“What do you want to do in the music industry?”
I clearly remember the first day I decided I wanted to major in music business. I met new friends in my dorm at Lebanon Valley College, and as we were discussing our majors my turn came up. At the time I entered college, I was in the undecided track but had already determined I wanted to major in music business. All that stood between me and declaring my major was an audition.
And that question.
What did I want to do? I had no idea what the actual music industry was, and just knew I loved music and entertainment. At that time, there was no such thing as streaming, and the iPod and iTunes didn’t actually come to my attention until later that semester when a friend popped in to my room holding her brand new iPod.
I graduated with the same question in mind. Streaming still wasn’t a thing (it wouldn’t be introduced for several more years) and we hit the recession. I worked part time jobs, took an underpaying full time job at a college just so I had money to feed my horse addiction. It wasn’t until I came out to LA, started actually working in the music industry, and discovered entrepreneurship that I started to put my mind to figuring it out.
Now streaming is king, there are new start ups in nearly every facet of the industry, online businesses are becoming popular, and we’re (still) trying to figure out how to get songwriters and artists what they deserve to be paid. The industry from recorded music to touring to even sheet music publishing looks entirely different than it did 15 years ago when I entered college.
Building a Career
There are a lot of people who come up in the industry knowing exactly what they want to do, knowing their sweet spot to a T. But there are others of us who aren’t quite sure, so we test the waters in different paths before we take a leap.
Here’s the thing though if you fall into that latter group: you can’t let others influence your thoughts about what you want to do or what you should do. For a time as I was figuring out where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do, and how I wanted the business model for Broken Glass to look, I let others influence my thoughts and decisions. It wasn’t until I felt truly settled in my career with a few years of industry experience under my belt that I started thinking about a long-term career. It wasn’t until I unplugged for two weeks and took a vacation on another continent that I decided my company’s business model and ultimately, the services I wanted to offer.
Are you looking to build your career from the ground up, to change industries, or to start up your own business? Are you not quite sure what path you want to take? Here are a few tips for finding your sweet spot and figuring out where you should begin:
What are your skills?
This one a key question for me as I worked out the business model for Broken Glass Media and the services I wanted to offer, and it should be the question you ask yourself as you build a career or business in any industry.
What are you good at? What comes easy to you? What have you built up over the years through formal and informal education?
Reflecting on my own skills allowed me to put together service packages that didn't just resonate with me, but I knew would be an asset to my ideal client. It also allowed me to review the skills I want and need to develop to build on these services, to continue with my professional development, and to grow in my role at my 9-5.
Take a few moments to write out the things you can do in your sleep, that you’ve been praised for in the past. Make note of the things you’re good at, but maybe need to develop just a little bit more. And make note of any areas where you might be lacking so you can focus on those and grow professionally.
This reflection and analysis will not only help you develop but will be an asset when you’re job searching, networking, or building up your own business.
What do you enjoy?
What lights you up? What excites you and makes you forget that you’re actually working?
I used to volunteer at my barn during horse shows. The hours were long, it was physical labor, and (being in New Jersey) the weather often didn’t cooperate. But a 12+ hour day at the farm in extreme heat and humidity or the snow and cold flew by, while an 8 hour day in the protected, quiet office had me wanting to poke my eyeballs out and bang my head against the desk.
What was the difference?
I truly enjoyed working on the farm. I spent my day outside with an animal I loved, with kids who kept me on my toes, and I was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the sport.
Even at the age of 18 when I didn’t know what I wanted to do in the music industry, I knew that I wanted to work in an industry that I enjoyed. I could have majored in business administration and picked up a full time job at some random company in the city, but would I have enjoyed it as much as I do music?
When I decided I wanted to start my own business, I spent a lot of time deciding what I wanted to offer beyond a podcast and the blog. I knew that my services had to be something I enjoyed, something that would completely light me up and keep me going through the difficulties of running a business. For a long time I considered offering a group coaching program, but I procrastinated on it. I built outline after outline, making shifts here and there, rewriting the sales page, and hesitating to release anything.
I sat back on the airplane to Germany a few weeks ago and it hit me: it just wasn’t right. It didn’t light me up. And what good would I be to my clients if I launched a program that I wasn’t enthused about?
Over the next two weeks abroad, I considered this question “What does light me up? What do I get excited about?” And here I am, launching an entire page of services that I am ecstatic to bring to the world.
What lights you up? Don’t choose a career path because someone else might push you in that direction. Be honest with yourself and choose something fulfilling that gets you up each and every morning.
What career do you see yourself in?
This requires time travel goggles. Think about where you want to be in one, five, and ten years. Think about the impact you want to have on the world, and the legacy you want to leave.
After college, I worked part time as a teller at two different banks. I worked in retail and as staff at a local university. All of those jobs were a means to an end - paying my bills and affording to show horses every weekend. Never once did I look into my 10 year plan and see myself still working at the bank or still working at the university. I saw myself in a major city working in the music industry, and it didn’t matter whether that was New York, LA, Nashville or in another country. I knew in my heart that I would 100% work in the industry. I just needed a plan to get there.
Where to Now?
Whether you're building a business or a career, take a few moments to think about the above questions. Think about what you can bring to the table in a company, in the industry, in the world. Discover what excites you and what you can see yourself doing for the majority of your adult life.
Know this though: you can shift and pivot your career and business at any time. You can build a career at a record label and apply those skills (the ones you took stock of earlier) building out a cross-country tour. If working in publishing suddenly doesn’t light you up, figure out what does. Heck, just read some of the articles dedicated to promotions and new hires within music companies on www.musicbusinessworldwide.com or www.billboard.biz and you’ll see music executives with experience across a range of companies. Your skills are applicable anywhere and as long as you have the passion and fervor, you can build a career you love.