Career Changers

Reader Request: Music Job Ideas

April 27th, 2011

Just got this email from a reader with a dilemma: his passion is music and he's worked for both local and national record labels, but opportunities in that field have shrunk considerably. So what should he do? Let's take a look at what he wrote...

Hi Rich,

Hope this finds you doing well!  I enjoy your column in the Star-Advertiser and the Career Changers site. I've been using both to try and get some ideas of what I might like to do.  Wondering if I can pick your brain for a little advice...

I've done one thing my entire working career (Music Business, both retail and working for major labels like Sony and EMI along with numerous local labels), and it's the only thing I ever wanted to do since I was five years old.  Music is also my only real hobby --  just about anything I read is music history, I collect music and am a really bad guitarist.  The bad part is now that labels and record stores are for the most part gone, my place in the business is gone as well.  Everything I read is how you need to find something you really love to do... and unfortunately I can't do the one thing I love anymore.

Is it best to just dive into something and hope for the best?  I look at page after page of different occupations but nothing interests me (on paper), and I don't know if it's because of my singular interest all these years or that I'm desperately trying to hold on to something that just isn't there anymore.  What would be some of the first steps that you would recommend? Thanks for any advice you might be able to give.

Aloha,  Jim Williams

I liked his pitch. He's off to a good start with his job search by putting it out there that he's looking for help, and by going to the proper place to ask for advice. His brief email hits all the right notes: it shows he's done his homework since he's checked out my blog and website. The tone is courteous and friendly. He shares something personal that I immediately could relate to -- his love of music. Over the years, I've gotten to know a lot of people in the music biz who were international stars, and a few local musicians as well.

Then he succinctly presents his problem in a way that most of us can sympathize with. Times are changing, old ways of doing business are being phased out, and his options don't appear very promising. I wanted to help this guy, and I hope some of you might have leads or suggestions.

I followed up with an email to ask for a little more info about his strengths and salary requirements. Here's an excerpt from his prompt reply:

I have good managerial skills, am good at handling budgets, able to spot and capitalize on trends, also good at working with deadlines.  Would like a job starting at $45-50,000, but if I found something that interested me I would be willing to work my way up. Thanks, and I look forward to reading what you have to say!

His email contained no misspellings or horrible punctuation. He seems literate and is probably a good communicator. Someone who might be good at dealing with the public or business clients on a professional level. I like that he mentions working with deadlines and handling budgets too.

My first bit of advice is always the same: NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK. The more people you meet and talk to about your career aspirations, the more chances you'll have of making a connection that leads to an opportunity. As Judy Bishop of Bishop & Company has said in her segments for my Career Changers TV show, you should join different types of groups related to your interests or profession... but also tell everyone you know what you're looking for so they'll be keeping their eyes open for you too.

In fact, while interviewing an office manager for a CCTV segment, I felt like the person was over-qualified for what he was doing. So I asked about his education and background. He liked his job, but didn't love it. I mentioned to my wife that this person was looking for work in the architectural design field, and it just so happened one of her business clients had an opening that was perfect for him. He got the job and has been very happy ever since -- but it wouldn't have happened unless I asked him about his long-range goals because he was kind of quiet, and not the type that would bring it up himself. Rule number one for sales work and job searches: You don't ask, you don't get.

My second recommendation would be for Jim to broaden his search from the music biz to entertainment industry -- something creative in nature. That could be book or magazine publishing. Internet ventures related to the creative world. Local TV shows that deal with the music and entertainment scene on OC16 have pretty good followings, but need sales people who can bring in sponsors and advertisers. Maybe concert and event promoters in Hawaii could use someone with Jim's skills and connections to line up music acts and promote them. Make a list of companies he would like to work for, then pitch them on what he could do for them. Create his own job, in effect.

Anyone out there got a lead or idea? Post them below! Comments need to be moderated, so it may take awhile before they appear.

Bonus Links: Here's a couple of good articles that pertain to Jim's situation -- and perhaps yours.

How to Expand Your Career Potential

The Smarter Way to Change Careers

And of course, you should watch our show on OC16 to get more ideas and inspiration. Click here for daily viewing times, other useful resources, or check out videos from past programs on our CCTV YouTube Channel. Keep those email requests coming!

2 Responses to “Reader Request: Music Job Ideas”

  1. Mr. B:

    Has he ever thought about going into teaching music to children? He mentioned that he is a "really bad guitarist"; however, if he has a basic/fundamental music knowledge/background, then teaching may be an option. Music teachers probably don't get paid a heck of a lot of money, but there are other rewards, besides salary, that can make a job enjoyable.

  2. Rich Figel:

    Teaching music as a sideline, maybe. No way he could make a living at it though. Even that's changing because of technology. My new iMac came with Garage Band, which actually allows you to take music lessons via your computer. You can download how-to videos made by famous musicians who will teach you the chords and notes for popular songs -- similar to the iTunes concept, except it's for music lessons.

    As for teaching in general, I wouldn't recommend anyone go into it -- not with the anti-teachers mentality in this country that is being promulgated by the far right and Tea Party types who think teachers are overpaid. Educators in America don't get the respect (or the pay) that countries with better school systems accord to their teachers. We already have enough trouble attracting and keeping good teachers. The latest attacks on public workers and unions across the country will only make it even harder to recruit better qualified people to become teachers.