Impressing at Music Business Internships

Music business internships can be a great foot in the door if you have your sights set on a music industry career, but you’ve got to stand out from the crowd if you really want your internship to lead to a job. I know, like you weren’t stressed out enough, right? Well, here’s the good news – although music industry internships come in all shapes and sizes, there are definite ways to make sure your work gets noticed during your unpaid labor tenure that will translate into stellar recommendations – and maybe even paying jobs – for you down the line. Before you show up for your fun, exciting, coffee making, envelope stuffing first day of your music business work experience, commit these six tips for impressing to memory.

1. Speak Up

If you don’t know something, by all means, speak up and ask. Asking questions doesn’t make you look uncool, slow, dim witted or unhip. Rather, it makes you seem enthusiastic, engaged and eager to learn. Speak up. Ask about everything from business matters (“how far in advance of release do you usually start promotion campaigns?”) to the mundane (“how does this coffee maker work again?”).

Asking questions gets you a few things – face time with employees of the company hosting your music business internship, a good reputation for being someone eager to learn the ropes and real knowledge you will be able to apply in future music biz jobs.

Speaking up goes for mistakes, too. Flubbed something? Let someone know so they can correct it and you can learn.

2. Humble Thyself

Even if you have an encylopedic knowledge of music and all of your friends agree you’re simply the hippest cat in town, don’t go waltzing into some music business like you’re too cool for your internship. Yes, internships involve a lot of the less glamorous parts of music careers – the envelope stuffing, the mailing list merging, the inventorying, the running for lunch – and you should do it with zeal no matter how much you think you know about music. Here’s a music industry newsflash – most days of work in the industry are decidedly not glamorous. They involve work just like any other job. Be willing to do the mundane stuff, not only because it helps you learn the basics, but also because it shows everyone that you’re not one of those “wants to say (s)he works in music/doesn’t actually want to do any work” types. Most (all?) music companies would prefer to have someone willing to get the promo mailer out than someone who wants to sit around talking obscure music references while the work piles up any day of the week. Being humble helps.

3. Participate

Sometimes, at an internship, your job is to be quiet, listen and learn. Other times, you may get a chance to offer an opinion, make a suggestion or otherwise put your stamp on a project. When you get those opportunities, embrace them. If people are bouncing ideas around and someone asks if you have any thoughts, don’t let that stroke of genius brewing in your own mind go to waste. Take a deep breath and throw it out there.

Even if your idea gets shot down, it will show that you’re engaged, paying attention and able to apply what you’re learning. It also provides another learning opportunity for you. If your idea doesn’t work, hopefully someone will explain to you where it would fall apart – something you can apply to future work. And if your idea does work, well, that will definitely get you noticed.

4. Respect the Free

Perks like promos, guest list and merch are beautiful benefits for any music lover, but treat the free stuff with a little respect. Don’t take stuff you don’t really want, don’t take stuff for your friends, and don’t ask to get yourself and everyone you know into every show for free. Someone pays for all that – usually the company you’re working for and/or the musicians. There’s nothing at all wrong with enjoying these fringe benefits of music industry work. Even people with paid jobs do. Just don’t adopt an, “I’m doing all this work for free, so I’m taking everything I can carry out” attitude. 

5. Zip It

During your music industry internship, you may find yourself privy to information that your friends, family and the internet would love to know. Don’t share it. “Nuff said.

6. Be On Time

It might sound like a no-brainer (I really hope it does), but be on time for your shift. While we’re at it: be on time, dress appropriately for that particular company’s environment, don’t make personal calls, turn off your cell phone, adhere to any rules regarding breaks and work hard. Some music environments are very casual while others have a more formal, corporate air. However, respect dictates that even in a more laid back workplace you show up on time and dedicate yourself to working while you’re there. Remember, you’ve got a music business internship – do you know how many people want to be you? Make everyone glad you got the job. 

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