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Volume1, Issue 1: October 2008

Career Support for Music Students

Meet Your Career Advisor

Hello everyone! My name is Jan Bottomer and I am the new Career Advisor for Music students, based out of McGill’s Career Centre (CAPS). I am writing to introduce myself and CAPS, and to encourage you to make full use of the many resources and services available to you.

To introduce myself a little - I received my M.A. in Counselling Psychology from McGill, completing an internship specializing in career counselling with university students. I am also a musician; I have studied cello and piano from a young age, playing in many orchestras and groups, and singing in several choral ensembles. I am currently a cellist with I Medici di McGill, an amateur orchestra which performs several public concerts every year.

Services Available to You at CAPS

I encourage you to stop by my office in Suite 2200 in the Brown Students Services building this year to:

- discuss any questions or concerns you may have about your career path and goals
- find out about career options both within and outside the Music Industry
- learn about specific job search strategies for music students
- have your C.V. or cover letter reviewed
- make use of our extensive career resource centre

I also recommend you check out the online resources available on the CAPS website (www.caps.mcgill.ca). These include a subscription to “Bridge – Worldwide Music Connection” a fabulous online resource which allows you to search over 2000 opportunities in music.

Taking Your Career into Your Own Hands - the Proactive Approach!

As a music student, your primary focus at the moment is naturally on your music and academic courses, on practicing, performing, and studying. And while these are the essential cornerstones on which your music career will be built, cultivating an entrepreneurial, proactive mindset and skill set are also crucial to success!

Usually, when people think of job searching, they think of responding to posted job advertisements, firing off cover letters and CVs to the openings an organization has made public, and then waiting for more to appear. There is nothing wrong with this approach per se…as long as it is not your only approach! Statistics show that more than 85% of jobs are never posted on a public site, they remain part of the “hidden” job market which job-seekers must actively pursue. Jobs in the music field are even less likely to be found on a traditional site. There is work to be had out there as a musician, but it is very unlikely to just land in your lap, you will have to go out there and find it or create it yourself. This presents the exciting prospect of a diverse, multi-faceted career – performing in a variety of contexts, teaching, composing, arranging, helping to run an arts organization or performing group…the possibilities are limited only by your curiosity and imagination!

As a current student, you can begin to develop your entrepreneurial mindset by finding out as much as you can about what already exists in the professional world. Talk to other musicians from a variety of backgrounds, attend events like the upcoming Music Café: Networking Made Easy (see below), find a mentor, and continue to develop your sense of who you are and what you have to offer as a musician. When you attend events and concerts, start thinking about how your unique talents and skills could fit in, what you might do differently, and the possibilities for collaboration which might exist.

And speaking of collaboration…

New Career and Professional Development series

This year CAPS, MUSA and the Faculty of Music are working together to launch a new career and professional development series including workshops and other events designed to help you refine your ability to put together your professional package, to forge relationships and connections with others in the field and industry and to learn about different career paths and options available after graduation. One upcoming event is “The Music Café: Networking Made Easy” an informal networking and information event planned for November 20th 2008. Between five and ten industry professionals will be invited to attend the café to meet and talk – over coffee and cookies – with music students about the different career options available in the field, how they made their music degrees work for them, and advice and suggestions they have for young musicians.

Detailed information about this and additional events in the series will be made available on the CAPS website through My Future, as well as through our monthly CAPS Scoop bulletin, the MUSA website and the Phonograph. I would welcome any ideas or suggestions you may have for additional events/workshops and hope to meet many of you in the upcoming months!

5 Essentials of Music Career Success

By Peter Spellman, Director of the Career Development Center, Berklee College of Music
This article is from his new book, Indie Marketing Power: The Guide for Maximizing Your Music Marketing.

Music is too big a world for a one-size-fits-all model of music career success. Musicians' career paths are as unique as their individual fingerprints. Nevertheless, there are a few guidelines that I believe apply to anyone trying to make a living career out of their love of music. Here are five:

  1. Hone your talent and realize there is a place for you. Not everyone is a Quincy Jones, a Beatles, or a Bruce Springsteen, but if an artist like Tom Waits is a vocalist, then there is definitely room for you too. Do the work necessary to excel in your niche, whether it's writing a chart, engineering a session, providing backup vocals, or teaching kids the basics of music.

    Your goal, to use marketing lingo, is to "position" yourself in your "market" as the go-to person for that particular skill or talent. Don't worry too much about industry rejection. Every record label in Britain initially passed on the Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The key is believing in yourself and persevering beyond others' opinions (even those of "the industry").

  2. Connect with as many people as you can because relationships drive music careers more that anything else, even talent. Music is a "who-you-know/who-knows-you" kind of business. The quality and quantity of your relationships will be the primary engines of your progress. Try developing creative projects with fellow-musicians. Perhaps you can combine your live show with two other acts and present the package to a local promoter. There is strength in numbers. Finding the right combinations takes experimentation.

    If you're interested in working in the business side of music, then interning at a music company is the best way to both learn how the biz works and connect with those who can help move your career along.

  3. Accept the new powers in your corner and take responsibility for creating your own success. The last twenty years has given you the means to both produce and distribute your own music on a global scale. New models of business are emerging in the world of music. A "record deal" is not necessarily the goal any longer. The Internet has clearly become your "open mic" to the world, and desktop technologies provide you with ways to have the look, reach and efficiency of larger companies. Dare to be different.

    Remember, new power also means new responsibilities. Global reach means a potentially far-flung audience. You need to be ready for the incoming messages and questions from this new market. Have you created the best business structures to hold and express your work? Are you setting up effective systems to communicate with your audience? It's up to you to create your own success and not merely rely on a record company or agent to do the work of making you visible in the marketplace.

  4. Understand that every business is becoming a "music business" and so musical opportunities are multiplying. It took a coffee company and a computer manufacturer to teach the music industry how to sell music in the digital age! Non-music businesses everywhere are seeking creative ways to add music-related services to their mix. This means that you needn't be dependent on the traditional "music industrial complex" for music career success.

    Think of companies you already resonate with and try brainstorming ways you can link up. Start on a local scale. It might be a gift shop, bookstore or arts organization. It may even evolve into a full-fledged sponsorship for a tour or recording project. Find ways to add value to what these businesses are doing with what you have to offer. Forging creative alliances is key to building a multi-dimensional music career.

  5. Prepare to be versatile and to wear several hats initially, until your "brand" is established. Most musicians I know have had to cobble together several revenue streams in the early stages of their careers in order to make enough money to support themselves. Many have also had to take on non-music "lifeline careers" just to make ends meet, pay down debt, or supplement what they earn from music.

    I tell musicians to not so much look for "a job," but to seek out the work that needs to be done. It might be arranging a song, playing a wedding gig, helping organize a concert series, doing a jingle session, offering private music instruction, or writing a review of your favorite band's new CD. Eventually, all the different experiences merge together into the roaring river that will be your music career. At that point you'll be visible, in demand and able to name your price. And that's career success.

Peter Spellman is an artist development specialist, helping musicians apply their entrepreneurial instincts to create success. He is Director of Career Development at Berklee College of Music, Boston and the author of several handbooks on music career development. Find him at mbsolutions.com.

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