Besides exclusively playing music, many independent musicians are also working various jobs that make up the music business as interns. Musicians work as interns in order to learn about a particular aspect of the industry, gain hands-on experience, network and build up their resume.
Doing a music business internship is a perfect way of gaining practical, real life know-how by being exposed to the inner workings of the trade. I asked FastForward Music Magazine journalist and Universal Music Berlin intern Christina Heckmann what it's like to do an internship?
'As an intern you get a sort of a behind the scenes insight into the music industry. You can learn all the processes involved, learn all the different tools used, start with making a record, creative promotion, booking tours, all the things involved when releasing the record, etc... Even if some of the administrative work can be quite boring, it is useful to know what needs to be done. Being an intern for a label usually means you get to participate in all the events taking place, this is the fun part. Concerts, showcases, seminars, etc. It is here where the most important things take place. You meet people from the business, you create an important network and everyone has advice to share. You will see that networking is especially important in the music business. Important insights can be gained, you won't be as naive when you want to release your own music, because you'll know what's important and what's not. Take control and don't be taken control of.'
In other words you want to make your internship benefit you in the bigger picture.
Here are a few points to consider when starting out.
What kind of internships are out there?
You can intern in nearly every field of the industry and most larger companies require that you have done an internship before they will hire you full time. You can intern at a record label, artist management company, distributor, record store, studio, post-production studio, live performance venue, as an equipment technician, as a roadie, in merchandise, for festivals, booking agencies, promotion companies, in marketing departments etc.
What should you be looking to gain as an intern?
The music industry is a 'who you know and who they know' kind of profession.
It would be best if you are confident that you will be doing your internship in the field that you are passionate about. For example, if you hate country music don't do an internship at a country music label just because it would be experience with a record label. After a short time you may regret what you are doing and the network of people you would be meeting may not be of benefit to you in the long run. Aim for what you are inherently enthusiastic about.
Do interns get paid?
Yes some do but most don't. For many years music companies around the world have benefited financially by exploiting interns, they do this by having interns do the tedious work basically for free or for very little benefit. Be sure that your internship provides actual vocational training. I've seen many studio interns hanging around the studio making coffee, ordering lunch, cleaning the bathroom and basically being an unpaid worker for the studio engineer but not really learning anything related to sound engineering. Your job is not to just do menial tasks all day long, though these tasks may be part of your internship, it should not be all that you are there for. You need to be learning.
How do I find an internship?
Research the internet and sift through music company websites. For instance you can go to the Warner Music website and apply online for an internship (Warner Music Internships are Unpaid) but they get countless applications and yours would be one among hundreds. Going to the place where you want to intern and talking to them in person is a good approach but you should call ahead first. If you go in person then you can really sense what it would be like for you to spend your time in that environment before taking it on. You want to find an internship that fits you and remember that afterwards 'you won't be as naive when you want to release your own music, because you'll know what's important and what's not.'
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