9 to 5
By Emily Rose Tricker
For anyone that’s interested in pursuing a career in the music industry; great. Seriously, that's awesome. It means that your ambitions are high, because getting a foot in the door is going to be a toughie. But not impossible. If you already have a single scuffed up Clarks original wedged in that battlefield, then I salute you, soldier! Seriously, it's bloody hard!
I myself spent the past six months interning at major record label BMG, who represent artists such as Bloc Party, Alt-J, Bring Me The Horizon, Janet Jackson and the late David Bowie. It was tough, competitive and exhausting, so in an attempt to try and help those in a similar position to myself, I’ve written about my experiences, and composed a list of rules I think will help you in your potential career.
I met some really awesome people during my time at BMG, and was exposed to a way of office life that I'd previously never known to exist! See, for the past five years I’ve been studying creative courses. Radio Production, to be precise. Not once was I faced with an Excel spreadsheet, or enough numbers to make your brain explode all over the screen. Initially, all I could think about was just running away and crying to anyone that would have the misfortune of hearing it. But, even if you do live in mystical bubble half the time (like me), then I can assure you…You DO get used to it. If you love music enough you'll do anything.
I scraped my brain off the screen and I made myself work on understanding it all. So don't give up. Don't even SPEAK about giving up. Don't even THINK about giving up. Your body might hear you.
Anyway…enough about my inner demons. I'm here to talk you through what it's like to be a part of a major label, and how I got the best out of it. So let’s begin, shall we?
Rule Number 1 : BE COOL
Now, I don’t mean ‘wearing sunglasses inside’ and ‘defacing company property’ kind of cool, I mean…Well, don’t let the ‘excitement quivers’ turn you into a ‘dribbling mess’ kind of cool. The 13 year old, fat ‘fan girl’ in me nearly burst at the seams when I clocked eyes on ‘You Me At Six’s Josh Franceschi.
But, moving on…If you don’t have a creative background then you probably won’t be aware of something called ‘The Networking Etiquette’. This could well be something I’ve made up, but believe me, if you want to make a name for yourself you do have to play the game.
There are so many unwritten rules when trying to network. Personally, I’ve found that the only way to know how to do it right is to go in balls deep and just see what happens. But, as I’m nice and I want to help you, I’ll let you in on a few of my secrets to winning people over.
Rule Number 2 : BE YOURSELF
As yourself, people will not only respect you for being genuine, but they may also call you one of their ‘friends’. When you earn this title, that’s when people start putting in good words for you and giving you their time. Be nice, and be helpful to others in the office. Be happy to help, and help as many people as you can. Do it well, be indispensable, and people will want to keep you around. The higher up you are in any industry, the more work you have to do, and the more stress will contribute to that quivering purple vein on your boss’ forehead. If you can take the stress away from the busiest person in the room - even just a little bit - then they’ll spread the word.
Rule Number 3 : DON’T JUST SAY YES
Always have a ‘can do’ attitude, but don’t just say ‘yes’ to an important responsibility and fuck it up because you don’t know what you’re doing. I know what you’re thinking; ‘everyone does it. Fake it until you make it’, and all that jazz.
Don’t say you’re fully efficient in ‘Logic Pro’, then sit there staring at the screen thinking ‘SHIT! What are all of these bars for?’ If you have had positive experiences in other music software then great, use that, but don’t be afraid to mention you don’t know something. Do not say ‘YES! I live and breathe Logic Pro! I eat that shit for breakfast!’ and then have an emotional breakdown when your boss leaves the room. You need to be yourself and stay cool, remember?
Personally, I believe one of the most important factors in breaking into the industry is to observe how you spend your free time. Labels hold events ALL the time. If you don’t realise this, as soon as the clock turns 18:00, you’re out of that office in a flash, and this is bad. If you get invited to an event, gig or work drinks, and you turn these offers down in favour of an evening ‘Netflix and Chilling’ with your cat (literally speaking), then either change that attitude, or just give up. Seriously, that’s no way to progress. Socialising outside of work is all part of the job, and it’s your chance to get to know people and get into their heads. You want to know how these people got to where they are now, who they know, and how they can help you. These things projected in a friendly, genuinely interested and relaxed manner will be sure to add a stepping stone to your career. And you know what? The drunker they get, the more they’ll tell you. BUT don’t get too wasted yourself and make a fool out of us both. Been there, got the chicken and chorizo stained t-shirt to prove it.
You really have to show that you want this, though, and that means putting in the hours. There are so many other snotty nosed teenagers or regretful (but experienced) middle-agers ready and waiting to take your job.
Rule Number 4: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE HOW COMPETITIVE THE INDUSTRY IS & NEVER FORGET HOW DISPOSABLE YOU ARE
Use this as a motivator! Be the hardest working person in the room, and most importantly make sure that you love what you’re doing. Make sure that this is worth it for you, and no one else. Yes, the music industry sounds like a glamorous place to be - and my intentions are not to piss over your strawberries, here - but it’s not glamorous. Not one bit. Period.
You really have to love it, embrace the chase, take on the challenges and learn as much as you can. Ask questions. People really don’t care. I can only speak from an interns’ perspective, but I asked questions ALL the time. You need to ask them in a constructive way, such as relating it back to your genuine interest in that person’s job, but that’s easy. It’s as simple as, ‘Hey IT, can you show me how this big fancy photocopier works, please? I’ve watched you use it before, and I wanted to pick your brains about it.’ God, what a bad example. Sorry. But people are narci’ bastards at times, so you get the gist!
Be a grown up about stuff. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone acts their age, because they don’t. It’s great to be a kid sometimes, and you’ll find that this industry is full of big kids. However, you shouldn’t be fooled by the ‘I don’t give a shit’ attitude that’s banded around. The chances are, these guys do give a shit because a) they wouldn’t have got this far otherwise, and b) they’re just being a good sport and acting cool. Everyone is acting. Take a leaf out of those guy’s books. They’re calm throughout everything and they always get the job done. Positivity goes a long way, you see. Being a stressed out little nipper around the big boys will only ruin everyone else's mood, and this is inevitable I’m afraid.
One week I was tasked with assisting the marketing team, without the help of the ACTUAL marketing assistant. He was my go-to-guy in terms of learning or resolving any problems, but he wasn’t there. Instead, I spent the entire week on the cusp of a nervous breakdown, and this became obvious to the boss. As a result, he then became afraid of upsetting me, and it took a long time to win him back. So, always stay calm and happy. No matter how mind boggling the task may be, you need to show that you’re tough and that you can handle it.
Anyway, now for some positivity. Without it, what’s the point?! Everyone deserves to love their work. It’s such a social industry, that there will be MANY opportunities to go to free gigs, have free alcohol, and have free pizza. BMG held showcases in their office on a weekly basis, and this was great! I got to meet up and coming musicians, and watch them perform in the most intimate setting. Take what you can get, when you can get it. Like I said, you’re disposable as hell so truly rinse it for what it’s worth.
Also - I’ve touched on it already - but I met some amazing people at BMG, I was obsessed with finding out about their lives. It’s a community of people with noggin’s BRIMMING with amazing musical knowledge and experiences. It’s so much fun, and an honour to work amongst people like this, and that adore music as much as you do. The thing is, everyone adores music. It helps us in so many ways. So, naturally, it was a career that I wanted to explore. That’s probably why you’re here now, too. But, it’s not until you’re actually thrown into the battlefield that you actually know if this is the industry for you or not. Many, many people enter the industry to later discover that they’d rather be a teacher, or a dolphin trainer, or something. Which brings me to my final rule.
Rule Number 5: IT DOESN’T MATTER
Yes, I know I’ve been ranting for 1,697 words now about caring, pushing yourself and just going for it, but you’ll only truly flourish in the job if it’s right for you. If you find out that it’s not, then who cares? It doesn’t mean you love music any less, or that you won’t find another job related to this that you will absolutely ace. Yeah, you do look cool working in a record label, you’re right, but if you’re miserable…Well, Is it really worth your time? I don’t think it is.
I hope that all this hasn’t worried you. These were my experiences, and my experiences only. So remember, you will find other methods that will work better for you. Don’t take my advice as gospel! But, you won’t find that out until you try them out for yourself.
I knew nothing about the industry when I first started at BMG, but I left with a huge amount of experience flung over my shoulder, and more than ready for the next step on that rickety ladder to success. Don’t get me wrong, it is VERY hard to learn in a big, major label. People are so busy, that you simply won’t get taught everything. Of course you won’t. But be pro-active, don’t be a dick, and take what you can get, because a false sense of security is not productive and it limits progression. Believe in yourself, and go get ‘em.
One more thing…When you’re successful, remember who helped you (me). If you’re already successful, then you won’t mind giving me a job…Any takers?