I often get DMs from people asking some variation of “How do I get into the music industry?” While I try to offer some level of direction and insight where I’m able, I’ll be honest that a lot of these requests are lazy and inappropriate. I recognize that sometimes that’s simply because people don’t know the best way to go about shooting their professional shot. So gather ’round, because I’m going to share some tips on the right way to approach professionals in the entertainment industry. Believe me, the internet might make things seem super casual, but if you’re serious about seeking help getting into the game, a bit of research, strategy, and respect can go a long way.
KNOW WHERE YOU’RE TRYING TO GO
The world of entertainment is a bit different from the traditional career paths like medicine or law. Here, you won’t always find a rigid set of educational requirements or formal job titles to follow. But entertainment still has specialties and concentrations. Do you want to work in music, TV or film? Are you interested in talent management, agency, creative, or the business side of things? Just like you wouldn’t ask a pediatrician about becoming a brain surgeon, you need to know where you’re trying to go before you hit someone up for guidance. This is where your research game comes in. If you’re intrigued by the music industry, for instance, take the time to learn the different areas and roles in the industry. [All You Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald Passman is universally considered the industry bible and a great starting place to understand roles and functions in the business. I highly recommend it to aspiring artists and execs). An A&R rep can’t necessarily tell you how to get radio airplay. Publicists and marketers aren’t interchangeable. Someone who’s not in business and legal can’t necessary break down contract terms. And some areas, like publishing and live music, are really their own worlds separate from record labels. Here’s a reality check: if you’re not sure about what you really want to do and you’re just riding the “I want to be in the industry” wave, you might not be ready for this journey. Every successful venture starts with clarity and direction, and even if you don’t know where you will best fit in the business, you have to choose a starting point. Take a moment to evaluate your talents and interests. Research the professionals who are already doing what you aspire to do. Then, and only then, should you hit them up for a chat. Don’t even think about asking someone for advice without doing your homework. If you’re approaching me with a generic “How can I be in music?” and you have no idea what my role is – or even worse, if you reach out to me to ask for something that has absolutely nothing to do with what I do? You’re not exactly winning me over.
BE SPECIFIC IN YOUR ASK…AND THEN MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATION
Now, let’s talk about the art of the ask. When you’re reaching out to professionals, be it through a tweet or a DM, specificity is your best friend. Don’t just drop a vague “How do I get a job?” Instead, craft a thoughtful message like, “I’ve been working in XYZ field and I’m looking to transition into ____. I noticed you’ve got experience doing _____, and I’d love any advice you can offer on next steps.”
But here’s the kicker: don’t expect an instant response. You’re asking questions that require thoughtful answers, not just a quick one-size-fits-all response. And remember, you’re probably not the only one sliding into their DMs. So, patience is key. If you really want a response, do a little work to track down an email, because they may not even see your DM or Tweet or reply, etc.
THIS ISN’T A PLUG HUNT
This isn’t about getting hook-ups, so don’t expect to be handed opportunities on a silver platter without putting in your own work. Especially when you’re reaching out to people who don’t know you. I once had someone ask me about getting a deal. I pointed out that I wasn’t an A&R and didn’t even work at a label anymore (strike one). They then asked me if I could refer them to some managers or A&R reps. I’d never spoken to this person before a day in my life (strike two). They didn’t even first share their art with me so I could determine whether I’d want to leverage my name and relationships to send them to anyone else (strike three). Entitlement will kill a potential assist quickly. THIS IS STILL ABOUT BUSINESS Let’s talk about professionalism. Yes, the internet makes things feel more casual, but you’re still asking for career advice from professionals. Treat it like you would if you were reaching out to folks in the finance or legal industry – be respectful and considerate. Also, as you’re considering your reasons for pursuing a career in the industry, remember that work is still work. There will be days when you’re tired, overwhelmed, annoyed, and over some part of it, no matter how glamorous it may seem on the outside. So, aspiring execs, remember: be strategic, do your research, craft thoughtful asks, and above all, appreciate the time and expertise of the professionals you’re connecting with. With the right approach, you’ll be one step closer to making your mark in this dynamic industry.
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