Posts Tagged ‘Music Industry’

In the past 15 years internships have gone from a great opportunity to rise above the rest, to a requirement to even be considered for an interview (and then face rejection in favor of someone with more internships.) Although internships as we know them have been around for a while, there has been a clear shift in their purpose and benefit. In fact, people are getting fed up and have begun fighting back against big companies, including Warner Music Group.

According to Forbes, there are the six legal requirements for a position to be considered an internship:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If these guidelines were followed by every company offering internships, there wouldn’t be a problem. But that’s rarely the case in the entertainment industry. Here are ways companies are screwing over their interns…and anyone new to the workforce.

1. Hiring Interns To Do Unpaid Labor

Companies abuse this power in many forms. The most common is setting their interns up to do infinite data entry, which provides little to no value to an eager college student. More than that, though, it causes them to become bored and disengaged (as it would most anybody,) which is exactly the opposite of what these “learning opportunities” should be doing.

Another, less common but still prevalent, abuse is using their interns for various janitorial or maintenance duties. This is more likely to occur when a business’s revenue is primarily earned through entertaining, such as a venue or a restaurant. For a personal anecdote, I interned for a venue and my daily tasks included cleaning the vents, fixing a plant hanger, scheduling Twitter posts, and removing tape from windows.

As I already had a fantastic, engaging internship, I made the decision to leave the venue internship (even though I was very interested in learning their operations. I tried several times and my inquiries were ignored.) and spend more time in a better environment.

2. Intern Requirements Go Beyond School Experience

This one is particularly frustrating, because the whole concept of an internship is to get experience. If a company’s internship requires candidates to have “a proven ability” to do anything, are an “integral part” of the company, or need knowledge of something they wouldn’t learn in school (for instance, Photoshop for a music marketing intern) it’s not an internship. It’s an unpaid job.

3. Internships Are Indefinite

It’s generally accepted that internships should be kept short – about a semester long. Three months is enough time to gain some knowledge and make connections, but more importantly, that’s the standard because internships usually provide school credits. If you’re in school, and in an internship for longer than a semester, it’s likely not worth your time. Unless you are always learning something new, keep it short. If you want more experience, find a new internship.

4. Entry-Level Jobs Have Been Lost

There once was a time when entry-level meant exactly that. Anyone with a knowledge of the industry and a little bit of experience could find a job at a company, which would then train them for the job. Now, however, entry-level requires 2-3+ years of experience, a difficult feat when coming right out of college. To get this experience, students have to know exactly what job they want when they graduate, and then find internships in that field to rack up experience. Not sure what field is best for you, so you tried a few different areas? Good luck finding a job.

For a similar take on internships, which includes a guide to finding the best one for YOU, check out this SlideShare by Julian Weisser, whom I respect very much, of Ideas Then Lemonade.

Story Time

Three weeks ago, I (and a very kind soul) traveled from central Ohio to the Rockies. It was a little over a 20-hour drive, with the largest stretch of the trip going through Kansas. If you don’t know anything about driving through Kansas, it is one of the longest, most monotonous drives known to man. Probably. There is very little in the way of “civilization,” being mostly filled with grain, corn, and other agricultural endeavors.

No hard feelings, Kansas

At one point in the afternoon, we had been driving for about 8 hours, with 5 more to go, and were running low on fuel. Plus I had unfortunately consumed a little too much Cherry Coke Zero…so we decided it was time for a pit stop. There was just one problem with our plan – Kansas hates gas stations.

We got off at an exit that had a beat up, worn out “gas here” sign. After driving half a mile down the road, we found an equally as worn out station with three old-fashioned pumps. Unfortunately, as we pulled up, we discovered a “sorry, we’re closed” sign taped sketchily in the window.

Back on the highway, and a few bypassed exits later, we repeated this same decision, with eerily similar results. The whole thing left me wondering if Kansas had closed early.

Proving the durability of the human spirit (and because we didn’t really have a choice) we traveled on. Eventually finding exit that took us to a veritable oasis in the middle of the Kansas desert, including a gas station complete with working pumps and bathrooms.

Cheesy metaphor time.

There’s little more frustrating in life than making a decision and having it fail. Whether it’s because you can’t see the path ahead (like on a road trip), are given bad information (that stupid gas sign), or just make a poor judgment call (too much Cherry Coke Zero), it’s a very defeating experience. In the music industry, this is a reality for every band, manager, venue, booking agent, engineer, producer…you get the point.

It seems like it should be common sense: no one can see the future, therefore everyone can make mistakes. But it’s something almost everyone struggles with.

Huskies make everything better

Truth-telling time

Since I’m at a time in my (and most people’s) life when I’m diving into the “real” world for the first time, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the decisions, opportunities, and denials that come along with it.

So my lesson to myself and everyone in my position: Just say screw it, the world will have to deal with me as I am. Fear can take a back burner.

Disclaimer: This is meant to be a critique of my generation (and my generation’s parents/teachers/mentors) as a whole. I fully believe my parents did a wonderful job of raising me and this in no way reflects their parenting style. That is all.

I was born smack dab in the middle of generation Y, which means I grew up amidst a massive shift in parenting techniques – most significantly, my generation was told we could “be anything we want,” and that we should “follow your dreams,” unlike previous generations who had to go a more traditional route or rebel.

At first glance, there is nothing wrong with our parents’ professions that we can take on the world and that all our loftiest dreams are reachable. It was great motivation, and many of us have grown up with confidence and high aspirations. There is a darker side, however. Because there was so much emphasis on boosting our self-esteem and making us feel like we’re special individuals, it’s resulted in a generation of kids who grew up and are currently being hit in the face with reality. Your parents think you’re special? Sorry, that won’t get you into OR pay for college. You want a job? Here’s an internship. It’ll help you get a job. Maybe. You want to be a musician? Okay, play these bars until you can rustle up a fan base, then you can play these tiny venues for a while, then MAYBE you can get a big enough draw for a mid-size venue. Tour? Good luck with that.

This has lead to a common, rather nasty reaction, which has gotten us the unfortunate nickname, The “Me” Generation. Said reaction comes in the form of the dreaded entitlement, and it has tainted my generation with a stereotype of being selfish, lazy, and too good for minimum wage jobs.

We grew up during the “self-esteem” movement, which means we were told that we’re all beautiful, all special, all have value, and often we weren’t given the ability to link self-esteem with accomplishments or anything of meaning other than just…being alive. Due to this shoddy foundation, there is an excess of young adults who are going into college and the real world believing that they deserve to simply be given what they want. We’re called The Me Generation for a reason.

One of the biggest issues where this crops up is that of the internship. Supposedly the gateway to a career, many college graduates have been let down when their one internship didn’t lead to a high-level position right after they walked across the stage and received their degree. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. With the majority of college students taking on one or more internships, the expected level of knowledge and experience has risen. If you want to get a high-level position, you still have to work your way up – there’s no getting around it. The only other way to start off working your dream job is to try your hand at self-employment, which may sound like a shortcut, but it can be far more stressful than working up through the ranks. Unfortunately, Generation Y often doesn’t think that way, which leads to a lot of unemployed, self-righteous grads living at home.

It may seem like I’m being harsh, but I’m not here to condemn my generation – or our parents. What I am here to say is that we all need to step back and take a look at the way we’ve been raised, knock our egos down a peg, and make sure we raise the next generation to be a balance of self-assured and hardworking.

Also, we should all boycott unpaid internships. But that’ll never happen.

It’s difficult to be productive when I visit the place I lived for my first 18 years. A month went by and I didn’t really notice, because “home” feels like some entity separate from my life. But I recently relocated and my brain finally realized it wasn’t being used for its intended purpose (i.e. something other than an 8 hour shift at a sandwich shop and an overdose of movies and hummus.) Welcome back to reality, self!

I also realized I haven’t updated about my life happenings in a while. So here’s a list of life-changing moments I’ve had in the past 3 months, in no particular order:

1. Graduation!

Yep, I completed my last semester at Berklee, celebrated copiously with my family, woke up way too early for the ceremony, and shook the hands of Carole King, Willie Nelson, and Annie Lenox as I walked across the stage at the Agganis Arena. Having stayed up way too late enjoying Boston with my family, I very nearly fainted waiting the four hours before we could sit down, but luckily I made it 😉

2. Production Company

I briefly mentioned a startup company I was working on at the beginning of my last semester. It started out as one thing, and turned into a concert production company. While it didn’t last (mainly because neither I nor my partner will be in the same place come fall,) I learned quite a bit and was able to help out a few local bands on the way. It helped me realize that I would very likely be happy working on the putting together concerts, tours, or even festivals. Which leads me to…

3. Colorado!!!

I got an internship (housing provided!!) in Colorado this summer as a “Special Projects and Marketing Intern” at the Breckenridge Music Festival. This is definitely a completely different universe from NYC or even Boston, but I have always been drawn to the prospect of Colorado and this will be a kind of “trial-run” for that beautiful, mountainous state. Similar to last summer, I will post updates about my time here! First up will be about my cross country trip and first week on the job.

4. Job Hunting

This really began in earnest a couple months ago. Although I wasn’t looking for an internship, as they don’t pay in this industry, I’d rather be doing something I love and working on the side than working full time in a position that flattens my life. Currently I’m looking for a position to take once my internship is complete, and I am open to any place with people who are passionate and want to make great music.

In the meantime, I am starting my career as a freelancer! (and baby/pet/house sitter when needed. Hey, it pays.) If you know anyone looking for copywriting, web content, or social media management, send em my way!

Shoot me an email at musikleigh@gmail.com for more information.

I’m surrounded by musicians all day, every day. I see their struggles, I know their work habits, I understand their passions and beliefs. And we really need to clear some things up…

It’s not easy surviving as a musician. It never has been, it never will be. Most musicians have been told this their whole lives, but instead of accepting that it’s inherent in the career, they tend to look outside the lifestyle and toward those that listen to, sell, or provide services for music and musicians.

1. Record Labels Are Evil, Greedy Bastards

This is the most commonly spouted belief, and it makes sense why. The labels take a massive percentage of sales, leaving you with little. Not only that, but they have screwed over thousands of hopeful artists!

The Realistic View:

Record labels (generally) aren’t non-profit organizations. They need money to stay afloat. To make money, they need highly marketable artists with huge sales profits. Unfortunately, most of the artists they pick up are NOT cash cows, so the ones who are end up making up for the less successful investments.

Reevaluate:

Think of it as a loan. The record label gives you money to make a record, go on tour, etc. which YOU have to earn back. They aren’t there to hand you free money. You’re an investment. Remember that.

2. Pirating Caused The Industry To Collapse (and must be stopped)

That damn Napster had to start the whole file sharing craze and cause no one to ever want to pay for music again. Anyone who downloads music illegally should be fined thousands of dollars to stand as an example to the others.

Slowpoke: enemy of musicians everywhere

The Realistic View:

This is a huge, tangled ball of finger-pointing, advancing technology, human nature, and old-fashioned beliefs that is really impossible to fully evaluate in a short, 4-point blog post. Pirating isn’t the insanely horrible act that (most) everyone in the industry makes it out to be.

I understand that it seems to have led to a steep decline in CD sales (although, for the record, that is highly debated and there are many other reasons that contributed to the decline,) but the fact of the matter is it comes with the territory. People want accessibility. That’s obvious by how technology is always moving toward ease of use, instant connection with anyone all over the world, and access to information. Facebook, Google, Spotify, they all have different services, but they provide one thing that people want – access.

Reevaluate:

Use (most) people’s natural inclination to pirate (because it’s easier) to your advantage. Find ways to extract valuable information, such as an email address, whenever someone downloads your song (on your site, for free) or make it easy to pay for your music. Downloads for donations are a great way to do this. As Amanda Palmer recently brought to media attention, it’s better to “let” fans pay you than to ask them to pay you. Spotify is another great example, because all it takes is one time to sign up and there are millions of songs at the user’s fingertips. Speaking of Spotify…

3. Spotify (or Pandora, iTunes, etc…) Is The Enemy

A newer cliche, this rant came about when the Internet started to find ways to monetize the digital music revolution. Similar to the record label argument, it claims that Internet streaming and MP3 download companies hog all the profits and only pay artists a pittance for their work. You may see where this is going…

The Realistic View:

Spotify is NOT a bottomless pit of money. In fact, right now they are struggling to find a way to turn a profit and stay afloat (although the situation is constantly improving. Perhaps more on that later.) If we focus on Spotify, we can look at how insanely difficult it is to get labels (and their repertoire) on board for a “fair” royalty rate, which leads to a struggle to get advertisement revenue, which means a smaller amount of money to pay labels, which leads to fewer songs…it’s a pretty vicious cycle.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, each play may earn a VERY small amount of money, but artists do get paid for EACH PLAY. If your songs merit many listens, eventually it will add up.

Reevaluate:

The vicious cycle I brought up earlier can easily be reversed. It just takes a little bit of faith and cooperation from labels. If labels trust Spotify and their ability to attract users and advertisement, then Spotify will have a larger collection to work with, which will lead to more people being interested in the service, which will lead to more advertising revenue (and paid subscribers,) which will lead to more label confidence, more songs, more listeners, etc. It can be reversed, and I believe we’re slowly coming around to the right track.

You, the artist, need to focus on using Spotify as a fantastic marketing tool, and get those listens up as much as possible. Do you put your music on Bandcamp or Soundcloud? Spotify is free for possible fans, and it will automatically pay you. Bandcamp and Soundcloud won’t. There is a small fee for getting your songs up there, but with a big enough fan base, it can easily be worth it.

4. I Create Music, I Deserve Compensation

Musicians say that they should be paid because they make music. They spent time and creative energy to put out a piece of work and now they deserve their reward, dammit! People don’t steal coffee right? Why is it ok to steal music?

Let’s really think about this for a minute

The Realistic View:

That statement is unrealistic. Yes, you put time and effort into your music. Yes, it’s shitty when you don’t get paid for all of that effort. But listen, it’s not about how much work you put in – It’s about supply and demand. If people don’t feel that your music is worth paying for, sorry, it’s not. As for the coffee thing…coffee is a tangible object, it is far more difficult to steal a cup of coffee from Starbucks than it is to download a file. It’s apples and oranges really.

Reevaluate:

Again, it’s all supply and demand. Give the fans a reason to pay you for your time – use human nature to your advantage. After the very base needs and safety, humans crave love and belonging. They want to feel like they are part of something and it’s your job to inspire those feelings. Music, at it’s core, isn’t a product for a base need like food or shelter. It is there because we need more than that. It elicits feelings of every kind – joy, sorrow, anger, frustration, understanding, remorse – and YOU are the ones that create it. The fans want you to know how your songs make them feel…but more importantly, they want you to live up to those feelings. To understand them like the songs do.

Make them feel understood and they will give you their last dollar without question.


Musicians do wonderful  and inspiring work. Music has led me through every chapter of my life and will be with me until the day I die. But the fact that you are part of that mystical community that creates art, doesn’t mean that you are exempt from the economy. There is a business behind music and, as much as it may pain your artistic nature, you’re going to have to deal with it if you want to make this your life’s work. Otherwise, maybe it’s better as a hobby.

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/

This week I will be reading syllabi and finding my classes for the last time. My final schedule is set and I’m ready to graduate in May. And I couldn’t be more excited. Really.

Although there is this nagging fear

It’s more than just graduating though. I’ve graduated from things before…middle school, high school, like most people. This is the first time that, when I look at the last day of classes, there is an abyss that is called “The Future.” It’s almost like a cliff waiting for me – I’ve lived for as long as I can remember with the same basic schedule of school, break, school, break, etc. with some extra activities thrown in, but that consistency is going right out the window about mid-May.

It’s bizarre thinking about that change, which I’m sure will feel completely normal after less than a year. I can do anything with my time after I graduate (as of now I have no commitments) and yet I can’t. I have to make the decision to do one thing while deciding to not do the numerous other options that are just as viable. So this semester I’m attempting to find a method to cope with that weighty decision. Here are my thoughts:

1. Decide Short Term

Figuring out the present is always a good idea (duh). What many people don’t get is that you have to choose to do something now to get momentum and be inspired by your progress. By making decisions for tomorrow, next week, and a month from now, you’re setting small goals that you can look forward to.

Currently, I’m planning a ski trip for this weekend, focusing on my classes for this week, and hunting for a part-time job. Oh and I plan out and look forward to a delicious dinner every night 😉

I’ve also decided to take my health into my own hands and do an Elimination Diet, which I’ll get into more in another post as it takes some explaining…

2. Think Long Term

Physically taking the leap and doing something is a great way to get started, but there should always be a bigger plan in place if you want to accomplish your goals – whatever they happen to be. Want to work in the music industry? Go get an internship, you crazy sonuva bitch (because really, you have to be crazy to be in this industry…). Want to be in a financially viable band? Start rehearsing and studying how to actually make it profitable.

I have a few goals for myself as of right now. This summer I am going to take a road trip (hence the part-time job), after summer I will find a job working for a venue in New York or Boston, and eventually I will start my own venue, which I’ve already begun planning. I definitely know this is a lofty goal, but I’ve always been taught that you can’t succeed unless you try…so dammit I’m going to try.

3. Don’t Freak Out (Find People To Help)

There’s not much that’s less helpful than being paralyzed by fear, anxiety, or indecision.  Focus on figuring one thing out at a time instead of peering into the vast chasm of empty space that is your future. Baby steps, my friends, baby steps.

Also, find a handful (or more if you’re an extrovert) of people to be there when you need a friend, a few people who know what you’re going through to be mentor figures, and a vast network of people who can potentially give you advice or opportunities. Focus on meeting friends and get a good foundation, then branch out from there.

I’ve never been one to have a huge group of friends. I generally end up with one to three people I regularly hang out with or talk to and a slightly larger group of people (that are probably friends with my close friends), who I hang out with on occasion. I am totally fine with this. Find what makes you feel most comfortable and do that.

4. Make Decisions For You

I’m just guessing here, but I’d say most people think they do this (myself included). I’ve discovered in my time as a music business student that most people are doing a LOT. Organizing concerts, fundraisers, tech startups, etc. It can be intimidating and frustrating, because really, being surrounded by so much success can seem to diminish the successes in your life if you aren’t careful. I find myself wanting to take on more and more projects, even if they are not directly to the benefit of my end goal. Not such logical decision-making…

Solution? Block everyone and everything out for a while (done). Spend some time figuring out what really interests you (done). Consider every opportunity available to you and evaluate how helpful it will be to reaching your goal (in progress…).

Now be happy for all the other successes around you (and that you’re in such a positive atmosphere) and keep on chugging toward your goal, distractions be damned.

5. Know There’s Always Another Option

In my college career, I have at least dabbled in all the different paths in the music industry. From songwriting, to management, to social media marketing, to music journalism – everything except law basically. Each time I take on a new endeavor I find a new love. It’s always refreshing and I feel motivated all over again. Will I have to pick something to stick with for a while after graduation? Yes. But I know that, if worse comes to worst, I’m not being forced to stay in that field. I’m free to seek out other opportunities or create my own and that in itself can be a freeing feeling.

If you do decide your chosen path isn’t turning out as wonderfully as you imagined, make sure to bow out respectfully and with your reputation in tact. There’s no worse a feeling than forcing yourself to carry on without inspiration and failing your employer and co-workers.

As for me, I will likely always be doing a little bit of a lot of things, and that’s perfectly fine in this industry. In fact, nowadays it’s almost required.

It’s difficult to say exactly where I’ll be and what my life will look like by the fall of this year, but hopefully I can look into that chasm and find my way across.