[Photo of Kyle Thrash by Brett Sweeney]
Every day I get asked, “How do I get a job in the music industry?” Most people are surprised by my response. Even though I have a college degree, I can’t remember any time when I’ve been actually asked about it. In the music industry, your degree doesn’t guarantee any real-world connections or success—your track record does. I’m not downplaying the importance of going to college or my hardworking music industry peers who have (myself included), I am simply saying if you are involved in creating the next biggest album on the planet, no one is going to care if you even graduated from elementary school.
While none of these jobs are easy, if you have the talent, work ethic and dedication, they can become your full-time job starting right now.
If you walked to your local college and asked to take a class on how to make a smash hit record, you would be laughed at. That is something that can’t be taught. In my line of work I’ve met a ton of engineers who simply started watching YouTube tutorials, following blogs (Joey Sturgis and Cameron Mizell are a great place to start) and buying the gear they needed from eBay and started recording bands. Some of them lucked out with an insanely successful, great-sounding record and now they have clients booked for a year straight. They had a natural talent, the education they needed and spent a massive amount of time refining their craft. So start learning: Pick up the gear and record smaller local bands (to start out).
We have all seen well-established YouTube personalities, from BryanStars to Jared Dines. At some point they thought, “Let me pick up a camera and start recording this music-related idea I had for YouTube.” After years of hard work, they built a substantial following and now make a living off (monetization) those commercials you see before their videos. I’m not saying to go out and create a channel just like theirs; I’m saying come up with your own idea for a channel, buy a camera and start creating content. If your idea is creative enough and people want to watch it, this could be your full-time career.
How music consumers find out about bands constantly changes. Some people prefer print, some people prefer online. When Artery Recordings releases a new album, we count on smaller blogs to help pick up the news and promote it across the world. These are run by dedicated music fans who decided one day to start an online blog or site and start covering bands. The more people read their stories and click to their site, the more money they make from their banner ads. If you write content people want to read, you can make a decent living collecting CTR (click through rate) and CPM (cost per mille, or thousand) revenue from advertisers.
With new albums and press releases, bands will constantly need new photos. The only way to convey a band’s unique aesthetic is with a good photo. Do your research and pick up a decent camera and lens. I’ve seen amazing photos shot on a $400 camera that was just used properly/creatively. So watch tutorials on YouTube, pick up the gear, follow well-established photographers for pointers and practice whenever you can. You can start shooting photos of local bands for extra money and grow from there.
Every album release I do at Artery Recordings is a massive undertaking, from distribution to graphic design needs. Album covers, Facebook ads, Instagram graphics, merch designs are all hammered out by my graphic designer Sam Shepard, whom I rely on. The point is: Without a graphic designer, a band can’t print or even release a CD. So learn this skill, pick up a copy of Photoshop and develop your graphic design style on bands in your region.