There are a million paths to success in the music industry, but few are as proficient for professionals as landing a meaningful internship. A great internship can not only provide someone with the tools to understand their desired role but can also provide invaluable networking opportunities with industry figures who may otherwise be out of reach.
The problem is, there are far fewer internships in the world than there are music business hopefuls. More concerning still is the fact many of those internships are largely pointless, by which I mean they offer no knowledge or training to prepare individuals for the careers they seek. These internships are seeking free labor, often to fulfill mindless tasks they deem themselves too important to be bothered with themselves.
It is easy to understand how difficult it could potentially be to find and secure a mutually beneficial internship that provides essential knowledge for the recruit, as well as useful help to the employer. The opportunities are limited, but the same does not apply to your potential for success. All you have to do is rise above the competition, and that begins by following these seven tips:
Prove yourself to be a good self-starter
What do you want to be? A manager? A publicist? Perhaps a marketing expert of some kind? Whatever the answer, seek opportunities to develop this skill in your daily life. Align yourself with regional talent and offer your services, novice as they are, for free. Similarly, you could offer to help promote a local venue or radio station. The size of the business and the genre it caters to does not matter nearly as much as simply gaining experience. The basics tools for success are the same regardless of the market, and the know-how needed it best acquired through action. Don’t wait for opportunities, create them.
Word processing applications have made it incredibly simple for practically anyone to string together a coherent sentence. Programs like Word and Pages use algorithms to detect our mistakes, bring them to our attention, and – more often than not – provide immediate solutions. Taking advantage of this assistance might seem obvious to you, but for countless individuals, it is not.
Every message you send and status update you send reflects who you are as a professional in the music business. Proper language and grammar is a must if one seeks to be taken seriously, and lucky for us we live in a time where there are new tools and applications available daily that exist solely to improve our skills. Grammarly (https://www.grammarly.com/), for instance, takes the helpful assistance of Microsoft Word and enhances it with an expansive library of grammatical checks and balances. It’s free to use, so there is no excuse not to give it a try.
Don’t bore us, get to the chorus
Keep all messaging and application short. A two-page resume may make you feel accomplished, but unless every item listed pertains to the internship you’re applying for it is way too long.
The same applies to cover letters. Reading these letters can cause as much pain for the employer as writing them does for applicants, but that doesn’t have to be true. A short message that is both personable and informal can stand out from a sea of people overcompensating for lack of confidence (which you may also possess, but the employer does not need to know that).
Metal Blade Records once brought on an intern who applied using a resume printed with blood red ink on black paper using a legible heavy metal-themed font. That is a perfect example of an applicant who not only knows their employer but also understands how to appear confident. A resume like that stands out, and it leaves an impression that can often be more meaningful than a GPA.
Always have a backup plan
Ask any music professional who has been in the industry for five years or more where they have worked, and 99% will tell name two or more employers. The turnover rate for professionals at every level is high, even in a niche industry like promotional distribution, so it is vital that every person working in music be prepared to find new employment at a moment’s notice. Our industry relies on consumers, and try as we might there is no way to predict what will happen in the next two, five, or ten years. Things changes, and as a result, we too must change.
Your dream internship may not materialize, but that does not mean you should not seek a meaningful internship. Aspiring professionals should approach internships like college applications, with multiple opportunities being considered simultaneously. The smart move is to apply to every opportunity that feels right, await responses, and then proceed from there. It is possible (even likely) that your dreams won’t come together precisely as you imagined, but that does not have to stop you from having a successful and lasting career in the industry.
Start now, but only if you’re ready
Internships are seasonal. If it’s March when you’re reading this, then there are already people applying for – not to mention securing – summer positions. You should be doing the same, but only if you have the materials needed. If your resume and online profiles are not ready for professional review, there is no shame in delaying until the fall or winter months. It is better to present yourself to the best of your abilities than to squander an application with something that does not accurately reflect your talent or professionalism.
Be persistent, but not annoying
There is no reason to believe someone will reply to your application within one hour or even one day of receipt. Most internships are decided by more than one person through a process that involves several internal conversations and at least one formal interview. Any employer with working for is not going to rush the decision of who becomes their intern. Potential applicants should wait no less than three days before following-up on an application and no more than five days. The goal when checking in should be to make your presence known, but not felt. You want the employer to be curious, but not pressured. Just breathe. It’ll be okay.