Thoughts on the Industry [& some updates]
In all the time I have been following music, I have learned details about artists' lives, about how they work, and about how they originally came together. I heard speak of agents, tour managers, and record label people. I knew the behind-the-scenes was complicated. Many moving parts worked to create albums, plan tours, and promote the artist. I knew it was all there, but I really didn't pay any mind. I made subtle assumptions but never dug any deeper. I was merely there to soak in what they had prepared for me- the music and the personas and the style. There was this concrete separation between me and the working details. In fact, the separation is pretty easily identifiable. It's the music and the band and everything I enjoyed. It's where your attention is supposed to be. It's what the public shows up for. It's what the public loves.
I would be lying if I said I had never pictured myself up on stage under those lights, creating melodies and lyrics that moved my audience both literally and emotionally. It's the glamorous part of the whole scheme. It's no wonder the whole system that made that wonderment come to life flew right over my head. It's supposed to.
Through interviews and behind-the-scenes videos, we [as audience members or fans or whatever you'd like to call the collective we] are given only glimpses of what really happens to make our favorite acts tick. We only get to see as much as they [aka the system] wants us to see. And, honestly, that's usually enough for people. There is no need to know who an artist's tour manager is or what their royalty percentage is or even what label they are signed to. All that matters is that they are making music and being real with us. In this day and age, fans feel closer to their music idols than was ever even possible before. The don't hesitate to talk directly to artists through social media and many times are delighted to receive responses. You are able to literally receive instantaneous updates of what is happening and who is saying what. It's actually kind of marvelous. And different. And moving the industry into unchartered territory.
The reason I bring up the complexities of the industry [and what goes into making the fans happy, and the artists happy, and the labels happy, and so on and so on and so on], is that I have been doing a lot of research over the last few weeks. I think I've already learned a lot, but I know I am barely scratching the surface. Let me take you through how I went about this...
First, I read "All You Need to Know About the Music Business" by Donald Passman which is a very detailed explanation about how everything goes down in the industry written by a top music attorney in LA. [Attorneys and contracts effectively run the whole show- who knew?] It tells you who does what, who gets paid what, and basically the do's and don't's for artists trying to make it. It was very informative, but was definitely tailored to the artist rather than everyone else working with the artist. I needed to know more.
I then bought "Career Opportunities in the Music Industry" by Shelly Field which provided me with EXACTLY the information I was looking for. Passman gave me details about how the industry operates, but this book was telling me the activities and responsibilities of each individual role. It provides an overview of each position: what they do, how much they make, where they work, and tips on how to get there. I read through the positions that originally looked interesting to me: A&R [aka finding and signing the talent], Personal Manager, Promotions, and the like. I hadn't even planned on reading the Public Relations and Publicity sections. On a whim, I read the section and immediately fell in the love with the idea. The main job of the music publicist or PR Counselor [or whatever you want to call it] is to find out what image the artist wants to portray, make that image come to life, and [most importantly] protect it. It's all about how the artist is viewed by the public- their reputation. As a PR person, you mostly deal with the press. You get stories written about the artist, you set up interviews, you hold press conferences, and sometimes you plan events. You need to be creative and a good writer and organized and committed. These are all qualities that I possess [or at least I hope that I do].
You have no idea how exciting it is to finally kind of know exactly the type of position I want to have. Some people know their whole lives what type of career they'd like, but of course I go and take a full year after graduating from university to finally realize it. Typical. So, now that I can finally be more specific about my career choice rather than just saying "I want to work in the music industry", there is much more work to be done.
I went ahead and [guess what] bought more books. Amazon reviews are a freaking life saver. I ordered "Breaking Into the Biz" by Jenny Yerrick Martin which was extremely useful. It gave very specific career advice and suggested avenues on how to actually land the job to get your foot in the door. Next up was "This Is How You Pitch: How to Kick Ass In Your First Years of PR" by Ed Zitron. In this book, I learned more specifically what the work of a PR person actually entailed. It also gave great advice on how to succeed at the job. Unfortunately, it wasn't from the standpoint of working within the music industry, so I think the work might be a little different, but it was still extremely useful.
So, through all of this research, I realized that I have basically two possible options for becoming a music publicist: I can either start out on the music side or I can start out on the publicity side. On the music side, I would either try to get some internship or low level administrative position at a label or a radio station. I also could attempt to get straight into publicity at one of these establishments. I really think that the latter would be very difficult to manage without experience or living in LA. I could probably do the former and it would be a great help in getting industry experience.
Starting on the publicity side of things would mean getting [once again] a low level position or internship at a PR firm [that might hopefully do some work in entertainment, but most likely not]. This would give me the publicity experience that I would need to get the type of job I'm looking for in the music industry. Honestly, I think this is my best bet. It is also the more lengthy path to the music industry, but it might just be my strongest option. I read that many music publicist started out in PR outside of the industry.
With either path I take, one thing is definitely for certain: I need to move out of Richmond to do it. The closest hub for these types of positions is definitely Washington, D.C. It's not the best scene for PR or the music industry, but it's the closest city with the most opportunities. I also know most companies don't hire out of state, but I think Richmond is close enough that hiring mangers wouldn't immediately throw away my resume. I have also discovered publicity training programs offered by some firms that might be a possibility. I guess we shall see where this search continues to take me. Whatever the case may be, as always, I'm excited to learn more.
PS. I have decided to be more structured with my blog posts. I'll start posting every Monday, Wednesday & Friday including many more musical [and less self involved] posts, so keep an eye out for that. :]