How To Become an Intern
The exact job duties of an Intern will depend on the type of music industry company with which he or she has attained an internship. Most Interns handle administrative tasks while also learning more specialized knowledge in certain departments.
Carter McElroy, the Intern program supervisor at New York City’s Girlie Action Media and Management, says at her company “there are primarily internships available in PR, Digital Marketing/Social Media, and Artist Management. At Girlie, our internship is based primarily in PR/Marketing (since that is our largest department) with an option to work in our Digital Marketing/Social Media & Artist Management departments as well.”
“A typical day working at the front desk will include receiving calls, guests, mail, and deliveries, plus working with their assigned PR team for the day. This varies from week to week, depending on both Intern and Publicist preference. In publicity, you’ll spend most of your day pitching smaller blogs, helping to write press releases for active clients, and updating our reporting system for client reports that are to be delivered on a bi-weekly basis.”
On average, paid Music Interns earn about $13/hour. The range for paid internships runs from $7.25 to $30.15 hourly. However, many internships are unpaid or for college credit.
At Girlie Action, McElroy says Interns receive compensation for their work with “college credit (though it’s not required), guest list spots (for shows they request ahead of time with Publicity), and occasional meals and drinks (if they are over twenty-one).” This is fairly standard across internship programs.
Although many other music industry positions require the occasional late-night work, McElroy says Interns “are never required to work late night or weekends, unless there is an opportunity to work merch for a show or get paid to work the door at an event.
“Otherwise, our internship hours are 11:00 am to 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday. Interns are encouraged to sign on for at least three days per week, required for no less than two, but [they’re] also able to come all five days if scheduling allows.”
To land their dream internship, college students should choose a college major that will equip them with the special skills and knowledge necessary for the branch of the music industry in which they’d like to work. Getting involved with music-related extracurricular activities is also a wise choice; campus radio stations and campus venues are good places to get started.
The more effort students put into their internships, the stronger the chance is they’ll be asked to stay on after graduation in an entry-level capacity.
To parlay a current internship into a job, McElroy recommends students “treat the internship like you have already been hired for the job. If you take us seriously, we’ll take you seriously. Eighty percent of our current staff began as an Intern, including myself, as well as one of the co-owners!”
Unfortunately, not all internships will lead to jobs; some companies are too small to take on more staff or simply don’t have any open positions. However, the work experience and larger industry network you’ll gain through the position can set you up for job success with other organizations to which people on staff may have connections.
- “Familiarize yourself with major digital publications and what they are posting about.
- Reach out to your favorites for informational interviews to learn more about how to get involved and what would be involved.
- Build your own database (Excel docs, etc.) of the places you go to find new music.
- Start a Tumblr dedicated to reviewing new music. After building this a bit, you can start to reach out to PR companies like Girlie to be added to their press release list.
- Go to shows and start putting your face in front of people who can help you!”
Experience & Skills
“It’s always great to see when an Intern has spent time interning in the music industry in any capacity already,” McElroy suggests.
“We also love to see if they have their own music blog, Tumblr, or ways that they stay involved without necessarily being attached to company experience. In addition, I suppose helpful special skills could include Photoshop, Microsoft Office, Social Media Strategy, and [it’s helpful] if someone has experience on the creative side as well, [such as a] musician, Songwriter, Producer, etc.”
The type of personality who will thrive as an Intern is, according to McElroy, “someone who is self-motivated when the assignments are light for the day.
“There is nothing better than when an Intern comes up with something they think will be helpful to do without having been specifically asked to do so, [like] re-organizing the supply shelf, posting a themed playlist to our social media, filing magazines, brainstorming improvements to systems already in place, etc.
“Professionalism, enthusiasm for the industry, attention to detail, and respect for the work environment, in general, are all a must! We are passionate about helping our clients as best as we possibly can and want our Interns to show up with the same motivation to not only help our clients, but also our staff along with the optimistic office vibe we strive to create as well. No time for Negative Nancys!”
Education & Training
The majority of companies offering internships are looking for undergraduate or graduate-level students. Appropriate majors will depend on what segment of the music industry you’re interested in; for example, Arts Administration would be a smart choice for a classical music organization like an orchestra, while Music Business would make sense for a record label internship.
Since her program focuses on PR and marketing, studying a related major will make you a stronger applicant. “Communications or Publicity majors are hard to come by,” McElroy says, “but a general understanding of media and a passionate interest in music is a big plus, as well.”
Many colleges and universities have chapters of the Music Business Club, or Music and Entertainment Industry Student Association. McElroy says, “Women in Music is an organization that you can also join (for the ladies out there) by paying a membership fee. That will get you into any events they hold and will allow you to network with people who already have jobs in music.”
For online resources, “I would say just pay attention to any and all relevant music blogs, especially the major ones. Often times, an internship can come from just applying via a Contact page on a publication’s website.”
For in-person connections, she suggests, “Venues are also a great place to get a start. Go to shows! You may be able to ask to speak to someone about an internship in person or at the very least get an email address of someone you could reach out to.”
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“If you don’t love music, and I mean really love music, this industry isn’t for you. You have got to be ready to really hustle, and even then there are just not enough hours in a day to make a dream career for every deserving artist.
“The reward is in the effort. It’s in meeting like-minded people who grew up feeling inspired over the same lyrics, that same sick guitar solo, or the same infectious beat. It’s in loving the community that wants to help each other rather than ‘be better’ than everyone else.
“If I could give one piece of advice to anyone vibing with this sentiment: check your ego at the door and be ready to work hard. Don’t burn bridges or build walls. And find a way to work with artists you really love.”
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“An email full of typos or a blank email with just a resume attached. This is such a missed opportunity to make a good impression! Take your time, and always make sure you are putting your best foot forward, even if that means having a friend (a second set of eyes) review your submission before sending.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“Why is having a Publicist important for an artist’s career?
“An artist needs to be able to solely focus on the quality of content they are releasing to the world. Having a publicity team to liaison with the media is helpful, not only in terms of building a fan base but also in making sure that the artist’s integrity is protected across all media platforms throughout a campaign.”
What is one thing I should have asked which I didn’t?
“What have your Interns gone on to do after their internship? Is there any way to stay connected or once you are done, is that it?
“Here are Girlie, we don’t want the internship or an Intern’s ability to learn or network to end. Because of this, we created a Facebook profile that is set up like a person’s page so that we can friend all of our alumni and help each other stay aware of jobs, cool events, opportunities, and — of course! — our favorite new music.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
Extra Credit: The Beatles or Rolling Stones?
Carter McElroy is the Business and Digital Branding Manager at Girlie Action Media and Management, where she also supervises the Intern program. Girlie Action is a full-service music marketing agency in New York City whose past and current client list includes Morrissey, Sia, Rob Zombie, Tori Amos, The Cure, Cut Copy, and more.
McElroy is the Podcast Music Supervisor for For the Wild, a grassroots, millennial-run environmental organization. Check out this Splice article to get McElroy’s advice on how to get your music on podcasts.