What do you want to become?
Sales and Marketing Manager
Alternate Career Titles:
Career Overview: Oversees all aspects of marketing albums, including publicity and radio promotions. Also works with digital and physical distributors to ensure songs and albums are available for purchase.
General Salary Range: $35,000 to $85,000+
Become a Sales & Marketing Manager
Angela Lin is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Stones Throw Records, an independent label that has released albums by the likes of Dam-Funk, J Dilla, Madlib, Mayer Hawthorne and Washed Out. “A typical day starts with a bunch of calls because we’re on the West Coast,” she tells us, “so we’re talking to the East Coast and international [colleagues]. As Marketing Manager, my job is to be in charge of the campaign as a whole, so I’m hiring out for press, hiring out for radio and checking in on those campaigns. A big part of my job now is dealing with DSPs (digital service providers) like Spotify, iTunes, or Amazon. I’m working and building relationships with those platforms so our artists can get on the best playlists, on the best ‘featuring’ on iTunes and stuff like that. But another big part of the job is just being the person the artist talks to for what they want and how they see their album being portrayed. They talk to me and I do my best to live out their dreams for them. If they’re like ‘I want to be seen as more mysterious and not have press photos everywhere and only have certain facts about me out,’ I do my best to try and do that while also keeping in mind the interests of the label — to sell records, basically.
With music, you always wear twenty different hats — especially for an indie label like Stones Throw. So, part of marketing is also project management, babysitting, scheduling stuff out, a bunch of different things. Being flexible and really quick in thinking up different stuff on your feet is super important for working in music.
It’s a small label, so with general label business, it’s Jason, the General Manager, and me handling all that. A big part of my job is also dealing with distributors because my background is in distribution. In music, it’s a small industry so everyone does a little bit of everything. It’s all hands on deck. As Stones Throw is growing, we’re going to be hiring more people and they’ll take on different roles. We sort of hire for the personality and the person more so than the role they’re supposed to be in. So when we hired someone in one role and their passion was more for event planning, we gave that person more responsibility in terms of setting up shows, setting up our festivals, and designing stuff. The talent the person brings is the talent we end up using. I think that’s really great about Stones Throw, that it’s not such a corporate structure. It’s more of a family company, honestly.
The General Manager is like my boss. He hires everybody at Stones Throw and oversees everything. He’s also the main one who has discussions with artists in terms of what types of deals they’re going to have when they come in. He’s also head of marketing and does all that stuff. He’s sort of the Label Manager, the General Manager. I also work closely with Chris (or Peanut Butter Wolf) who does the A&R side of things. A&R is another thing where he’s constantly bringing in new musicians into our studios and seeing if they fit. He’s the one who nurtures the relationships between the artists and the label. He’s sort of their best friend and their confidante. When they’re in the studio making music, he’s the one who gives them creative and artistic feedback. So there’s A&R and the General Manager and then I also work with someone who handles all the metadata and the distribution side of things. He’s the one who, when we have new music, gets it to our distributor and makes sure all that stuff is showing up correctly.
We also have a Label Manager for Japan in the office. He basically does my job for Japan and Asia. Stones Throw does extremely well in Asia, so it’s good to have someone who handles all that for us. We have all the people who ship out the music, too. They are taking orders, making sure vinyl is shipped out on time. If a customer orders something from our site and has trouble, they’re the ones talking to them. There’s a Studio Manager, as well: Jake. This is totally new because Stones Throw just opened up a new studio in our office. He works with artists to help them out in the studio. He’s our sound guy and helps master tracks for us as well. His job is cool: he gets to tour with artists and does their sound as well as working with them during the creative process in the studio. He’s super talented.”
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Sales & Marketing Managers usually begin their careers with an entry-level or intermediate role in the department, such as a Marketing Assistant or Marketing Coordinator. Since their duties overlap with those of other roles, they may also have a background in publicity, digital media, or distribution. Advancement would mean moving up to a VP of Sales/VP of Marketing role, becoming the label’s General Manager, or finding work with a bigger label with higher salaries and more well-known artists.
Education & Training
“I would say a background in Journalism is pretty helpful,” Lin suggests. “I studied Public Relations and I find that helps me out every day. You’re basically trying to figure out how to best portray an artist’s image to the public and Journalism does a good job of making sure you’re an efficient, good writer, which is super important. It also teaches you how to build relationships with companies and focuses on brand management. I’m really glad I studied Journalism because I didn’t have access to an entertainment school — which I feel like there’s a lot more of in LA — so I find myself going back to my Journalism background over and over again, [to] PR, branding, and crisis control. (There are a lot of crises that definitely occur.) Crisis management is something you study as a Public Relations major so I find that to be pretty helpful.
But honestly, with music, it’s more about your attitude and your willingness to pick up things more so than anything else. If you’re enthusiastic, you’re smart, and you really go for it — I think it’s confidence as well — that’s the biggest way toward getting experience. It’s not being scared to reach out to whatever [organization] you’re interested in and being like ‘hey, I want to do this’ — because people are way more open to accepting random stuff like that. I used to do that; I’d email and hit people up and say ‘hey, can I get coffee with you? I’m interested in working on this type of stuff.’ From there, it’s about building the relationships and getting jobs. In music, it’s your people skills — like who you know and being unafraid to reach out and make relationships with people you admire.”
Experience & Skills
Sales & Marketing Managers usually have several years worth of label experience under their belts before getting hired. Lin tells us about her trajectory from entry-level job to her current role. After college, she says, “I guess I got really lucky because I found a music job on Craigslist back in North Carolina. They were looking for someone to help out with social media and general upkeep and that sort of stuff. It was for a distribution company called Redeye, where they do distribution for a bunch of different indie labels. I was really excited to get my foot in the door that way.
From there, I expressed that I wanted to do more on the project management side. Redeye opened up two different labels; one is called Break World Records, which is a bit more experimental, and Studio One, which is a really famous reggae label Redeye bought the rights to and was reissuing all their releases. Those two labels were the ultimate education for me on how a label is run and what you need to do to get things done.”
Not everyone is fortunate enough to find a job in the music business right after graduation, though, and that’s okay. Sales and marketing skills can be learned at any relevant job, then applied to music, once the opportunity arises. I got lucky my first job out of college was in music,” Lin explains, “but before that, I had been working on social media stuff and doing marketing for a mall. The experience I got at Redeye was pretty defining for me in terms of being able to see the distribution side of music, the label side of music, and the artist side of music since we had a lot of artists located in North Carolina, too. Getting that full glimpse at the process of distribution, label, and artist — which I feel like are the three big things — was really awesome.”
In label sales and marketing, Lin says, “there can be a lot of different personalities because I definitely work with a lot of different people.” About the personality traits required to thrive in the role, she says “the biggest one, for me, is being empathetic. I think being empathetic towards what an artist is looking for is extremely important. If you start to view the music as just a product, it stops being fun and it stops being something you strive to work hard towards. So having that ability to say ‘this is what the artist wants and this is how they see their music’ — and even if it’s not the type of music you’re into — if you have that sort of care, creative drive, and empathy, every project becomes special to you, which is important because you’re not always going to work on music you like. So have empathy and be open-minded about music so it’s not ‘oh, I only want to work on this type of stuff.’ I really believe that all music I listen to, even if I hate it or do not like it, is important to the world or it’s important to somebody. Feeling that is a really great driver for me because sometimes I don’t work on stuff I like and I still have to find a way to be like ‘well, this really means a lot to the artist, this is how they made their music, and this is their story.’ It really drives me to be good at my job. Because I don’t want to let them down.”
What’s the work lifestyle of a Sales & Marketing Manager like? Lin tells us, “Music is great because your schedule depends” on concert and event schedules. “Last night we had a release show for one of our artists, Sudan Archives, who’s amazing and I’m extremely passionate about this project. We were there from 8 pm to 1 am for the show. So, since you were at a show the night before, you can come into work a little bit later. There’s a flexibility and most music people I talk to also have that flexibility (at least in LA). Typically, though, I go in from 10-6 and then, depending on if there’s a show, sometimes later. Or sometimes I go in extremely early because, especially on Friday when new music comes out on the streaming services, I have to check to make sure everything’s ready because sometimes I’m working internationally. The UK, Australia, and Japan are always a day in advance so I’ll have to wake up early to prep a press release, draft what our message is going to be or make sure everything’s up. I do have a lot of early mornings but I also have a lot of late nights and between it’s pretty much a 9-5 type schedule. There’s definitely flexibility, which is great.”
For students wondering how to land their first job in sales and marketing at a record label, Lin suggests “the best thing they can do is do their own thing first. That’s really important. In music, you make your own resume. For sales and marketing, find out who in your town is doing stuff you want to do that’s like what you have in your own portfolio and are interested in. If there’s an artist in town, even one who’s your friend, you can start with them and be like ‘you’re my friend, let me help you with some marketing stuff, let me help you with your social media, let me set up a newsletter for you or let me help you book shows.’ And most of the time, if it’s a smaller artist, they’ll be more than happy to, and from there you can sort of grow your community.
Really, doing stuff on your own is the best way to prove yourself, so when you’re applying they know you’ve taken initiative to really own where you’re at. I lived in a small town so I made sure to meet everybody and do everything I could in that town because it’s hard to get a music job, especially when you’re not there [in a major music center]. Stones Throw’s in California and I was in North Carolina. So I just had to own where I was. I was doing two labels. I was helping manage people on the side. I was doing social media for other things. I think that’s what made me an appealing candidate is I took the initiative to do those things. That’s a big part of getting a music job here and another big part, which I mentioned earlier, is totally being unembarrassed to ask people for help or ask people what they do or make connections.
One of the easiest ways to get a job in music is if you know somebody. Reach out, talk to them and show you’re interested. Talk to those people and say ‘I’m happy to help you with whenever you need; here’s some stuff that I’m working on.’ Or ‘I really like what you’re doing. Can you tell me more about what I can do?’ It’s not even about the advice they give. It’s more about how you sat them down and made a personal connection with them. That’s super important: personal connections and taking the initiative to do whatever you can with the resources you’re given.
I always want everyone who’s interested in music to just do it because I never thought I could do it. I started doing stuff on my own and I was like ‘wait, if I can do stuff on my own, I can do stuff for other people, too.’ I am really excited when I see people who want to work in music because it’s a really great community. There’s definitely a family feel to it because you’re all there for the same reason.”
Sales and Marketing Managers are salaried employees who usually receive benefits such as healthcare and paid time off. Salaries can vary widely based on the size and budget of the record label.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
There are no specific professional unions or associations for record label employees, but Lin has some suggestions for online resources. She says, “I found my job at Stones Throw through A2IM, which is an independent music coalition. They have a job board and it’s only indie labels so you’ll get someone from Secretly Group or Ghostly International saying ‘we need a new Project Manager’ or ‘we need Interns.’ It’s a great place. That’s where my job at Redeye was listed when I left. Industry music people use it to find other industry music people. A2IM is how most of my friends and I have got jobs.
Another indie music coalition is Merlin. They gather all the indies together so we can get better placement because we’re going up against majors and we need to band together. Merlin makes all those deals for us as a whole. Together, all of us are as strong as a big, big music group like Warner or something. That would be a cool place to look for jobs that are music but aren’t necessarily record label. It’s maybe easier to get a foot in the door in those places and learn about all of the music industry as a whole because they represent the independent music industry as a whole.”
- “Definitely sign up to do your college radio station. That’s where I got my first experience doing music stuff and it’s a really great way to meet other people who are passionate about music.
- If you’ve graduated and you’re trying to do marketing, a lot of that has to do with event planning. So if you see different community events happening in your area, reach out to the people planning them and volunteer to help them or ask how you can get involved.
- Make a point to be reading about music. Stay up to date on Pitchfork and Fader and all that stuff because ultimately, you’re either a music nerd or you’re not. People can tell. Constantly be reading about and listening to music.
- Be aware of all the different positions and see what you’re into and find people in that job. Reach out to them.
- Move, if you have to. I honestly do think moving to LA was very good for my career. Be looking at locations where you find a scene you’re interested in. In LA, it’s more hip-hop and R&B. There’s a lot of pop music here and bigger industry stuff. Look at that versus New York, which is more electronic and techno. (Not that both cities don’t have that.) Look into the locations you’re willing to move to and see what’s there.
- Have an online portfolio. Make a website. I did that before getting my job at Stones Throw. I built a website that had my resume and a playlist. I had some music reviews I had written. I had a breakdown of my experience thus far that was related to music and showed a bit of my personality. I think making a website is really good if you’re applying for jobs these days.
- Never give up. I know it sounds so terrible! I used to run an Intern program at Redeye and a lot of the Interns really wanted to get a foot in the door and for some of them, it took a whole year. Other Interns whom I’ve helped get jobs, the timing is right, and they got a job almost immediately after college. Don’t be afraid to get into different parts of the industry. Even if you’re really wanting to do A&R label stuff if it’s a job in music you should take it if it’s something interesting to you and you’re learning a new skill. Because like I said, it’s never just limited to sales and marketing. It’s always more than that.
- Go to shows. That’s a big one. Go to as many shows as you can because that’s where you meet people. If you go to a show and you like an artist, be like ‘hey, I really like your music.’ Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and talk to them. Even if nothing comes of it, it’s getting used to saying hi to people you might feel intimidated by. The more you do it, the more you realize ‘oh wait, this is literally just a person doing cool music stuff and it’s totally fine.’ Getting that confidence is really important because when you’re doing interviews and applying for things, it’s really important you come off like a confident person. Go to shows and talk to artists you like and maybe talk to the person who booked the show or go to the venue and say ‘hey, I want to help out with this.’ Get involved in any way you can by going to shows, doing social media stuff, whatever you can do. Go for it.”
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Don’t be afraid to think outside the box for marketing stuff. In marketing we get stuck in this pattern of ‘first we put the first single out, then we put the video out.’ There’s this sort of rhythm to it. The most successful marketing and sales things are when we go outside the box and do something a little bit different. Be aware of the rhythm and trends of marketing. Yes, those trends are there for a reason and they’re important because that’s what’s working at the moment — but always be on the lookout for new stuff.
Marketing totally changed in music in the past four or five years. It went from selling CDs, then vinyl had a resurgence, but now my entire job is doing streaming numbers. All the money we make is through streaming. The entire industry had to adapt their marketing because now we’re not marketing mainly vinyl, we’re marketing to get our track on a playlist. So it’s knowing the people at Spotify who can put your song on a playlist or if an artist shares a song on Apple Music. Marketing now is streaming marketing. That’s a huge priority for us, but it wasn’t a priority three years ago.
There are people who saw that opportunity, who were open-minded and realized that potential. Redeye was a great example of being ahead of the game on Spotify because they were open to it. Now they’re considered an early adopter because they were doing marketing on Spotify and iTunes. As a marketing person, you’ve got to be willing to try new things and stay ahead of the curve of what’s going on marketing trends-wise. It’s streaming and playlisting now, but in a few years, who knows what it’s going to be? It totally can change. It’s being open to that and not stuck in being like ‘this is what I studied: you send out a press release.’
There are so many ways to market. Be open to ideas. If artists say ‘I want to do this crazy visual album’ or ‘I want to do this other crazy thing,’ instead of thinking ‘oh, that’s weird,’ try your best to see how that can actually happen. A lot of time artists can ask for these things, and most of the time they are impossible, but your job is to try to make it as possible as you can. That means exploring all avenues and not shutting any doors in terms of how things should be done. That creativity and flexibility is important to marketing — and also to sales — because if you’ve got a creative idea and you’re doing things in an interesting way that engages people.”
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“I see a lot of people who are overeager for it and that sort of rubs people the wrong way. There’s a balance of being enthusiastic, respectful, curious, and wanting to talk to people versus straight up being like ‘I want this and I’m going to keep emailing this person until something happens.’ That rubs a lot of people on the indie label side the wrong way. You want to be self-aware about how you’re presenting yourself. Do it in a way that’s respectful and interested. If you’re writing an email and you don’t get a response, don’t send a negative follow-up being like ‘I don’t know why this person didn’t respond to me.’ Being self-aware with how you’re coming off to people is really important, especially in music where a lot of it is who you know, your personality, and how well you’re able to present yourself. Present yourself in an intelligent way and don’t push things too hard. Know when to let go and step back and think ‘maybe I’ll try this other way.’ You can’t just bludgeon through everything.
Another thing is to be humble. A lot of people working in music, if you get a little bit of music experience, if you’re in your small town and you’ve done a few things and booked a few shows, an ego can come with that, even when there’s nothing really to be egotistical about. Have a very humble point of view of ‘I’m always willing to learn and I’m learning to do new things and I’m not just in this for the ego boost.’ The most successful labels and companies are the ones who put the music first. So if you’re putting the music first and not yourself first, that’s really important. People can see that genuine love and passion for music.
That’s why I love this job. I’m always talking to people who are like ‘hey, what are you listening to?’ And I’ll say ‘I just checked out this show. Did you see this show?’ Being natural about that is super important, at least for the indie side of things. (Maybe Universal or Warner has a different culture, but this is specifically for the indie side of things.) Don’t try to ego it up. We’ve hired Interns that think they’re so cool and they’re just starting out. Listen to what we have to say and be open to what we’re telling you versus trying to show off. Be respectful, humble, and open about music and be self-aware. Know when to step back or step forward.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“People burn out really quickly working in music so the question to ask is ‘how do you avoid burning out in your job?’ It’s really hard. I definitely feel pressure. It’s difficult for people who work in music because it’s not just your nine-to-five; it’s what you love. It’s your passion. That’s why it’s such a compelling place to work because you’re working with your passions, with your idols. Even though that’s super awesome, you can still easily burn out because you’re working your dream and you’re working with artists you’ve always admired. It’s like ‘I’m working for this label I’ve always loved since I was a kid.’ But then realize you can still burn out because it’s hard. It’s a lot of stress. When you mess up it’s easier to take things personally because you’re more emotionally invested.
It’s so important, especially now with Donald Trump and everything. Music brings so much peace and comfort to the emotional intelligence of our world and our culture. Remember to have fun. You put a lot of your time, money, and a lot of what you have into the artist and their music and if it doesn’t pay off, it can be really hard. Realize that you can try your best but if it doesn’t work out, go outside, do some other stuff, and realize it’s not the be-all, end-all — because I’ve seen it just kill people. They’re managing an artist, they’ve spent all their money and all their time doing this and it doesn’t work out. They get really bitter and really angry and you see these bitter music people. I think the easiest way to avoid burning out and becoming like that is to take everything with a grain of salt.
Understand that what you’re doing is so important to the world, but at the same time, if things don’t work out, you’ve got to keep trying. Or take a break and come back. Burning out happens a lot. Especially when your dreams are involved, it’s easier to burn out. Take a break or transfer and try something different and come back to it. Remember the reason you want to work in music is because it’s fun. So if it stops being fun and you’re angry and bitter about it, do a different part of the music industry or listen to an album you haven’t listened to or remember why you love music. I get burned out sometimes and I say ‘OK, this weekend I’m going to take some time for myself and maybe go see that show I wasn’t able to or listen to this new album’ and I remind myself why this is important to me. Don’t be afraid to take a deep breath and accept your failures but do not take them personally.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
“Empathetic. I feel like that’s why I have good relationships with my artists. I always empathize with them and put myself in their shoes with what their music is. That’s so important. Seeing the artist as a real human being first, instead of putting them on a pedestal. Seeing that this music is coming from this place. That’s how we market their music better, through understanding where they’re coming from.
If you’re just set on making money you see them as a commodity. I see those as the campaigns that fail — because people can tell they’re just trying to make money off you. Really empathetic, creative, emotional campaigns require for you to be a creative, empathetic person.”
Angela Lin is the Sales and Marketing Manager for Stones Throw Records in Los Angeles, home to Dam-Funk, J Dilla, Madlib, Mayer Hawthorne and Washed Out.