Music Internships: 7 Tips to Help You Land One
One of the first steps when it comes to finding your way into the music industry — be it as a musician or someone who works on the road or even behind a desk — is an internship. You might want to be a Rock Star one day, but internships can still be a great way to get your feet wet and learn about the business you intend on being a part of one day. So don’t scoff at the idea just because it doesn’t involve playing to crowds on stage!
Many sought-after internship positions are competitive and when they’re in a sexy industry like music, there can sometimes be dozens or even hundreds of people applying. It’s tough to rise above the rest and be noticed and while there’s nothing I can tell you that will surely land you an interview, below are a number of suggestions to help on your way to becoming a famous music executive.
And hey, even if you’re planning on becoming the next great chart-topping artist, it never hurts to have some experience on your resume…just in case your tunes don’t rocket all the way to No. 1 and make you a millionaire.
1. Come with a Reference
I realize this first piece of advice won’t be of use to many people reading, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Just as is the case when applying for full-time jobs, your best bet for landing an interview, and potentially securing the position, is to have somebody who knows the company, someone at the company or even the person doing the hiring suggest you. That will ring true for an internship and for a full-time paid job, though you don’t need as bright of a recommendation for an internship. Most unpaid positions (or low paying positions, as they are typically reserved for young people) aren’t high-stakes, so don’t worry too much if you don’t have an “in,” as they say.
Now, this isn’t always possible, but since it’s important, start thinking about who you know, and then, who they know. Maybe one of your Professors has a connection to a musical company or somebody involved in the industry who could use an Intern. Perhaps the person who has been giving you lessons or teaching you how to sing can help write a recommendation, or, if you’re really lucky, you already have a family member or family friend who knows someone who will be able to help you.
These connections are difficult to find at first, but as you begin volunteering, working, playing, auditioning, and interning, you’ll meet more people, and all of a sudden your network will grow considerably, and that will be handy when you are looking for your next internship (and eventually, job).
Many students going out for internships are seeking to gain their first bits of experience in a certain industry, and many employers understand this…but they still like to see experience on a resume.
2. Show An Educational Interest
When you begin applying for full-time jobs after college, employers will be looking to make sure your degree was in something relevant to the gig, and many times, for entry-level positions, the job description itself will list what field your degree needs to be in. Since internships are mostly filled by those who are still studying at a university, this will be even more important in some regards when you start going out for internships.
It can be tough to decide what you want to do beyond school, and while one of the best ways to find out what suits you and what you’ll want to do for the rest of your life is to actually gain some experience, those who are charged with hiring won’t be inclined to choose someone who has no connection to the position they’re filling. If you’re a math major, why would a recording studio think you’re a good fit to intern for them?
You don’t necessarily need to be majoring in a musical field to win over future employers but you should have something educational to show them, such as a minor, or maybe some other courses. Also, since many internships are unpaid, most of them are legally required to give you school credit, and since that also typically requires a Professor or Teacher to sign off on it, they won’t agree if it has no connection to your plan of study.
3. Have Experience
Many students going out for internships are seeking to gain their first bits of experience in a certain industry, and many employers understand this…but they still like to see experience on a resume. While you’re young, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll have worked in music before your first internship, but there are plenty of ways to show somebody you have at least some kind of understanding of music and every little bit helps when it comes to standing out from a crowd of potential hires!
Perhaps you’ve been involved in some music program before, or maybe you have some recorded music you can play them you wrote, produced, recorded, mixed, or engineered. Have you written about music for a blog or student newspaper? Is there anything in your past that shows you have an interest in music and you may have even slightly more experience than the next person? Feel free to mention it in person and include it on a resume when you apply!
4. Demonstrate Commitment
One of the toughest things about hiring Interns for companies is they are notoriously difficult. Since they are young and inexperienced, many managers and employees have horror stories of Interns showing up late, leaving early or quitting before their tenure was over, of them needing an exceptional amount of handholding (which can make them more of a burden and less of an asset), or of those who were chosen being unprofessional. It’s tough to show how committed you will be to your new role until you’ve proven it, but if you have other gigs in your past you stuck with or even if you can demonstrate a longstanding interest in music, this might be enough to assuage some fears.
5. Have Your Digital Ducks In A Row
Young people spend so much of their time on social media, and in many ways, this can set you up for success. Students in high school and college have an innate understanding of what attracts eyeballs online and of creating a brand that is all theirs. Those skills are the type of things colleges have taught in marketing courses for decades and it’s incredible to see how many people just entering college now are better at branding than those who are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do exactly this for major brands.
(Of course, you still need to be careful when it comes to what you put out into the world, and since this is the internet, you never know what someone will be able to find when they look you up.)
Now, I’m not suggesting there’s anything scandalous or salacious out there, or that somebody at a company offering an internship is going to do an extensive search on you but before you begin applying, you should make sure everything that will pop up on the first page of a Google search of your name, as well as all of your social media profiles, doesn’t raise any red flags. Edit your LinkedIn to make sure it’s current and to ensure there aren’t any glaring errors, don’t post anything racy on Instagram, and try to stay away from being too political or controversial on Twitter, at least for now. You don’t need to change everything about yourself or delete your profiles but you may want to think for an extra second or two before you post anything for a little while.
6. Nail the Interview
Before you’re hired, you will most likely need to interview for the position even if you’re not being paid for it. You may never have gone through a proper interview like this in your life so it can be nerve-wracking but don’t let it get the best of you! The person on the other side of the table will understand this is your first time and you don’t need to overreach to get the position.
Be yourself, be confident, and show them you are someone who will fit in well at the office. Most of all, be professional! Show up on time, be dressed appropriately (don’t wear jeans, don’t wear sneakers, and so on), have a few copies of your resume handy and any other papers they might find relevant (any articles you’ve written, any articles written about your music, etc.), and smile! When it comes to internships, most of the people applying won’t have extensive job histories or long resumes full of experience so you have a better chance of winning these apprenticeships thanks to who you are as a person — so take advantage of that and wow them!
7. Share What You Bring to the Table
You’ll want to highlight relevant experience or skills that directly affect what they will want you to do but you shouldn’t totally ignore everything else that makes you a valuable asset. Even if a music company only wants you to answer the phone in an office and get coffee at the outset of your internship, it doesn’t hurt to mention you may speak another language, play several instruments, understand how to code a website, are an expert at Photoshop, and so on. Everything can be beneficial and you never know what one skill set you may list on your resume or mention during an interview that will grab their attention and help you stand out from anyone else who has also applied for this role.
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