. Don’t get me wrong, criticism is more than welcome – we rely on outside input and feedback to perfect the vision and product – it’s the critics who don’t even give us a second thought, saying “it will never work” or “you don’t know what it takes to run a company like that” (as if we’re going to let that stop us).

At this point, we’ve received a lot of feedback, most of it positive, a lot of it keeping us grounded in reality. Every day I’m having conversations with musicians, teachers, and entrepreneurs, all of which have given great input and are more than happy to give advice. Those are the people with the most value.

3. Entrepreneurs Are Passionate About Their Company

Another subject that came up the other day with my friend is the motivation behind starting a company. Entrepreneurs can’t be in it for the money. Mostly because it’s likely they won’t be making any for a long, long time, but also because a startup is more prone to failure if the people behind it are in it purely for profit. Passion for – and commitment to – the vision of their company should be the driving factor.

4. Entrepreneurs Are Kind of Crazy

It takes a certain level of insanity to be able to put up with the stress, work 24/7 (we’re working in our DREAMS), and ignore all the signs that say you’ll fail.

But it’s a great insanity. The feeling of bringing something into the world that wouldn’t be there without your hard work is exhilarating. The look you get when you tell people who “don’t get it” what your plans are is priceless. It’s a constant battle, but somehow it never feels like work.

It’s chaotic, methodical, educational, social, stressful, and the most fun I’ve had in my life all at once. I’m excited for every day, and determined to make something great.

If anyone is interested in learning more, sharing their experiences, or giving advice, please email me at musikleigh@gmail.com or leave your story in the comments.

Here are some great articles about entrepreneurship:

http://www.incomediary.com/6-traits-all-entrepreneurs-secretly-have-in-common

http://onstartups.com/tabid/3339/bid/17741/The-11-Harsh-Realities-Of-Being-An-Entrepreneur.aspx

http://ethansaustin.com/2013/01/24/six-stages-startup-lifecycle/

I don’t need to tell you that networking is one of the most important aspects of success in the music industry – I’m sure it’s been rammed down your throat sufficiently without my help. At Berklee, the first pieces of advice given to incoming students include the mantra “network, network, network,” and it comes back time and again in every panel and Q&A session available.

As a more introverted person, it’s difficult to keep up with the amount of networking I feel I should be doing. I’ve spent the past three years pushing myself out of my comfort zone and learning, through trial and error, what does and doesn’t work when networking as a non-extrovert. It’s been rough, but completely worth it. Now I bring to you, networking advice for the introvert:


Baby Steps

All the networking advice out there says to work a room, give out (and collect) cards out the wazoo, send follow up emails, and potentially meet with your new contacts.

I know that this was overwhelming for me. At functions, I’m the wallflower, the one standing near the food or drinks to have an excuse to not be talking to anyone, so striking up conversations with multiple people was incredibly daunting at first.

Instead of feeling like it’s all or nothing, find one person to talk to – you are building your network one person at a time after all. It could be a fellow wallflower, or someone who seems extremely friendly and easy to talk to. If the conversation is going well, definitely exchange information! BUT don’t feel like it’s a requirement. If you don’t find a natural opening, don’t stress about making one.

Also, choose events that interest you or that you feel will yield good results. Instead of attending EVERY event, which will cause networking burnout, you’ll only go to the amount you can handle, and will get much more out of each event.

Common Interests

I rarely strike up conversations with people I don’t feel I can connect with. Luckily, in this industry, if you’re at an event you automatically have something to talk about! Ask them what their involvement is or what they love to do (I find asking people what they do often leads to awkward answers – many people in this industry aren’t doing what they really love just yet). If you can get someone talking about their passion, most of the time you can just sit back and let them lead the conversation.

Utilize Social Media

Social media is a godsend for those with social aversion. A quick Tweet or message on Facebook is so much easier than approaching someone in person. It takes away the fear of stumbling over words and appearing confident. It’s much easier to craft a confident message than a confident demeanor.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people who are at a much higher level than you either! Social media has helped tremendously to level the playing field, and oftentimes musicians and industry professionals respond to every message they receive.

You Don’t Have To Use The Phone

Well, mostly. Luckily, the majority of people today view phone conversations as a time-consuming interruption instead of a necessary way to communicate. If given an option, always email. The only reason I ever use the phone is if the other person insists on a phone call, and that only happens very rarely.

Of course, if it does seem like the better course of action, definitely use the phone.

If I had advice for making it a better experience, I’d share it with you, but phone conversations still vex me.

Bring A Friend

Have an extroverted friend? Bring them to events! I’ve had friends that have essentially been networking wingmen, and it works extremely well. Have your friend start the conversation and chime in when you feel comfortable. If they’re good friends, you can share your trepidations and hopefully they’ll be willing to turn the conversation towards you and what you do in the industry.

Don’t forget that friends ARE your network. Ask them for favors (as long as you reciprocate) and find out if they know people who you may be interested in getting to know.

Push Yourself

Finally, the most difficult part – you have to push yourself. Create an atmosphere where you feel comfortable, and then use that support to push outside of your comfort zone.

The best way to do this is to REFUSE to think about how it could go wrong. People generally like meeting new contacts, and if you show a passion for the industry they’ll see that and appreciate it.


Your network is your way into the industry, whether you like it or not, but there are ways of growing that network with minimal stress.

Links:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/career-transitions/201010/networking-101-introverts

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/self-promotion-introverts/201007/networking-isnt-about-using-and-getting-used

http://www.inc.com/karl-and-bill/networking-for-introverts-3-tips-for-success.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-introverts-corner

Having been here almost two months, I’ve learned a couple things I was woefully ignorant of before. I’m not even close to being a “real New Yorker” (I haven’t even cried on the subway guys), but I can definitely share some knowledge that’s helpful to people visiting or moving to the city.

Getting Around

#1 – Look up (and figure out) subway directions BEFORE you leave

#2 – Know the difference between going downtown and uptown

#3 – Local trains stop at every station; express trains DO NOT

#4 – The traffic on even numbered one-way streets go East; odd traffic goes West

#5 – The city is a grid, avenues go North-South; streets go East-West

#6 – 30-day passes can only be swiped once every 18 minutes

#7 – It takes longer to get there than you think

 

Food Stuffs

 

#8 – There will ALWAYS be a $1 pizza place. And yes, it will be delicious

#9 – The food trucks are better than you think; and cleaner.

#10 – There are restaurants for every culture…don’t be afraid to try something new

#11 – Look at the ratings that are posted on every restaurant; A and B are good, “grade pending” means a failing grade…

#12 – If you’re on a budget, stick to bagels and small falafel places, or cook at home

#13 – Mid-town is full of tourists and the prices rise accordingly

Staying Safe

 

#13 – Don’t walk alone

#14 – If you must walk alone, stick to popular streets (a good bet is 2-way streets)

#15 – The Lower East Side is actually pretty safe

#16 – When dealing with catcalls, pretend like you didn’t hear them, don’t look at them, and keep walking

#17 – When in Brooklyn ghettos, put your iPhone AWAY

#18 – Make a wide berth around the more insane-looking homeless, they can be grabby

 

The Music Scene

#19 – Open mics happen in various cafes and bars every night of the week, and they’re a great way to get gigs

#20 – The East Village has the best venues, all within walking distance of each other, a lot them free

#21 – “Free” means there’s a drink minimum

#22 – Just like any other big city, busk whenever you can (even on the subways)

#23 – Play as much as possible, form a relationship with other musicians, and make sure the audience knows where to find your music when you leave the stage

There’s no way around it – if you want to be in the music industry, you’re going to face a lot of stress. You’ll be challenged, questioned, and criticized, and unlike high school, no one’s going to be there to hold your hand along the way. This is, after all, a business, no matter how passionate we are about the art. No matter how much you think you can handle, it’s best to be prepared with some tools to release or reduce some pressure, because that pressure can and will break you if you aren’t careful.

In recent years, I’ve certainly seen my fair share of breakdowns, and been through a few myself. Sometimes, we just have to remind ourselves of a few things…

Learn When To Say No…and Yes

Sometimes shit just builds up, and we’ve been trained from a young age to take advantage of opportunities and do as much as possible ALL THE TIME. Busy means important, busy means dedication. But one person can only take on so much, and you need to learn to distinguish between what will be beneficial to your goals, and what will hold you back and take up time that could be spent more productively. It’s a difficult task, but if you have a clear outline of where you’re going, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to make an informed decision. Anything that isn’t on your path, eradicate from your life as painlessly as possible.

http://www.to-done.com/2005/06/how-to-say-no/
http://lifehacker.com/034642/stop-being-a-yes-man

Time Is On Your Side

With the clock always ticking towards deadlines, it’s easy to think that there isn’t enough of it in a day, a month, a year. However, with some good time management, there’s really a lot more of it than we’ve come to believe. How often are you on Facebook? Checking your email? Texting even? Most of these things can wait, and there have been studies that show that checking Facebook even once* can decrease productivity significantly. Get a journal (or use excel) and write down everything you do in a day – it’s amazing how much the little things add up.

http://shiftingcareers.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/12/5-time-management-tricks/
* http://lifehacker.com/5900796/visiting-facebook-just-once-can-derail-your-productivity

The Mind Is A Muscle

Like a muscle, it needs to take breaks. Constantly flexing your intelligence, concentration, and will power won’t increase their strength, it will deplete it. Of course, it’s imperative that they are used to their full potential, but there should be time every day for a period of rest. Save decisions that require willpower for the decisions that can’t be automatic. Anything that can be automatic – what to eat, when to exercise, any routines – make it that way.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2012/06/18/eight-ways-goofing-off-can-make-you-more-productive/

Keep The Spark Alive

Never forget that you work in an industry of passion. You’re living your dream (hopefully) – not many people are so lucky. It’s an all-consuming industry, sure, but it’s a liberating consumption, one that we choose and embrace whole-heartedly. If ever you feel overwhelmed, pull out the reason you’re here (song, album, band, instrument) and remind yourself how lucky you are.

When I announced that I’m now managing a band in NYC on Sunday, some people (okay one person, I’m not exactly big time here) were curious about the events that led to that decision. Here I’ll tell the tale of how I came to manage them, from first meeting to now, with a sprinkle of advice thrown in (you know how I do).

NMS and Determined Networking

A few weeks ago, I attended the New Music Seminar at Webster Hall and posted about it here. What I didn’t mention was the band from Mexico that I met on the first night, the opening concert.

Before the show, there was a “red carpet” of sorts for all the media to take pictures and do quick interviews. I only had my iPhone so I was mostly there to see who was at the concert and hopefully learn a little more about the seminar. There were a couple bands that walked through that had the potential to play my preferred genre of music, one of which was The Oats.

I am not the most social person. Every outing takes a good deal of energy from me and I have to force myself to walk up to new people and start a conversation. But that’s exactly what I did. The first band did NOT seem interested in what I had to say…they replied with obligation and gave me their card, but they clearly had better people to talk to. Refusing to be deterred, I walked up to the next band in the hopes of, at the very least, getting their information and finding some new music. I didn’t realize I was starting a friendship and a partnership.

The Oats were very enthusiastic about meeting new people (my friend was with me) and we talked for a bit about their sound (The Pixies, The Strokes, The Libertines), their story, and my aspirations in the music business. We exchanged information and went our separate ways.

Networking Tips (Trust me, I know this shit. Thanks Google!):

  • Be Confident – If you don’t believe you’re an interesting person to talk to, no one else will either, and they’ll quickly run the other way
  • Have A Conversation Starter – With those bands, I opened by confirming their band name and inquiring about the genre of music they play. It can be anything from complimenting an article of clothing to asking about their position in the music industry.
  • Focus On Them – People love talking about themselves
  • Get Their Contact Info – Ask for a card, a number, or an email, and make sure not to lose it!
  • Follow Up – Send a quick email saying how great it was to meet them and include an open-ended suggestion to meet or work together

Follow-Up and A Show At Public Assembly

After the New Music Seminar ended, and I actually had some free time again, I sent out a follow-up email saying I liked their music and asking for a list of show dates. Of course, they added me to their mailing list (good move guys) and sent me a free download (and again!) along with their calendar. Naturally, I went to their next show, which was at Public Assembly in Brooklyn. At 8pm on a Sunday. What I’m saying is there weren’t many people there.

Despite the small crowd, The Oats rocked it and made the perfect self-deprecating joke, without making it awkward. They also enlisted the help of a rubber chicken to ask for emails from the audience. I was really starting to like this band.

After the show, my friends and I invited them to hang out back at our place, have a beer, and play some music (as we’re wont to do..). Even with their Mexican accents (meaning language barrier), they fit in with us Berklee kids. Musicians gotta stick together, you know?

The Rest Is History

But I’ll tell you about it anyway. We started hanging out more regularly, talking about their time in Toronto and how the radio stations in Mexico don’t like bands that sing in English, and I just became determined to help them build a fan base here in NYC. I checked out their online presence, gave them a few tips, and promoted shows through my social media profiles. Then, I got them a gig in Boston (THIS FRIDAY AT MACHINE). Occasionally, they’d mention they were looking for a manager, but, seeing as I don’t have any experience, I was resistant to offering my services (I was scared shitless that I’d mess it up).

But, after talking about my experiences with my internships and previous concert planning and promotion, along with all the help I’d offered them and my enthusiasm for their music, they asked me to be their manager. And, as you know, I said yes.

Sign Your First Band (Advice For Aspiring Managers)

  • Go to ALL THE SHOWS
  • Find a small band or two that you really believe in, based on their music and their dedication
  • Introduce yourself as a person interested in music business – and their band (don’t mention management yet!)
  • Prove Yourself – Because you lack the experience, you have to help them before bringing up management…give advice, help with promotion, book them a gig, whatever is in your capabilities to do
  • Mention that you’re interested in managing bands, if they seem interested, talk about how you would help them and let them know that if they need a manager, you would be glad to help
  • Wait – there isn’t much you can do after this without the risk of seeming desperate, so let them think it over and if they bring it up again, you’re golden

So now we’re in the development stages of this collaboration. We made a contract (always do this – ALWAYS), set some goals and guidelines, and are working non-stop to make it all happen.

Sometimes it all feels like a dream. Two years ago, I never would have believed I would be where I am now, or would have gained so much knowledge and so many connections. It’s a surreal feeling living your dream (forgive the expression). I wish everyone had the chance to be in my position, and that’s why I write this blog. I want to share my experiences from my pursuit of success in the music business, and I want those experiences to help as many people as possible, although even just one would make me happy.

If you want to see The Oats play live today at 4pm, check them out via uStream on Rew & Who!

Have a wonderful 4th of July everyone!

Say you’re in school and you only have two, maybe three, more years until you’re pushed into the real world – a place where a degree will not guarantee you a job. You’re best course of action is to find an internship, which can be competitive and difficult to find. So what do you do?

In a word: research. I’ve gathered information from my own personal research, my experiences securing two internships in New York, as well as my peers’ experiences finding their internships, and compiled the most useful and universal guidelines for locking in the perfect company for you.

Plan Ahead

Companies are looking for interns that already have some kind of experience in their field. This may seem unfair to those who don’t have work experience, but there are ways to gain experience that don’t require an internship or hired position. The best way to get experience is through your school and community – Clubs, class projects, endeavors with classmates and friends, etc.

As soon as you know what your goals are, start gaining skills and experience that will help you in your search for internships and employment.

Start Early

Plan to start applying to internships four months before your scheduled start date. That means you should be researching* companies five to sixth months ahead. Many companies begin the intern hiring process early and fill up fast, so the sooner you’re in contact with them, the better.

Remember that it’s better to contact a company before they are hiring than after.

Be Persistent

Persistent, but not annoying. The initial email should include the cover letter in the body (unless otherwise specified) and your resume attached. Be formal, and focus on what skills you can bring to the table.

After the initial email, the accepted wait time for a follow-up is generally a week and a half to two weeks. Often the person in charge of hiring interns is flooded with emails daily, which means they sometimes fall through the cracks. If they don’t respond, don’t assume they aren’t interested; send them a quick reminder (with the original email), and more than likely they’ll get back to you.

Be Interview Ready

I spent HOURS researching how to interview properly. Anything on paper, I’m fairly confident with, but my social skills have taken a long time to develop and are a constant struggle. My best advice is to prepare as much as possible beforehand, and to know the basics, such as:

• Dress appropriately – Overdressing is better than underdressing, but in the music industry, you don’t necessarily have to wear a suit (in fact, it might be better to go slightly less formal, depending on the company)
• KNOW THE COMPANY – I can’t stress this enough…learn everything you can about it; what they do, who they’re associated with, even find out who’s going to interview you and research them personally.
• Memorize your answers – Stumbling over your words is not a great way to make a first impression. Think of a few stories that showcase your abilities and loosely memorize answers to common interview questions.
• Relax! – As difficult as this seems, it can make a huge difference in how you come across to the interviewer. A good tip is to remember that the interviewer is an employee doing their job, and, at one point, they were on the other side of the interview process.

Follow-up

After the interview, be sure to send an email thanking the interviewer for their time. It shows that you are respectful and that you care about the company.

Don’t forget to include an “I look forward to hearing from you,” which can help keep the conversation going.

*Research

Throughout this entire process, you should be looking for companies that are a good fit for YOU. Many times, potential interns focus on what they can bring to the company and filling in their resume, but just as important is the benefits you will receive from the company. If you can, find former interns or talk to employees who work with interns to get a better idea what the day to day will be like. The more information you have, the better match you can make; the better the match, the better the experience.

Some Other Good Advice:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelmatthews/2011/03/31/7-tips-for-internship-preparation/

http://newmusicstrategies.com/2009/05/27/applying-for-your-first-job-in-the-music-industry-7-tips/

http://jobsearch.about.com/od/coverlettertips/tp/coverlettertips.htm

If you have any questions or are in need of advice, please feel free to leave a comment below or email me at musikleigh@gmail.com!

 

Stay tuned tomorrow for a MAGICAL BONUS POST about my recent status as a manager. It’s gonna be awesome.

As someone who really prefers to take on my own projects and would rather work in isolation than with a group of like-minded people, being an intern is a bit of a struggle. There isn’t much choice in the tasks you’re assigned (unless you’re lucky) and a lot of the time there are tasks and projects that have to be split with the other interns. If you work well in this environment, you’ll have no problems. For those of you who prefer a different work situation, I’ve come up with some tips to make the (likely unpaid) internship work for you.

1. Learn From The Little Things

Expect to have a lot of tasks that are time consuming but fairly mindless (more lovingly known as “bitch work”). Taking down messages, updating inventories and databases, running out to get various items, etc. The good thing about these tasks? You can learn a LOT about what really goes into a business. It’s not all about ideas and the “big picture.” All of the tasks that are a little less exciting are essential to making the business run, and even make the company come across as more professional.

2. Don’t Wait Around: Be Proactive

Besides the daily tasks, there are likely projects that you’ll be assigned. Sometimes they are repetitive clerical type projects, but often you’ll get a more creative assignment. There’s actually a lot of opportunity at this point to learn and to prove yourself. If you can come up with an idea for a project that could help the company, you’re a step ahead of the majority of interns. It will also guarantee two things: 1. You’ll get to work on a project that actually interests you and 2. your supervisor will see that you can think for yourself, instead of waiting around for a set of instructions, which goes a long way when looking for a job.

3. USE Their Connections

In all likelihood, the company you work for has a ton of connections in the industry, or they wouldn’t be where they are today. Take advantage of this as much as possible. Any parties, shows, or networking events they host or attend, be in a position to be invited and meet some people! You’d be surprised how many people are as eager to meet (and guide) interns as interns are to meet them. Have a card, and have a smile. It’s hard to go wrong with that.

*The one thing with this is to not push too hard. If it seems like a “staff only” or upper management thing, don’t ask if you can go directly. Also, don’t promote yourself too hard when networking, it should feel like a normal conversation, not a sales pitch

4. Make Friends With Other Interns

They may not have business experience right now, but they are the future of the industry, and it’s always good to have friends who know and trust you. Internships can be competitive, and it can create an atmosphere that fosters animosity, but you can help prevent or reverse that by reaching out and showing that you aren’t a threat. Everyone in this industry has to work together, not tear each other down, if we want to build it up to the giant it used to be.

5. Ask ALL The Questions

Seriously. Your employer and the rest of the workers at the company have so much knowledge. Even if it’s something you’re not directly interested in, learning the ins and outs of the company is essential to succeeding. It shows that you go above and beyond, and (between you and me) can help shine a light on systems in the company that might not be working…which you can then help to fix. End result? They’ll either hire you or find you someplace that will.

I kept it to 5 of the basics, but here are a few articles with a lot more advice:

Internship Success

Advice For Interns