Tuesday, October 22

Breaking into the Biz


Wednesday, October 16, 1996

Getting into the music business takes more than a college
degree. Those in the field reveal what you should be doing today
for your successful career tomorrow.By Tom Komaromi

Daily Bruin Contributor

In a business where who you know can be as important as the
latest Billboard charts, finding a way in is often arduous and
obscure to even the wisest music zealot.

From A&R (Artists & Repertoire), promotion and publicity
to legal and business affairs (to name a few), a record label is a
company with a variety of occupations.

"Many students don’t realize how big the record business
actually is," says Bob Frymire, Vice President of Promotion
Operations at Virgin Records. He feels the first step is to think
about the area of the music business one wishes to pursue.

But one rule cuts across all departments: If you want to work
for a record company, "experience is essential," Frymire says.

Internships and college representative jobs expose students to
the inner-workings of the industry, and help develop valuable
networks of future contacts. Interns usually work in a specific
department at a record company, while college representatives do
most of their work in the field, promoting the label’s artists via
college radio, college press, special promotions and retail
stores.

Ami Kay Spishock, currently a college representative for
Polygram Group Distribution, enjoys the benefits of her internship
at A&M.

"The CDs and concert tickets are great, but the real perks are
the information that you learn and the connections you make. Many
of the people you meet through an internship can further your
career when you graduate from college," she says.

For instance, Jay Boberg got involved while attending UCLA as a
college representative for A&M Records. Through this experience
he met Miles Copeland, the manager of a new band known as The
Police. When Copeland started I.R.S. Records, he hired Boberg to
help him. Eventually, Jay Boberg became the head of MCA Publishing
and is now the President of MCA Records. I.R.S. soon signed an
obscure band called R.E.M.

Copeland and Boberg’s relationship illustrates the importance of
developing a network of peers who all rise through the ranks
together. While it is good to have connections with the higher-ups,
it is vital to remember that your peers are the executives of
tomorrow. The fellow peons a student interns with are more likely
to influence a career down the road than those students intern for,
who are currently more interested in your flawless rearrangement of
their CD cabinet.

The recipe for success in the music business seems to be having
an extensive network of contacts, a substantial amount of
experience and a tremendous amount of luck.

"Ninety percent of getting a job in the music industry is being
at the right place at the right time and who you know," Frymire
adds, further emphasizing the importance of meeting as many people
as possible.

Besides interning, aspiring music business executives can expand
their network and knowledge by working part-time at a record store,
volunteering at a local radio station or seeing bands at local
clubs.

"(These experiences) are valuable-far more than sitting in a
classroom and learning about them," Frymire says.

Most music business executives agree that hands-on experience at
the street-level and knowledge of the overall music industry is
vital to securing a position at a label.

Frymire adds that although a college degree may not necessarily
help you get a job, it will help you with your business skills.

Students often ask what the best degree is for someone pursuing
a career in the music business.

"It depends ­ any of the tools you learn in any major will
help you somewhere along the way," says Mia Rivera, Operations and
Accounting Supervisor for West Coast at BMG.

Rivera adds that university extension classes about the music
industry can give extremely valuable information as well as provide
an excellent networking opportunity.

"Some famous, well-connected people teach those classes," Rivera
says. "We have people here in the company who are taking those
classes."

Elizabeth Gruenwald, National College Promotions Coordinator at
Virgin Records, agrees that there is no specific preferred major,
but also mentions the advantage of knowledge in business.

"You’re better off getting an internship and working your butt
off," Gruenwald says.

Students deciding whether to intern at a major or indie label
must look at the positive and negative aspects of both.

Dean Diomedes, Label Manager at Rotten Records, enjoys the
well-rounded nature of his indie label job.

"I get to see every aspect of the album getting put together,"
he says.

Manish Raval interned for 10 weeks at Sidewinder Music, a
division of Epic Records. Three months later he was offered a job
as Music Coordinator.

"As an intern (at a small label) you’re not just fetching
coffee, you’re actually really involved in everything," Raval says.
"It’s more hands-on; since you have more duties, you learn
more."

However, the majors have more money to invest in their projects,
allowing more financial backing for smaller, developing artists.
They also offer more contacts and job security due to their
size.

"At a major label you’ve got the manpower and support that an
indie label just doesn’t have," Gruenwald says. "A major label is a
good place to get your feet wet, but it’s not as easy to learn the
intricacies."

But despite their reputation and intimate structure, indie
labels are putting quite a dent in major label record sales. Indies
now collectively capture nearly 20 percent of the record market,
putting them ahead of five of the six majors. This is a remarkable
shift from the day when each one of the six majors (Sony, Warner
Bros., RCA/BMG, Capitol-EMI, Polygram and MCA) held a larger share
of the market than all indies combined. Consequently, indies now
have the advantages of small-scale intimacy and comprehensive
training as well as occasional big-time sales and name recognition
formerly reserved for the majors.

Completing several internships in various departments and record
labels makes graduating students more attractive to employers at
record labels.

Gruenwald also recommends getting involved with your college
radio station or anything else that gives you an insider’s
understanding of the industry.

"Read the trade magazines, like Hits and Billboard, know what
bands are out there, know what labels they’re on, what they sound
like, what the hot new sounds are," Gruenwald says.

Karol DeGraffenreid of the UCLA EXPO Center agrees that
experience is a key element in landing a job. "It is imperative
that students consider doing an internship if they want to break
into the hidden job market of the music business," she says.

"That’s what gets your foot in the door," Gruenwald agrees. "A
good company is going to hire from within."

Despite the importance of experience, employers do consider
other attributes. Rivera points out that she would favor someone
whose "heart is in it, and is anxious to learn."

Frymire, who started as a college representative himself, looks
for individuals with a passion for music and great communication
skills.

"Have confidence in yourself and step out and do something, and
learn from it," he says.

Gruenwald feels that anyone who wants to go anywhere in the
music business must have intense drive and an unwavering
determination.

"The world is full of opportunities," she says. "You just have
to find them."

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