How to get started in music
- Kirstyn Smith
- 1 September 2017
Four professionals in the Scottish music industry offer advice on how to launch yourself
If you've ever had rock star aspirations or thought you could spot the next big thing a mile off, you've presumably considered a career in the music industry. Whether it's writing, performing, managing or promoting, being involved in music as a viable career choice might seem like a pipe dream. But four figures from the Scottish music scene say it's entirely possible–it just takes a bit of hard work
Anastasia Connor, freelance journalist and music PR
Music is a contact sport. It's all about developing your networks. Make sure you go to showcase events and festivals that tend to attract artists, press, labels and agents. If writing is your thing, I wouldn't recommend starting your own blog; start writing for someone else. You have to push yourself to get outside of your comfort zone, to aim to do things that are difficult. You'll learn a lot, become more resilient and gain confidence. If you can, try and find yourself a mentor. I think everyone should have a mentor at any stage of their career.
Work hard and smart
The music industry is a practical discipline. You have to have the confidence to get out there and do things – nobody is going to come to you with an offer. It's difficult to get paid work, but there are plenty of work experience and internship opportunities. Try writing for blogs, or start a DIY label, or get into promoting gigs. All those things are easy enough to do, but they'll give you an insight into how things work, and also help you build your networks and your name. I don't think most people are prepared for the terrible poverty and insecurity they have to endure in the first few years. You often hear about mental health issues in music but usually with reference to musicians, which I find quite worrying because the same problems affect other people working in music. There aren't enough women in some areas of the music industry. This, however, is changing rapidly. We're definitely moving in the right direction. Ageism, on the other hand, is never talked about but I see it as a far bigger problem. Most jobs in music are really customer services jobs. Only a small number of jobs have a creative element to them. It's definitely not glamorous.
Follow Anastasia's work @lidl_donkey
Rose Manson, manager of Subcity Radio, Glasgow
Don't give up
Try everything, but be ready to realise you might not be that great at everything. Things don't always work out smoothly at first; it's about dedication and not giving up. Things don't happen right away, but that's OK.
Make some pals
By going to events and meeting people who are also trying to get started, you'll make friends who you can end up collaborating with. Instead of trying to get to know people who've established their careers, get to know people in the same boat as you and start getting creative. Surround yourself with people who support you, people who encourage you to be confident in your own ideas – and listen to them when they do.
Olaf Furniss, founder of Born to be Wide
Have the right reason
What is it that really attracts you to working in music? Too many people just want to hang out with bands or, in the case of some musicians, only want to be famous. Employers can usually spot the former as they are reluctant to get their hands dirty. In the case of the latter, the best thing to do is just find out when the next heats are for one of the TV talent shows. That saves everybody a bit of time and irritation. Most acts who just want to be famous stand out because they do not go to see other bands and come across as entitled narcissists. Above all, their music usually ranks somewhere between mediocre and generic pish.
Get out there
It is surprising how few people actually approach music organisations and companies about work experience, but this is an excellent way to get a perspective on different areas of the business. A lot of people start out in one area of the business and end up somewhere different, so nobody should worry about it too much. Making connections across the board is always useful and will be seen as a positive by potential employers. If someone has spent a week at a label, a week working for a merch company and a week with a promoter, I know they will be able to pick up the phone to any of them. It also shows initiative. Connections are everything and should come organically if you are going to gigs and taking a genuine interest in the music scene. The more you are out and about, the more people will notice you and friendships will develop.
Fiona Watt, co-founder and vocals tutor at Girls Rock School Edinburgh
Prepare for hard graft
It takes dedication and hard work, but you need to be able to enjoy it too. At GRSE, we're focused on people getting started; we're interested in attitude and passion, rather than technical ability – that comes with time and effort. Making your living from performing can be a hard road: you just have to keep all options open and don't give up the day job. The music industry offers lots of career opportunities besides being a musician, so we also run classes on music promotion, sound engineering, and DJing. The only way to find out what you like doing best is to give it a try.
Confidence is key
A big part of our classes is about confidence and we aim to teach in a very supportive way, but the most important thing is that people come along and give it a go. Our school motto is: 'Just Keep Going'. We also advise people to get in touch with Help Musicians UK, who can help provide funding for career development, and offer advice and support.