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7 Music Production Courses You’ll Need to Be a Producer

There are many different factors that can make choosing the right college difficult when the time comes, including cost, location, benefits, the staff, and even the potential for internships and jobs outside of the school. Something many potential students don’t consider is the courses they will take, as they feel earning a degree in a certain field will be enough. In some cases, this can certainly be true. (If you get a basic Marketing bachelor’s degree, the courses you’ll take will likely be the same almost anywhere you go.) But when it comes to music degrees, it’s worth examining what exactly you’ll study before signing up.

While each school has a different curriculum there are a number of topics covered under almost every music production degree. Music production courses don’t diverge too drastically and you’re bound to learn a lot about the following seven verticals before your time at school is up. I’d still advise you spend some time glancing at the list of classes you’ll need to complete before graduation day (most colleges post them online so you can get a sense of how detailed one selection may be or in which direction an institution leans), but be prepared to focus a lot of your time on the following courses.

1. Production

Can you imagine a music production program that didn’t actually involve any actual music production courses? Of course, production comes first on this list, as it’s easily the most important class (or, most likely, group of classes) you’ll take when studying how to be a Music Producer. What those classes will look like and what they’ll be called will vary from college to college and from major to major.

Some of these degrees will get into the differences between computer programs while others stick primarily to one piece of software and focus instead on other important aspects of being a Producer. For example, Berklee offers many courses that specifically teach one popular program or another, such as Pro Tools 101, Producing Music with Reason, and Producing Music with Cubase. These are all names you’ll have to become familiar with in your time studying and producing and getting hands-on experience with them at one of the finest schools in the world is an excellent opportunity.

As part of its “Project and Portfolio” run of classes, Full Sail University starts students off slow with a large but fairly simple project and by the end of one’s time there they will be producing more complex, ready-to-release items as part of a course.

Production is something you won’t just do as part of courses with that name in the title, especially if it’s your major. You’ll find while there are classes that focus solely on techniques and the brand names on your laptop that help you make the music you came to school to create, music production will follow you through every class you take on your program, which will only help make you better and better as time goes by.

Of the schools I looked at, only one didn’t feature any classes concerning with music theory…though my theory is (that’s a little joke…I think) one probably wouldn’t even be admitted to that program without a basic understanding of what would have been taught during a music theory class.

2. Music Theory

Music theory isn’t quite as intimidating as its name may appear, but it is a vast subject one could specialize in if they wanted. At its most basic, music theory will help you understand everything connected to how people make music, from notes to rhythm to keys and so on. Sure, you might be dragging and dropping sounds and synths in Ableton but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also understand the fundamentals! Studying music theory to become a working Producer is like a Writer studying up on parts of speech, or perhaps even spelling.

Of the schools I looked at, only one didn’t feature any classes concerning with music theory…though my theory is (that’s a little joke…I think) one probably wouldn’t even be admitted to that program without a basic understanding of what would have been taught during a music theory class.

New York University’s Steinhardt school requires four different music theory courses. Johns Hopkins features at least one. Full Sail takes an even broader approach; their sole music theory course attempts to cover every topic that might come up — in just one class. It’s also worth mentioning some schools will lump musical history into music theory curriculum while some will split it off and make it a separate area of study entirely. Both deserve their own time to be focused on but not every up-and-coming Music Producer has the time!

3. Music History

Speaking of music history, knowing what has come before is important and potentially inspirational for many creative fields, from writing to painting to dance to, of course, music production. No matter what kind of music you’d like to produce for a living it’s vital you not only listen to the classics and the songs and albums regarded as some of the best of all time (in every genre) but also that you learn about the people, places, and institutions that made the music industry and music as we know it today what they are.

Many people taking part in a music performance degree spend a lot of time studying the masters, though as a future Producer, it’s not stressed quite as much. Because of this, some schools place a lot of focus on the past while others include the greatest musicians and their art in different ways. Some schools, such as Steinhardt, require students take several courses in musical history, while others, like Berklee, incorporate music from past decades into lessons all the time, so there aren’t classes that only look backward.

4. Engineering (and Mixing)

Studying to become a professional Engineer or Mixer is very different from studying to be a Producer but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to know what’s going on in the adjacent parts of the industry also connected to making tunes. It’s great to understand the basics of almost everything connected to churning out music, from vocal performance to playing an instrument to the technology behind it, including the mixing, mastering, engineering, songwriting, and even the businesses that package the music and release it. I’m not suggesting you should become an expert in all these fields or get separate degrees in everything but if you’re going to be a full-time Producer you will benefit creatively and financially by understanding what’s going on from start to finish on a project.

Some colleges will have you take courses to learn the basics of engineering (if not also mixing and mastering) while others will lump those skills in with production courses. For example, Berklee made mixing a priority for production students (there are separate courses for learning to mix specifically in Pro Tools, for live recordings, and even one simply titled “The Art of Mixing”). Other schools, such as Johns Hopkins, will work it into big projects.

5. Technology

Technology is a fairly vague and all-encompassing term and it’s one you’re absolutely going to run into in almost every course at almost every school offering a degree in music production. Learning about the tech involved in producing songs these days can be as simple as understanding Ableton, Logic, and Pro Tools — the software programs responsible for the majority of hits made these days — or it can be as complicated as knowing the ins and outs of computers, speakers, and the hundreds of different cords and plugs that fill every recording studio. To even be proficient, there can be a lot to learn. That’s to say nothing of being on the cutting edge of technology, which seems to be invading and improving the music industry at a rapid pace.

All four of the degrees I examined for this piece had at least one class with the word “technology” in the title. Some of them had several. It was made clear tech was a major part of many plans of study.

Exerting even a little bit more effort into ensuring the acoustics of a space are as good as they can be will be worth your while and you’ll quickly hear a difference, once you train your ear.

6. Recording

Producing music is one thing, but recording it can be a different skill entirely. Sure, the two are intertwined and sometimes cannot be extracted from one another but just because you’re creative and can think up a hit song this doesn’t mean you automatically understand what is necessary to bring it to life — especially considering all the technology and skills required in a studio environment. (It’s a good thing you’ve studied tech, isn’t it?)

Since working Producers will spend a lot of time in the studio, all of the degrees I looked at devote some time to actual recording processes, with some diving really deep and splitting up the learning into different categories. Berklee offers classes like “Audio Fundamentals for Recording” and “Recording and Producing in the Home Studio” (both of which seem like they’ll be incredibly valuable for those looking to make a name for themselves in today’s modern musical economy). NYU Steinhardt offers no less than five courses in the field and Johns Hopkins keeps things general, though there are a handful of classes that teach everything necessary to kick off a career in recording music.

7. Acoustics

A seasoned musical veteran will tell you acoustics matter a great deal when performing or recording music, while a novice might not even think of such a factor at all. Becoming an expert in the field of acoustics often requires years of practice and further study and beyond a basic understanding, things can become excruciatingly technical…but you likely won’t need to dig this deep. Understanding how the surrounding environment can affect the music being played will make you a better musician, Composer, Conductor, performer, and certainly a better Producer. Exerting even a little bit more effort into ensuring the acoustics of a space are as good as they can be will be worth your while and you’ll quickly hear a difference, once you train your ear.

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Five of the Best Schools for Getting a Master’s in Music

Most of the people who read this website are only just beginning the search for a college education in music but let me assure you — it is absolutely never too early to start thinking about what happens after your four years are up and I mean that in a number of ways.

When you get to college (and hopefully before then) much of what you do at school isn’t just about tests, homework, and making it to the classroom on time (though this can be difficult). Internships, jobs, networking, studying abroad…it all connects to what you’ll be doing after your time on campus is up and every little bit of effort will help you secure a job one day.

Very early on you may find Counselors and Professors who will talk to you about the future, whether in a profession or in graduate school, and while your mind may be on your assignment due tomorrow, you really should take some time and consider what you want out of life and your career and what you might be interested in learning.

I personally signed up to do a master’s degree at my school in my first year since the college I attended had a great deal and they allowed me to do things very quickly. It felt odd at the time committing to something so far down the road and while it was tough to continue attending courses after all my friends had left, I’m extremely glad I stuck with my decision and walked away with two degrees when all was said and done.

Whether you’re looking at undergrad programs for the first time or already seriously considering graduate schools that cater to musicians, please think in advance. The schools below would all be wonderful options (depending on what you want to study), but it could take years to get into them so the earlier you start the search, the better! Getting a master’s in music isn’t easy but it’s incredibly rewarding, and you’ll be glad you did.

1. Berklee College of Music

Location: Boston, MA

Is it really any surprise Berklee has ended up atop this list? Anytime there is a ranking of the best schools for those looking to pursue almost any career in the music industry — be it in business or on the creative side of things — there’s a strong chance that not only does Berklee have a great program but that it deserves to be at the top. Postgrad education is no different when it comes to this Beantown favorite, as it offers an incredibly diverse array of options.

Unsurprisingly, Berklee’s Boston, MA campus, which is widely considered to be the brand’s main campus and the one most people associate with the name, is the one offering the most master’s degrees in music. At the moment, only two are listed as available at the actual “college”: Contemporary Performance (Global Jazz Concentration) and Music Therapy.

Those are good choices but it’s the Conservatory at Berklee that really features the bulk of the courses and if you’re interested in becoming the best musician you can and committing to a few years of a master’s, this location has just shy of twenty degrees offered, from Musical Theatre to Choral Conducting to Woodwind Performance specializing in Bassoon, Clarinet, Flute, Oboe or Saxophone. Sure, it gets pretty specific, but you don’t become the best in the world without focusing on one thing for years at a time.

Berklee also has a campus in Valencia, Spain, which the school has worked very hard at building up in the past few years. In an effort to convince more people to head to Spain to learn about music, the school has established twice as many master’s degrees as the location in Boston. The Valencia locale offers the following four master’s degrees: Contemporary Performance (Production Concentration), Global Entertainment and Music Business, Music Production, Technology, and Innovation, and Scoring for Film, Television, and Video Games.

If you don’t want to move to either Boston or Valencia, Berklee has taken things one step even further and established an online master’s degree program, which is available to students anywhere in the world. At the moment, just two courses of study are offered — Music Business and Music Production — but if things go well it’s not difficult to imagine Berklee coming up with more to post online.

While Berklee was probably always going to be No. 1 on any list concerning great musical colleges in the US, their amazing offerings prove the school didn’t get there on name alone.

The Curtis Institute of Music offers a master’s degree in opera, and while it certainly isn’t for everyone, those who want to become the best Opera Singers in the world should move this to the top of the list of institutions to check out, as it’s one of the few that unabashedly offers such a rigorous and focused degree.

2. Juilliard

Location: New York City, NY

Berklee might be popular across the industry and it is perhaps the coolest choice for musicians and those who want to become professionals in this business, but Juilliard is unbeatable when it comes to prestige.

A quick browse through Juilliard’s own description of what is required to be accepted and succeed in the several-year program makes it come off as rather intimidating. (This is good because it is.) The school highly advises against double majors in its own postgraduate universe and some verticals forbid it, as the courses required are simply too rigorous to allow for studying anything else at the same time.

The school doesn’t accept anybody who has a master’s from any other institution (some musicians want more than one, after all), and they only allow every individual to apply twice. It’s not surprising to be turned down by a master’s program but if it happens twice with those in charge at Juilliard, you will not be considered again.

According to the school, only 150 musicians and vocalists are accepted into the master’s program every year, which makes it incredibly selective. Undergraduate Juilliard is also known to be one of the most difficult schools to get into but it becomes somehow even harder when advancing to the master’s level.

3. San Francisco Conservatory of Music

Location: San Francisco, CA

Most schools with the word “conservatory” in the title are likely worth investigating if you want to be a professional musician and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music is one of the best in the U.S. The institution only offers one master’s degree, the simply-titled Master’s of Music, but it’s available in a number of different categories.

Those looking for a graduate degree in percussion, guitar, brass, woodwinds, keyboard, conducting, voice, strings, collaborative piano (which sounds particularly interesting to me), or composition can head to San Francisco to learn more. There are plenty of options, which is great, but each one will require at least two years of your time, and living in San Francisco is known to be very expensive (even for those not racking up additional school loans), so keep this in mind before signing on to move to the West Coast.

No matter what you’re studying, Oberlin is a good school and the fact it has a conservatory of music is great news to those who don’t feel a bachelor’s degree is enough.

4. Curtis Institute of Music

Location: Philadelphia, PA

For all of the amazingly talented musicians and artists who have come out of the Curtis Institute of Music, the school doesn’t get brought up enough on lists like this. Perhaps because it is overshadowed by flashier, better-known names like Berklee and Juilliard or maybe because it isn’t in a major city. (Philadelphia is a great town but it doesn’t compare to New York City or San Francisco.) However, it deserves recognition.

The school accepts many different kinds of students who all want to excel in playing their instruments but when it comes to the master’s program only one field is offered and it’s a pretty specific one. The Curtis Institute of Music offers a master’s degree in opera, and while it certainly isn’t for everyone, those who want to become the best Opera Singers in the world should move this to the top of the list of institutions to check out, as it’s one of the few that unabashedly offers such a rigorous and focused degree.

If the master’s degree seems too difficult to handle there are less intense offerings and various certificates are also available…and while those will certainly be great to put on a resume, they don’t carry the same weight when looking for a job or applying to even further degrees.

5. Oberlin Conservatory of Music

Location: Oberlin, OH

No matter what you’re studying, Oberlin is a good school and the fact it has a conservatory of music is great news to those who don’t feel a bachelor’s degree is enough.

Oberlin offers graduate degrees in the following very specific programs of study, all of which are in performance for one instrument or group of instruments (it is a conservatory, after all): baroque cello, conducting, contemporary chamber music, early oboes, fortepiano, harpsichord, historical instruments, and historical keyboard instruments. (I might be the only one here but I didn’t know there was such a thing as a historical keyboard instrument.)

Oberlin also offers something unique that should be of interest to anyone wanting to make a living in music in any way: a double degree. If students sign up to go to the Ohio college for five years instead of the typical four, they can walk away with not one but two bachelor’s degrees. Add another two years at the end and when you’re done with school you could have two undergraduate and one graduate degree, which would be an incredible way to start a career!

One thing that does hurt Oberlin, especially when compared to the other names on this list, is the location. Colleges like Berklee and Juilliard are located in cities where students can get industry-specific jobs, start real careers, find internships, or volunteer positions, but there aren’t as many high caliber opportunities in less-populated areas like this area of Ohio. This does not necessarily make this university impossible to attend or not worth considering, but it’s worth considering.

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7 Skills You Need to Launch a Music Production Company

There are a million and one skills you’ll need to acquire and hone if you’re going to become a working Music Producer with a successful organization. Between different software programs, learning the inner workings of the industry, understanding the technology and everything included in a studio, and, of course, harnessing your ideas and creativity and turning what’s happening in your head and your heart into actual art, there’s a lot to be learned. However, all of this still doesn’t cover what is required of those behind the growth of the industry’s most successful music production companies!

There are a number of other skills you should practice if you are not only to succeed, but to rise above the rest, and these are real-world items you probably won’t be taught in a college classroom. Courses on a syllabus will show you how to produce music but mastering the skills listed below will teach you how to build a music production company people respect.

In this article, I won’t name specific places or people who can help you become proficient in all of the following skills (although we have discussed some of the nation’s most effective production schools on the blog in the past). In my experience in the music industry, these are all important abilities, so they should become part of your creative practice throughout your years making music. It’s up to you to locate those who do these things well and seek out their help in bettering yourself.

1. Networking

Most career paths will see people moving from one position at a certain company to another by applying to job listings, but for Producers, this simply isn’t the case. People rarely post ads looking for a Producer, and if they do, it’s likely very much an entry-level position so after a while in the business, it’s no longer appropriate.

Most Musicians, Writers, Producers, Mixers, Engineers, (and almost everyone else in the music world) secure jobs because of who they know. This isn’t to say unqualified people end up in roles or with jobs they’re not ready for based on friendships (well, not usually), but the vast majority of people who make their living in these kinds of career paths get where they are based on word-of-mouth and recommendations.

You’ll end up spending a lot of time getting to know people, making friends, and following up with acquaintances via any method possible (likely social media, which we’ll cover next), as you never know who will get you an interview or suggest you for some type of paying gig. This isn’t to say all friendships in the music industry only exist so people can use one another, but rather you’ll rely on those you’re close with to talk you up and help you advance in your career and you’ll be expected to do the same for them.

Social media is a great way to connect with those you’d like to work with and to stay in touch with them, if even through quick comments and likes.

2. Social Media

Speaking of social media, this is a skill you’re going to need to develop if you want to succeed in today’s modern musical world. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even lesser outlets like Snapchat can be helpful in a number of ways and to completely avoid them would only be doing yourself a disservice.

You won’t need to focus on your social image as much as the artists you’ll be producing for do (if that’s the route you want to go for) but you also can’t get so caught up in what you’re doing in your job you forget entirely about maintaining a presence on all the important sites.

Social media is a great way to connect with those you’d like to work with and to stay in touch with them, if even through quick comments and likes. Since networking is so important, let the tools available to you work for you…but you’ll, of course, need to exert some effort and spend a little time in the process.

3. Branding

Branding is something most Musicians and Singers have had to think about for many years now, but for a long time, Producers didn’t concern themselves with it. If you’re going to work behind-the-scenes, who cares what you look like or what your name is? This was a perfectly fine mindset decades ago but it’s no longer the case and now the most successful, most sought-after Producers in the music business are the ones who have “brand names,” at least in some sense.

You can look to the biggest stars in music — both in the vocal booth and behind the mixing boards — to learn some lessons about branding. While it might not be what you want to focus your time and energy on as an up-and-coming figure in the business, these things matter now. Many stars don’t go by their real, full names but rather stage names and many top-tier Producers have taken to doing the same. You should consider a moniker to work under and think about an image as well. This isn’t something that needs to be carefully tended to as if you were a chart-topping pop star but an interesting public image can make a difference. Names like Mark Ronson, Diplo, Rick Rubin, and Max Martin have all cultivated a certain image throughout their years in the music business and they are now recognizable on sight to those who follow their work.

You will, of course, still need to spend the vast majority of your time and energy on crafting the best music possible, but if you want to make it to the top, your brand matters as well.

4. Work Ethic

Making a living in music, whether it’s as a Musician, a Singer, or even as a Producer takes a lot of hard work. It’s easy to hear this and assume you’re cut out for it but let me reiterate the sentiment: making a living in music requires a lot of hard work. A lot. In the years I have worked in the music industry, I have seen countless people quit or stop projects because they don’t have the work ethic or the drive to continue. Many of those people laughed off warnings about how difficult it’s going to be only to realize the pace and workload aren’t for them in the end.

Work ethic is something some people are born with or something others learn as children. Still others find ways to cultivate an inspirational work ethic when they enter college or the workforce. As a Music Producer, don’t think you’ll be able working from 9 to 5 like in other careers. You’ll be putting in extremely long hours, sometimes pulling all-nighters, and for many years, it might be for little money and even less recognition.

Your work ethic will ensure you get everything done you need to, while your drive and ambition (which I also lump in with work ethic) will help you stick with producing even when it seems as if it will never get any better or easier.

You will, of course, still need to spend the vast majority of your time and energy on crafting the best music possible, but if you want to make it to the top, your brand matters as well.

5. Work-Life Balance

I thought it important to place this directly below “work ethic,” as the two are both necessary but it’s often hard to reconcile one with the other. How are you supposed to have a work-life balance if you’re always working? I’m not saying it’s easy, or even always possible, but having both should be a goal you’re always reaching towards.

Make friends in the field you work in (or ones connected to it), try to bring friends and family members who work outside of music into your world when possible, and schedule them into your life whenever you can. You’ll find when you become a full-time Music Producer that if you want to keep some old friends in your life you’re going to really have to work at it. It’s a shame something that used to be so simple can become a chore of sorts but that’s not just part of the music industry — it’s part of adulthood.

You’ll be much better off if you have even a semi-healthy balance of work and fun in your life and your art will benefit from the effort.

6. Appreciation for Other People’s Art

This list item sounds like it is the easiest here but it can sometimes be difficult, especially after years in the business (or, for some especially jaded musical men and women, just as they enter). You should certainly always be proud of the music you produce but don’t get cocky and think it’s the best thing in the world. Listen to what other people are doing and find ways to appreciate their art. You can absolutely dedicate more time to the specific genre (or genres) you specialize in but don’t get boxed in and only stick to one type of music.

Some of the greatest Producers I’ve spoken with have been quick to praise the skills of fellow Producers, Musicians, stars, and Songwriters I found surprising, as they didn’t work in the styles I’d typically associated with the person in front of me. Finding what’s great about something completely foreign to you is, in itself, a skill, and one worth acquiring. Appreciating art not often recognized by either your country or your genre can help you bring fresh, new ideas to the table, and if done right, it can make you stand out as forward-thinking and a taste-making Producer.

7. A Desire to Learn

The fact you’re headed to college or perhaps in college is a sign you’re willing to learn and you understand the importance of an education but don’t think it stops after your four years (or however long) are up. The best Producers and Musicians of all-time never stopped learning throughout their careers, as they not only understood the notion there was always more out there that could be grasped, but they loved doing it. If you are truly enamored with a subject or a practice you’ll never want to stop learning about it.

I’m not suggesting you should never stop going to school, racking up degree after degree (though if you have the resources to do so, why not), as learning can happen everywhere. Go to concerts. Sit in on songwriting camps. Listen and dissect songs you think are great. Read books about production, the music industry, and about some of the most successful artists ever and those you admire. Meet with people. Talk with anyone you can at events and really hear what they have to say about what they’re doing and advice they’ve gotten.

You can always learn more in life, and this is something you should carry with you always (and not just in your career as a Producer).

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Booking Gigs With Your Band: Breaking Into the Music Business With Live Performing

You’ve reached the point where your performing skills as a group are strong enough to play for live audiences. Getting on stage is the next logical step to refining your talents and tightening up your band’s show and attracting fans. At this point, it’s crucial to get out there and play live in order to generate a buzz and get some momentum. Getting gigs is the next real goal in your growth as a band. Yet, you’ve never actually done it so you aren’t sure how. It’s the old Catch-22 conundrum: you need experience to get the gig, but you need a gig to get experience. What to do?

Relax, Take Inventory

First, take a deep breath and relax. Realize every single person or band that is amazing at doing anything started out from the same place. For even the most incredible musicians, there was once a time they couldn’t play their instrument at all. Just like you, they had to begin somewhere. You really have no choice other than to begin from exactly where you are. There are a number of things that have to happen before you actually take to the stage (I’ll list them a bit later in this article). You should first take an inventory to see where you are.

Here are a few questions to ask yourselves:

  • What are your band’s strong points and weak points?
  • What do you hope to gain from playing a live show?
  • Do you have all the equipment you will need?
  • Do you have transportation for yourselves and your equipment?
  • How far are you willing to travel?
  • What do you estimate your expenses will be?

These are logistical questions that will help give you some bearings on the type of gig most appropriate for you to pursue. I would recommend you write some things down and create some useful lists or diagrams.

There are other important considerations. For example, what style of music do you play? How many songs or sets can you perform? Is your music primarily for listening, dancing, or background? Have you created a digital footprint for your music that will allow you to publicize your gig properly, ensuring an audience will come? Or will you seek a gig at a venue with a built-in audience, like a festival? Should you get paid? Can you cover your up-front expenses?

Don’t be discouraged if you get rejected. Failure is an opportunity to start over more intelligently.

Think Like a Pro & Do Homework

I recommend you make your approach as professional as possible. If you have prepared your logistical plan and know what type of audience you are trying to reach, you will be prepared to speak confidently and knowledgeably about all aspects of your intended performance with prospective venues, clubs, clients or Festival Directors. If they see you are well prepared, they are more likely to give you a chance. It is important you can tell them articulately about what your band does, speaking clearly about why an audience will enjoy your music, why it is in their interest to hire you, and what’s in it for them. Try as best you can to think from their point of view. With your speech, you can paint a picture for them of the opportunity you are offering them, either to make money, enhance their reputation, or just have a lot of fun. Don’t be arrogant about it; just state the facts confidently and do your best to sell your band, keeping their interests in mind.

While you are preparing to sell your band, you will need to do some research into the opportunities that exist. If you know musicians who are playing out already, ask them where the best places are to play. Check listings in local entertainment guides and go check out some bands in person. Hang around the venues as a customer to get a feel for what is going on. Talk to the managers and staff to find out who is responsible for booking. Try to figure out what will fit best in each venue and be prepared to offer that with a strong conviction you can provide what the venue needs. When you do get in contact with the responsible party, present yourself in a businesslike manner. Dress the part. Shake hands, look people in the eye, and speak with confidence about your music. This usually takes a little practice.

Don’t be discouraged if you get rejected. Failure is an opportunity to start over more intelligently. Analyze what happened and make adjustments to your pitch for the next prospect. Observe how other musicians sell themselves if you are able to. Understand adversity makes you stronger and just keep at it, no matter what. Even if you fail a hundred times, you might very well book a choice gig on the 101st time!

Booking the Gig

At some risk of oversimplification, we can explain the steps of getting to a gig onstage into a few stages. Using terms relative to the music business:

  • Preparation
  • Sourcing
  • Pitching (selling)
  • Negotiating
  • Agreement (contract)
  • Performance
  • Follow-up

The preparation stage involves taking inventory as described above, plus getting the music tightly arranged and well rehearsed. It might be wise to create some sharp promotional materials.

Sourcing means figuring out the places you want to play, doing your homework on them and getting in contact with the person doing the booking.

Pitching your music is talking about what you do, as previously described. You have to sell yourself, your band and your music; you do this by using words intelligently and enthusiastically. You will learn to talk about your music in such a way as to give those listening confidence in your abilities and talent.

To get to an agreement, a negotiation must first take place. Negotiating is an art form and is a necessary part of human commerce and transaction. If you have done a good job on the previous steps your work will be easier at this point. There are many books and blogs on the subject. (I recommend reading the book Getting To Yes from the Harvard Negotiation Project for a quick primer.)

You are only as good as your last performance.

Closing an agreement usually requires executing some sort of contract, whether verbal or written. Sometimes this is called an “event confirmation” or similar. The agreement exists to protect both sides through stipulating responsibilities and rights and clarifying terms.

Performing is where you deliver the goods as promised. If you do this well, you will find each gig leads to more gigs. People like what they see and hear, tell others about you, and your reputation grows. Of course, if you mess this part up, you won’t last long in the business. So it is crucial to pay attention to all the details and do your best to do a fantastic job everyone will rave about. You are only as good as your last performance.

Follow-up is the final step and is often neglected by musicians. After the gig, you should always contact the venue and booking person to thank them and make sure they were happy. Listen carefully to what they tell you. Any complaints or suggestions for improvement should be taken to heart as they are giving you a chance to better yourself. You can ask them for future gigs and for referrals.

As you begin to see, there is more work to getting gigs than meets the eye. Especially in the beginning, it can be tough to get momentum with booking gigs. It can feel a little like pushing a boulder uphill. The rewards can be tremendous, however. There is nothing like the electricity that happens between a good band and an audience and the energizing effect it can have on a band. Playing live shows can also be frustrating, such as when an audience doesn’t respond. It is always a learning experience, in any case, and always worth doing if you want to improve the performance level of your group.

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6 of the Best Colleges to Take Sound Engineering Courses

Audio engineering is a tough field of study. Before you decide it’s something you’re interested in going to college for I highly suggest you do some research or even speak to someone who works as an Engineer, as the gig might not be what you had in mind. Sure, there are plenty of Audio Engineers who work with major artists in cool recording studios and who take home Grammys, but as is the case with much of the music industry, this is only a small group of people and it’s tough to get there. For most Engineers, the job can be very different and it would be a shame to get a degree in something only to realize later it wasn’t really what you wanted.

 When it comes to higher education, there are a lot of options but not everyone agrees about which schools should consistently rank at the top of any list of the best. However, if you do know engineering school is where you really, really want to focus your efforts, there are certainly enough to investigate to find the right fit for you.

Here are six great choices for colleges. I suggest you begin your search here.

1. Berklee College of Music

Location: Boston, MA

It’s tough to imagine any list of the best music colleges in the country that doesn’t include Berklee College of Music in Boston. When taking into account the great variety of musical courses of study, it is by far the best school for music education. While there are certainly colleges that excel in teaching different areas of music studies, there is nothing musical that Berklee can’t do. Sound engineering and design are included in the many fields of study the Boston institution is known for and the school even offers a great online degree program in the subject. Having the name Berklee on your resume will help you get places in the music industry and while Boston isn’t necessarily a huge music town like New York or Los Angeles, there’s enough going on at the many colleges in the area and on the live music circuit to keep you busy and ensure you get some great experience in engineering.

The future is all about hi-res audio, acoustically-perfect rooms and buildings, and about making the sound quality better in everything from headphones to speakers to cars. It’s pretty crazy how many advancements are coming out of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

2. Full Sail University

Location: Winter Park, FL

If you think Boston is a bit out of the way when compared to major American music cities, wait until you head down to Full Sail, which is based in Winter Park, FL. Sure, the location isn’t necessarily ideal (unless we’re thinking solely about the weather, in which case it clearly has Berklee beaten in the colder months), but the school is top-notch for everything connected to the music industry. In only a few decades, Full Sail has worked its way to the top of many lists of the best schools for those looking to get into the business and it belongs high up on this ranking as well.

The college reportedly offers over 100 “production environments,” which is a somewhat vague term, but it shows those in charge are serious about giving everyone the opportunities they need in a musical setting. There are several different courses of study you can choose from and all of them will get you ready for a career in music engineering. If you can afford it (Full Sail is a for-profit school, by the way), I’d say actually going to the campus and living nearby for a full session would be the best option. If that won’t work for you, there is an online engineering program, though of course, it’s always better to be there, you know?

3. New York University – Steinhardt

Location: New York City, NY

The first two options listed in this ranking (which doesn’t necessarily place schools from best to “worst”) are known for music and only music, which is why they landed above New York University’s Steinhardt school. Though in many ways, this school is a much better choice.

First of all, NYU is the best known of the three top schools on our list, both inside and outside of the music industry. If you’re only ever going to work in the business, degrees from Berklee or Full Sail should do you just fine but NYU’s name and logo catch the eye of employers in every field so if you ever end up deciding music just isn’t for you (which may seem impossible now, but trust me, it happens to even the best and most dedicated), the fact you went here will be helpful when it comes time to move on.

Second, being in New York City offers a multitude of options when it comes to internships, volunteer positions, outside classes, and eventually, jobs — which will be critical to your engineering education. Classrooms are great but getting real-world experience in anything musical, especially something technical like engineering, is invaluable and you’ll have your best chance of doing so in a bustling metropolis like New York City.

Steinhardt’s degrees in music technology are some of the best in the world and they absolutely live up to the name printed on your diploma when you finish your four years.

4. The Los Angeles Film School

Location: Los Angeles, CA

When the majority of young music lovers decide they want to get into the music industry, most of them think about working for a record label, getting into PR, working at a booking agency, becoming a performer, or if you’re reading this list, getting a job at a studio or doing live sound. There are so many other sectors of the business that allow you to be creative or are connected to music in some way; many forget a huge part of the film industry is focused on and needs music and there needs to be a steady stream of people heading in that direction all the time.

The Los Angeles Film School is the perfect place to learn how engineering and production factor into every field of music and how it differs between industries. You will spend time (or you’ll have the option to — sometimes it’s up to you to take advantage of everything possible) learning in-studio work on a song or an album, live recording, and film music, which is a completely different monster (even though it’s all just sound).

The audio engineering degree program only lasts eighteen months so plan accordingly and make sure you spend this time doing as many internships and entry-level studio gigs as possible because it will go by quickly!

It might sound petty but I won’t lie: having a degree from a school with a “brand name” absolutely makes something of a difference.

5. Georgia Institute of Technology

Location: Atlanta, GA

Sure, if you head to Atlanta to learn how to become an Audio Engineer, you’ll take some of the same kinds of classes and learn some of the same material you would at almost any other school offering this type of degree. But the Georgia Institute of Technology offers so much more and it should really be on your radar.

This southern school has an entire research department dedicated to music and audio — a rarity anywhere in the world, especially outside of major companies selling high-end equipment. The future is all about hi-res audio, acoustically-perfect rooms and buildings, and about making the sound quality better in everything from headphones to speakers to cars. It’s pretty crazy how many advancements are coming out of the Georgia Institute of Technology.

There are many classes really geared only toward those looking to do high-end engineering work but if you give some of them a try you might find this is exactly the type of audio engineering that interests you. If not, you don’t need to wind up in a lab somewhere, but knowing what’s on the cutting edge and what’s next in this field certainly won’t hurt you!

6. Carnegie Mellon University

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

I know I stated above that having names like Berklee or New York University on your resume would help you land jobs later on — and it will — but Carnegie Mellon is probably even better than those two. It is an esteemed institution and the name is known around the world as one of the best in everything it does. It might sound petty but I won’t lie: having a degree from a school with a “brand name” absolutely makes something of a difference. While attending a “name” school is not everything, if you can make it work, at least think about this place.

The university’s newly-created music and technology program (it was established in 2009) is described by the school itself as a “joint project” between the School of Music, School of Computer Science, and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The last item, in particular, should interest you. The combination of departments involved means these will not be just your typical engineering classes, but ones which might be further ahead than what other colleges and universities offer in terms of how deep they get into the science and math of sound. If it seems tough, it likely will be, but getting this type of degree will help you understand audio engineering and what goes into it in a way others won’t. This will not only make you a better candidate for the same types of jobs but it will open up different avenues for you, as well.

In addition to being more technologically advanced than some other engineering programs of study, Carnegie Mellon offers a standard bachelor’s degree in this music and technology vertical and it also allows students to go on (or apply and work their way in if they weren’t lucky enough to attend undergrad at the same location) to receive their master’s degrees in the same field. There aren’t too many colleges featuring undergraduate-to-graduate offerings in this field so clearly the staff here is built to take in top-notch students, teach them well, and share as much knowledge as they can handle.

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Learn to Sing: 4 Options for Vocal Training

With almost anything creative — be it acting, sports, dancing, or playing an instrument — practice might not make “perfect,” per se, but it certainly makes somebody better at what they love. This way of thinking is easy to repeat in your mind and say aloud but it can actually be difficult to implement in your life. It’s not just about doing something many times, it’s about doing it well, with other people, and learning every time you do whatever your chosen activity may be. If you simply repeat the same action over and over you might be doing it wrong and in the end, you’d have just wasted a lot of time.

Singing is lumped in with everything stated above and while the more you can practice, the better, there is so much more that needs to be done in order to become a truly great vocalist — at least one with a chance of being a working Singer — and you’re going to need to seek out opportunities to hone your craft and make your talent stand out from the crowd. The task might seem daunting but there are actually many different times and ways you can better yourself as a singer via practice and most of them only require your time and commitment.

1. Joining a Chorus

Perhaps the best (and the most easily accessible) option available to most young people is the chorus at their school. Many high schools and colleges offer a chorus program of some kind and though what that looks like differs from location to location, the idea is usually the same and there are plenty of benefits, no matter what shape the program takes.

When I was in high school, Chorus was offered as an actual class which gave students an opportunity to express themselves creatively in the middle of a day usually filled with much drearier courses like math and science. I knew many people who selected Chorus as a field of study and they benefited immensely as it didn’t require them to give up any more of their time than they normally would have during the day and they got to practice singing often.

Sometimes Chorus is only offered as an after-school extracurricular, although this doesn’t typically diminish what it can do for those just getting started as vocalists. The fact it only takes place after the final bell has rung does mean some students can’t participate since everyone has a different schedule and between homework, familial obligations, part-time jobs, and a normal, healthy social life, not everybody who wants to can sign up for an extra hour or two after the school day has wrapped.

Now, while Chorus is a great introduction to singing for many young people, it’s usually just the first step in studying vocal performance. Many Chorus Teachers have obviously been involved in music for a long time and they have learned how best to instruct students in the art of singing. However, if you decide you want to pursue singing after high school (or even during), you will need to work with others to further sharpen your talents and take your skills to the next level, such as College Professors, or perhaps even private vocal lessons.

So many people who went on to become great artists started by singing along to the songs they love the most and they did so everywhere. In the car, at a party with friends, at karaoke, or even if they’re by themselves, people like this sing all the time, which helps them become more familiar with their vocal chords, what they like to sing, what resonates with them, and what works for them.

2. Taking Vocal Lessons

Speaking of private vocal lessons, they’re the next item on this list! (Although some would rank private lessons even higher than I have.) The best way to learn how to sing is from a professional as they will be able to show you techniques you likely wouldn’t be able to pick up on your own or with someone who isn’t a highly-trained educator. Practicing on your own (which appears later on this list) is wonderful and I highly suggest it but a Vocal Coach or Teacher can be very beneficial, as he or she will help choose the perfect songs, the best exercises, and they will even be able to explain why certain ways of singing will hurt you in the long run. If they’ve been doing their job a long time, they might even have an “in” when it comes to other educational programs, gigs, or full-time jobs.

The toughest part of working with a Vocal Coach is the cost. Many people who know how to teach vocal performance have years of experience and they truly know what they are doing (at least they’re supposed to). Paying them by the hour or half-hour, which is standard practice, can quickly become extremely expensive. Thus, private lessons are simply not an option for many people who want to pursue singing. Sadly, it’s something which would help many students decide whether or not they really want to invest the time and money in this profession…but by the time most wannabe artists are in a place where they can afford to bring on a coach, they are too old to commit to the practice.

3. Practicing On Your Own

Maybe it’s incredibly obvious but sometimes the best way to become a better singer is to simply start singing. So many people who went on to become great artists started by singing along to the songs they love the most and they did so everywhere. In the car, at a party with friends, at karaoke, or even if they’re by themselves, people like this sing all the time, which helps them become more familiar with their vocal chords, what they like to sing, what resonates with them, and what works for them.

If you think vocal performance is something you’d like to pursue in any way, start finding time to sing almost every day…if you’re not doing that already. You might be belting along to hit singles when they play on the radio but you can, and should, do more. Set aside some time to listen to tracks and do your best to learn how to perform them, both in the same way the original artist does and then in your own fashion. The two can be very similar or completely different and any practice you do while thinking critically about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it should be time well spent.

Also, while simply singing along might seem like a less-than-productive use of valuable hours, you can eventually use this time to help kick off your career. There is now an entire culture of up-and-coming musicians making something of a name for themselves just by covering already well-known tracks. It started with YouTube, where future stars like Justin Bieber first gained attention by posting videos covering some of their favorite tunes. Were they perfect? No. Did they sound exactly like the famous renditions? Usually not, but they reached enough people to help them get to the next level.

Posting videos on YouTube is still a great first step but at this point, the scene is a little oversaturated. It seems like everyone with a fair voice has a channel. Nowadays there might be thousands of covers of hit songs online and it has become incredibly difficult (though not impossible) to stand out. Go this route but also look for other avenues to post covers and clips of you singing tunes, even if you mix in some original cuts. Other social platforms like Instagram could serve you well, while apps like musical.ly were made for just this kind of content. Will you become a famous musician after signing up for these platforms? Probably not, but the attention won’t hurt and it will give you a structured excuse to sing more and start thinking about what will get your voice heard over the millions of others attempting the same task.

If your goal isn’t to land a smash hit but rather to practice and learn, you don’t need to spend a lot of money creating songs, because for a while, they may only reach a small audience, which might sometimes just be you. That’s a fine place to start.

4. Making Your Own Music

If you want to become a great musician, whether with a guitar, a software program that creates electronic beats, or with your own voice, the best advice I can give you is to seek out an education. As we’ve discussed both above and in many other articles on this website, you can practice and learn how to be a better artist in a million different places and in as many different ways but sometimes you just need to go out and start creating on your own.

Many a great artist has gotten their start simply by going for it and committing to their craft. It’s daunting and exhausting but there is no better way to figure out who you are as an artist than by just trying it out! Write a song, look for beats online, record yourself singing a brand new piece of music you’ve composed, and at first, don’t worry about if it’s terrible or not because chances are, it won’t be great.

That’s okay! Very few people are fantastic on their first (or second, or third, or…) attempt, and even some of the biggest and most successful musicians of all time cringe when they hear their early recordings. These days, there are countless tools readily available to help you do everything you need to launch your music career, including buying beats, making your own instrumental tracks, recording, mixing, engineering, and so on. If your goal isn’t to land a smash hit but rather to practice and learn, you don’t need to spend a lot of money creating songs, because for a while, they may only reach a small audience, which might sometimes just be you. That’s a fine place to start.

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7 Tips to Help You Land a Music Internship

One of the first steps when it comes to finding your way into the music industry — be it as a musician or someone who works on the road or even behind a desk — is an internship. You might want to be a Rock Star one day, but internships can still be a great way to get your feet wet and learn about the business you intend on being a part of one day. So don’t scoff at the idea just because it doesn’t involve playing to crowds on stage!

Many sought-after internship positions are competitive and when they’re in a sexy industry like music, there can sometimes be dozens or even hundreds of people applying. It’s tough to rise above the rest and be noticed and while there’s nothing I can tell you that will surely land you an interview, below are a number of suggestions to help on your way to becoming a famous music executive.

And hey, even if you’re planning on becoming the next great chart-topping artist, it never hurts to have some experience on your resume…just in case your tunes don’t rocket all the way to No. 1 and make you a millionaire.

1. Come with a Reference

I realize this first piece of advice won’t be of use to many people reading, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Just as is the case when applying for full-time jobs, your best bet for landing an interview, and potentially securing the position, is to have somebody who knows the company, someone at the company or even the person doing the hiring suggest you. That will ring true for an internship and for a full-time paid job, though you don’t need as bright of a recommendation for an internship. Most unpaid positions (or low paying positions, as they are typically reserved for young people) aren’t high-stakes, so don’t worry too much if you don’t have an “in,” as they say.

Now, this isn’t always possible, but since it’s important, start thinking about who you know, and then, who they know. Maybe one of your Professors has a connection to a musical company or somebody involved in the industry who could use an Intern. Perhaps the person who has been giving you lessons or teaching you how to sing can help write a recommendation, or, if you’re really lucky, you already have a family member or family friend who knows someone who will be able to help you.

These connections are difficult to find at first, but as you begin volunteering, working, playing, auditioning, and interning, you’ll meet more people, and all of a sudden your network will grow considerably, and that will be handy when you are looking for your next internship (and eventually, job).

Many students going out for internships are seeking to gain their first bits of experience in a certain industry, and many employers understand this…but they still like to see experience on a resume.

2. Show An Educational Interest

When you begin applying for full-time jobs after college, employers will be looking to make sure your degree was in something relevant to the gig, and many times, for entry-level positions, the job description itself will list what field your degree needs to be in. Since internships are mostly filled by those who are still studying at a university, this will be even more important in some regards when you start going out for internships.

It can be tough to decide what you want to do beyond school, and while one of the best ways to find out what suits you and what you’ll want to do for the rest of your life is to actually gain some experience, those who are charged with hiring won’t be inclined to choose someone who has no connection to the position they’re filling. If you’re a math major, why would a recording studio think you’re a good fit to intern for them?

You don’t necessarily need to be majoring in a musical field to win over future employers but you should have something educational to show them, such as a minor, or maybe some other courses. Also, since many internships are unpaid, most of them are legally required to give you school credit, and since that also typically requires a Professor or Teacher to sign off on it, they won’t agree if it has no connection to your plan of study.

3. Have Experience

Many students going out for internships are seeking to gain their first bits of experience in a certain industry, and many employers understand this…but they still like to see experience on a resume. While you’re young, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll have worked in music before your first internship, but there are plenty of ways to show somebody you have at least some kind of understanding of music and every little bit helps when it comes to standing out from a crowd of potential hires!

Perhaps you’ve been involved in some music program before, or maybe you have some recorded music you can play them you wrote, produced, recorded, mixed, or engineered. Have you written about music for a blog or student newspaper? Is there anything in your past that shows you have an interest in music and you may have even slightly more experience than the next person? Feel free to mention it in person and include it on a resume when you apply!

4. Demonstrate Commitment

One of the toughest things about hiring Interns for companies is they are notoriously difficult. Since they are young and inexperienced, many managers and employees have horror stories of Interns showing up late, leaving early or quitting before their tenure was over, of them needing an exceptional amount of handholding (which can make them more of a burden and less of an asset), or of those who were chosen being unprofessional. It’s tough to show how committed you will be to your new role until you’ve proven it, but if you have other gigs in your past you stuck with or even if you can demonstrate a longstanding interest in music, this might be enough to assuage some fears.

Even if a music company only wants you to answer the phone in an office and get coffee at the outset of your internship, it doesn’t hurt to mention you may speak another language, play several instruments, understand how to code a website, are an expert at Photoshop, and so on.

5. Have Your Digital Ducks In A Row

Young people spend so much of their time on social media, and in many ways, this can set you up for success. Students in high school and college have an innate understanding of what attracts eyeballs online and of creating a brand that is all theirs. Those skills are the type of things colleges have taught in marketing courses for decades and it’s incredible to see how many people just entering college now are better at branding than those who are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do exactly this for major brands.

(Of course, you still need to be careful when it comes to what you put out into the world, and since this is the internet, you never know what someone will be able to find when they look you up.)

Now, I’m not suggesting there’s anything scandalous or salacious out there, or that somebody at a company offering an internship is going to do an extensive search on you but before you begin applying, you should make sure everything that will pop up on the first page of a Google search of your name, as well as all of your social media profiles, doesn’t raise any red flags. Edit your LinkedIn to make sure it’s current and to ensure there aren’t any glaring errors, don’t post anything racy on Instagram, and try to stay away from being too political or controversial on Twitter, at least for now. You don’t need to change everything about yourself or delete your profiles but you may want to think for an extra second or two before you post anything for a little while.

6. Nail the Interview

Before you’re hired, you will most likely need to interview for the position even if you’re not being paid for it. You may never have gone through a proper interview like this in your life so it can be nerve-wracking but don’t let it get the best of you! The person on the other side of the table will understand this is your first time and you don’t need to overreach to get the position.

Be yourself, be confident, and show them you are someone who will fit in well at the office. Most of all, be professional! Show up on time, be dressed appropriately (don’t wear jeans, don’t wear sneakers, and so on), have a few copies of your resume handy and any other papers they might find relevant (any articles you’ve written, any articles written about your music, etc.), and smile! When it comes to internships, most of the people applying won’t have extensive job histories or long resumes full of experience so you have a better chance of winning these apprenticeships thanks to who you are as a person — so take advantage of that and wow them!

7. Share What You Bring to the Table

You’ll want to highlight relevant experience or skills that directly affect what they will want you to do but you shouldn’t totally ignore everything else that makes you a valuable asset. Even if a music company only wants you to answer the phone in an office and get coffee at the outset of your internship, it doesn’t hurt to mention you may speak another language, play several instruments, understand how to code a website, are an expert at Photoshop, and so on. Everything can be beneficial and you never know what one skill set you may list on your resume or mention during an interview that will grab their attention and help you stand out from anyone else who has also applied for this role.

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From Law School to Music Lawyer: How to Build a Career in Entertainment Law

The life of a Music Lawyer often seems improbably glamorous. It’s easy to conjure up visions of client lunches with Grammy-winning stars, interviews with the press, expensive cars, and tailored suits. While on some levels this may be the case, behind-the-scenes, a Lawyer’s life also involves a lot of hard work, late hours, and paperwork.

Like many music industry careers, the field of entertainment law is extremely competitive, openings are few, and getting a break can seem nearly impossible. While even the first part of career-building for an Attorney — getting into law school — can be daunting, the struggle to set oneself apart from one’s peers and land a dream job at a high-powered firm can be even more difficult. Of course, that’s not to say aspiring Entertainment Attorneys should give up on their dreams and settle for a less fascinating practice. No — instead they should seek advice from an established Attorney who understands the career journey and can offer valuable insights both from the viewpoint of a former law student and from the viewpoint of an experienced, practicing Entertainment Attorney.

To learn more about what it takes to get a foot-in-the-door with a potential employer and build a fulfilling career in entertainment law, we spoke with Paul Rothenberg, founder of New York and LA-based firm Rothenberg P.C. His clientele includes stars like Trey Songz, Logic, Charlie Puth, D’Angelo, ASAP Ferg and Andra Day, along with many other artists, Writers, Producers, music business executives, and brands. In our discussion, we covered a lot of ground, from what his day-to-day life on the job is like to his advice for how to get hired after graduation. Here’s what he had to say.

What Does an Entertainment Lawyer Do?

We essentially function as general counsel for our clients. We handle everything of a business nature in coordination with their other team members; it’s like a board of directors. Typically, there’s a Manager, Lawyer, Business Manager (dealing primarily with financial issues). There is an Agent once the artist has gotten to the point of playing live shows. As a Lawyer, we’re handling all their transactional entertainment deals, including record deals, publishing deals, sponsorship and endorsement deals, merchandising agreements, touring and other appearance agreements, licensing agreements, management agreements, acting agreements, and any agreements related to their release of music, including Producer, side artist, Writer and sample agreements. Those are the core agreements for a successful recording artist.

Our clients typically consult us for anything else of a legal or business nature. If there’s a lawsuit and we need a litigator, we’ll find the right person for the matter in question. If they get accused of something, we engage a Criminal Attorney if necessary. Sometimes it’s a prenuptial agreement or other family law-related matter, or it could involve a real estate purchase or estate planning. I am the liaison for all these things they might need. Our core expertise is in entertainment but as part of the service we provide, if our clients need anything of a legal nature, it’s our job to find them the best person, and make sure that they’re treated well and prioritized, and that they pay a fair price.

What Inspired You to Become an Entertainment Lawyer?

It was kind of an evolution. After graduating from Dartmouth with a degree in mathematics, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue creative endeavors in the film business. Then I started to get into the business side, and formed a production company with two partners. I was having the time of my life but lacked discipline and structure. Our biggest expense at the time was our entertainment law firm. I also noticed that many Entertainment Lawyers had moved on to successful careers as principals in the industry. One day, following a long talk with a friend, I decided that law school was the right path for me. Less than four months later I was at Columbia Law School in New York City.

My original intent was that I’d return to Los Angeles and get back into the film business. However, I ended up taking a job in New York at a big Wall Street firm (Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison) and I loved the intensity and high stakes and kind of got sucked into the culture. I began in Mergers & Acquisitions, but the firm had a storied entertainment department with clients going all the way back to Arthur Miller and Cole Porter, and I eventually transitioned into that department when a spot opened. It was a great opportunity to learn all aspects of the entertainment industry. I was exposed to theater, film, music, book publishing and intellectual property. I discovered that the role of a Lawyer in the music industry was very entrepreneurial and creative. Often, I was the first professional on board with an artist and helping them put their team together or find a label or Publisher. It gave me an opportunity to use both sides of my brain and to work closely with artists that I respected.

What’s the mix of nose-to-the-grindstone behind-the-scenes work and the glamour of being in the industry?

As you get more seniority you experience more of the so-called glamorous aspect. It’s mostly just a function of your relationship with your clients. As a young associate starting off, you may be in the trenches more. As you build your own clientele, you’re naturally going to be spending more time with them, and evolving from someone that primarily handles their agreements into a trusted advisor and confidant as well. We’re all on a journey together trying to help them reach their goals. That’s one of the most rewarding aspects of practicing entertainment law.

“If you can figure out how to make yourself useful so you can come right in and really lighten someone’s load and it’s not the other way around — where the firm is taking a lot of time and training you — then maybe a firm will take the chance. I’ve seen it happen many times, where people get their foot in the door through some kind of internship and end up with a permanent position.” — Paul Rothenberg

What kind of educational background should an aspiring Entertainment Attorney have?

We always look for strong academic performance, great writing and communication skills, and ideally some transactional experience as a Lawyer. While in law school, “Contracts” is essential (and required at most schools), and copyright and trademark courses are very important. These courses are some of the basic building blocks of an entertainment practice.

Some schools offer music business-focused curricula (NYU, Berklee, Belmont, UCLA, USC, and others), which is always helpful.

The other thing I always recommend to aspiring Entertainment Lawyers is to read the trades. If they read the key trade publications regularly, they can acquire a context for what they are learning in school or in other areas of law practice, and get a feel for what is going on in the industry. That’s an easy thing to do and it really helps.

Do you have any suggestions for extracurriculars, collegiate associations, or student jobs that would be helpful while still in law school?

During law school, I worked at Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. I believe a lot of law schools have something similar where you do pro bono work for clients that can’t afford a Lawyer, and you’re supervised by a Lawyer. Many schools also have externship relationships with labels and publishers. Any experience like that is great because if you leave a positive impression on the people you work for, they may hire you in the future or recommend you to outside law firms. We’ve hired several times based on this kind of recommendation.

Is there anything you wish you would’ve known or done differently when you were in law school?

Columbia had a joint JD and MBA program that was only one year longer than the JD program — I would have liked to have done that. I took some classes at the business school, but at the time I felt I had already lost four years and I was in a hurry to get started. I think, in the grand scheme of things, the extra year wouldn’t have mattered, and I would have liked to have had that extra degree.

How can someone who’s still in school set him or herself up for success after graduation?

It’s tough getting in the door as an Entertainment Lawyer, but there’s always a need for good people, too. It’s ironic because there’s a real bottleneck to get in but everyone I know is constantly looking for more help!

First and foremost, get the best grades you can in school because that is something that is objective that can be evaluated and compared and set you apart. The other element is that employers like to see a commitment to entertainment demonstrated by action. When I was trying to get in, some people advised not to even mention my interest. However, I chose to be transparent. As I said, I started at a firm that had an entertainment department. I got to work with that group in the summer but then, when I got my offer of employment, it was for their corporate department. They told me “we can’t promise you an entertainment position, but we can give you a great corporate experience that has a lot of entertainment-related transactions and if a spot in the entertainment group opens up, you’ll be considered.” I ended up taking that deal and it worked out for me.

It’s rare to get an entertainment law position right off the bat. There’s a handful of places that will consider someone straight out of law school. But for our firm, if they’ve got good transactional skills doing corporate deals and if they’ve been trained and are disciplined, conscientious, and thorough, that’s the kind of background I’m looking for. Then I don’t have to train them to be a Lawyer; I just teach them entertainment. I’ve done both. I’ve tried to teach young people to be Lawyers and that’s challenging in a small firm environment. You don’t have the same infrastructure to do it. I think the boot camp mentality (and fear) that’s present in big law is hard to rival when it comes to basic legal training.

“We love people who really love music. That’s a good starting point for us because then they have a passion for what they’re doing and they’re going to do a better job as a result. They may be able to relate to the clients more because of the shared interest.” — Paul Rothenberg

Do you have suggestions on how to get an “in” with an entertainment law firm that might lead to a first job?

It requires persistence, a little finesse, having the right qualifications and being in the right place at the right time. We’ve had a lot of Interns at our firm. We pay them but it’s hard to get value in exchange because it takes so much of our time to get them to a point where they can help us. But if you can figure out how to make yourself useful so you can come right in and really lighten someone’s load and it’s not the other way around — where the firm is taking a lot of time and training you — then maybe a firm will take the chance. I’ve seen it happen many times, where people get their foot in the door through some kind of internship and end up with a permanent position.

There was one person, in particular, who really blew us away and I was ready to hire him straight out of law school even though I had sworn to myself that I wasn’t going to do that again. His professionalism, judgment, integrity, and service orientation impressed me for someone right out of law school. However, we weren’t the only ones that felt that way. He got an offer from a top Wall Street firm where he’ll get really great training and make a big dent in his student loans. Hopefully, he’ll come back and join us in a couple of years. That’s kind of the ideal scenario: when someone goes off and gets great training and they’ve had some actual entertainment experience with us. I may be biased because this was my background.

Is there anything you see young Entertainment Lawyers struggling with early on in their careers or any mistakes you see them making? If so, do you have any advice that could help?

There are two major areas in which I’m very critical. One is not being careful enough (i.e. making mistakes or typos). We strive for our work to be perfect, and I expect the people that work for me to be meticulous.

Then, on the flip side of that, people can get so caught up in the minutia that they lose the big picture. That’s a hard thing for young lawyers, and not just in entertainment. Keep your mind open. You might have done something twenty times but just think about how this situation may be different. What changes may be necessary in the contract? How are this client’s values and priorities different than another’s and what changes does that require? These are the higher-level thoughts and questions. It takes a little longer for someone to think creatively. In my view, that’s what separates a solid Lawyer from an exceptional one.

The third thing is that everyone is really impatient and eager to be out there (and I was just like that, too) with their own clients. However, in order to properly service and secure clients, you need to have the expertise first. Just like anything else, it’s much easier if you’ve got a great product; there are a lot of people who haven’t had the opportunity or the training who are out there, pitching themselves in order to solicit clients. That’s a tough situation. You’ve got to really work on building an expertise and make that as important as obtaining clients.

When I started my firm, I was fortunate enough to have had ten years of training at two great entertainment firms. I had been trained by some outstanding Lawyers, handling high-level matters. I already had a lot of responsibility, so when I went out on my own, I knew what I was doing.

What’s your biggest suggestion for aspiring Entertainment Lawyers?

First, make sure it’s what you want to do. It’s not easy and lots of sacrifices are required on your way up, especially financially versus other areas of the law. As I noted before, because it’s so competitive to become an Entertainment Lawyer, the stronger the academic credentials, the better.

Get as much entertainment experience as you can to show that you’re committed to it. That’s when the internships, jobs, and anything that demonstrates that commitment to entertainment come in. I think people are really turned off if it’s just like, “Oh, I want to work with famous people.” You’ve got to have a good answer for why you want to do it that’s more substantive than that.

We love people who really love music. That’s a good starting point for us because then they have a passion for what they’re doing and they’re going to do a better job as a result. They may be able to relate to the clients more because of the shared interest. That’s a plus for us when we’re looking, even with Assistants and Paralegals, not just for Lawyers.

Source:

Paul Rothenberg is the founder bicoastal law firm Rothenberg P.C. He a diverse range of music industry clients, including Trey Songz, Logic, Charlie Puth, D’Angelo, ASAP Ferg and Andra Day.

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What Does Applying To Be A Music Major In College Actually Look Like? (Part 2)

If part one of this article on applying to colleges as a future musical student unnerved you, part two probably won’t be much more comforting. Going to college is a lot of work and it begins years before you ever set foot in a university classroom. In this final part of the discussion, I’m going to go over actually filling out applications, auditioning, and, of course, the waiting, which can somehow be the most difficult part of this entire endeavor.

Please don’t let this lengthy article scare you away from going after your collegiate dreams! It’s not meant to stir up anxiety, but you should know what you’re getting yourself into and what it will take to be accepted into the program you desire the most if only so you can be adequately prepared for the journey ahead.

Start the Application Process

As I mentioned in my last piece, while there are several items every school will require you to turn in, there are also many things that will differ from school to school and program to program. You’re going to need to make sure you don’t miss a single piece of an application. Otherwise, a college may not consider you at all.

First, you’ll need to make a list for every school you’re considering and get your hands on an application. Many institutions will push you to apply online so you might not need an actual paper copy of the application. However, there is a lot you’ll need to gather before you hit send (or mail it all in, if you’re going the old school route).

There are a number of official documents essentially every college needs to consider before accepting or denying you, some of which you can get your hands on once and simply make copies of, while others will need to be sent by a third party individually to each program you may want to become a part of. Your high school transcripts are sent from one school’s office to another which means you’ll need to ask somebody at your school to forward them but more often than not, you won’t actually be the one doing so. Test scores — be they from the SATs, AP classes, the ACTs or anywhere else — will also need to be sent one by one. Documentation about your medical history is also essential as is financial info relating to how you and your family (if they’re involved) will be paying for your education. This process will help you attain financial assistance if you need it. The numbers may also lead to the college pointing you in the direction of certain scholarships or programs to lighten the burden.

Another part of your application will include recommendation letters, which you can typically also collect once and then distribute as you like. You’ll need to reach out to Teachers, employers, those you’ve interned or volunteered with, or anyone else you can think of who might have nice things to say about you and your character (though friends and family are usually not appropriate choices) to pen short letters, which you will include in your application package. You’ll need to give all these people time to think of what they’d like to say and then actually write the piece, and the more you rush them, the worse the final product may be.

When it comes to attending a musical program at a college, you won’t always be required to write and turn in an essay — which is typically one of the more stress-inducing parts of the application process — but the majority will still ask you to do so. (Tech and trade schools often skip the essay component.) If that’s the case, make sure you take your time and make this piece of writing the best you can, from the emotion expressed to the grammar, because any little thing may make those in a decision-making position look another way…or possibly even choose you.

After you interview or perform (or possibly both), walk around, talk with those who work and study there and try and get a feel for what life and classes on campus are really like.

Arrange Auditions and Interviews

You may have the best essays and you might come highly recommended but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best fit for the school. To determine if you’re a good fit for one another, many colleges want to meet with the names behind the paper. Sometimes an interview is requested or is mandatory to get in. It depends on what you’ll be majoring in, but for Music Performance programs (and even some Music Business programs) expect to do an interview as well as an audition. Make your appointments with Counselors, Teachers, or admissions people (depending on the school), and try to make it earlier, rather than later.

Sometimes, actually visiting a school isn’t an option — even for the all-important audition. While that might make you slip out of the running at a few schools you wanted to attend, chances are, if you truly don’t have the time or money to fly or drive to wherever a certain college is located, they will usually allow you to submit an audition video or recording. If that’s the case, you should go to great pains to make sure you find a studio or room with the best acoustics, the best recording equipment, the best Engineers. Make sure your recording is one they won’t soon forget.

If your top college is far from where you live, you might want to take this opportunity to tour the school and see if it really is a fit, which is yet another thing I mentioned in part one of this piece. After you interview or perform (or possibly both), walk around, talk with those who work and study there and try and get a feel for what life and classes on campus are really like.

Practice

If you are going to audition in person, which I suggest, you’re going to need to practice. Practice, practice, practice…and then practice some more. It’s something you’re going to spend an incredible amount of time doing as a musician no matter where you go or what you’d like to study and there is no way to avoid it. Practicing makes you a better musician and if you are lucky enough to be selected for your top choice school, you’ll be practicing more than you ever thought you would for several years…and then when you’re a working musician, that’s a huge part of being the best.

Work with a Music Teacher at your school or a Private Instrument Teacher to choose a piece that is challenging, exciting, unique and something that shows you are both incredibly talented and not afraid to take risks…if they allow you to actually choose what music you play for them. Once you have thought long and hard about what will be the best option for you to display what makes you the perfect candidate for this school, spend hours practicing, and don’t leave it until the week of! If possible, find opportunities to play this work in front of crowds of any size, so you can get a feeling for what it’s like to work through the pressure and the nerves when it comes to this specific piece.

After you interview or perform (or possibly both), walk around, talk with those who work and study there and try and get a feel for what life and classes on campus are really like.

Give It Your All!

Of course you’re going to give it your all in your audition but if you want to be truly prepared and go into the room with the best chances of eventually earning a coveted position at the school of your dreams (or at least one of the few you decided to pursue all the way), you’ll need to not only wow them when it comes to your music, but also, with your personality. Be friendly, energetic, confident, and don’t forget to smile. It’s okay to be nervous, but if you let tension take over your body, you might not win in the end, even if you play better than you ever have before.

Wrap It Up

After all is said and done, there’s going to be a lot of waiting, which always sucks. Sometimes a college will make you wonder if you’ve been accepted for a few days or weeks, while for others, the anticipation can go on for months. It might be torture, but it’s just how it goes. Sorry!

Once the letters, both rejection and acceptance (many people receive both), start pouring in, you’re going to need to make some tough choices. Which program do you want to be a part of and can you make it a reality? In addition to a yes or a no, you may only be accepted into one area of study to begin with or perhaps you find out a specific Teacher you wanted to work with won’t be available any longer. It might be the case the financial aid package they present you with simply isn’t enough to allow you to attend. In this case, it’s worthwhile to contact the school’s Financial Aid office. Sometimes schools are willing to add a bit more monetary assistance to your financial package.

Take your time and think about your options and the benefits and consequences associated with each, and then start discussions with the schools you’d love to attend and politely decline those offers you’re not really interested in, especially once you can compare them to others that have come your way.

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What Does Applying To Be A Music Major In College Actually Look Like? (Part 1)

Like being a full-time musician, going to college is a lot of work. Between classes, rehearsals, meetings, internships, and jobs, it can become rather exhausting but at the same time, it’s rewarding and you’ll find it will likely be one of the best times of your life.

Now, actually getting into school is another story altogether. Applying to colleges is a long, drawn-out, complicated, not particularly fun process and it can be even tougher for those looking to pursue music. There are a lot of resources aiming at helping young people through the process but those existing resources perhaps aren’t quite helpful enough because I remember not even knowing where (or when) to begin. I wish I’d had something like a list to guide me through the rocky terrain.

I’ve compiled a ranking of steps you’ll need to take as you apply to colleges, covering the journey from the beginning all the way to the end…which, in another sense, is actually just the beginning. I know when I was submitting applications I wish I’d had somebody tell me how much work it would entail, how many different pieces of information I’d need to gather, and how far in advance I should have started. (Hint: it was a lot earlier than I guessed).

Applying for college looks different for every student, as no two people have the same situations, the same goals, or the same strengths or weaknesses. Having said that, there are still some steps that need to be followed by pretty much everybody looking to further their education and if you’re already planning on going to college for something related to music (I focused primarily on Performance in this piece but even if that’s not your anticipated major, these two articles can still be helpful), please read through these carefully.

Research

It may seem incredibly obvious to state the first thing a prospective student needs to do when they begin thinking about what college they want to attend is, well, think about what college they want to attend. It is but it’s still worth putting this line item first. It’s a no-brainer you’ll need to do some research about music departments and what it takes to get into one but few students may realize just how much time and effort is required to understand all that is necessary. Please, please don’t think researching colleges will take an afternoon or even a day or two before you’ve got all the info you need. If you want to be especially proactive (and you do, trust me), start doing research a year or so before you begin any application process. This may sound excessive but it will make your life much easier and if you do so you won’t wind up being quite as frenzied.

Take your time and don’t just be thorough with your research but think long and hard about your future. What do you want to do and where would you like music to take you? Start looking into different universities and colleges and what they offer in terms of degrees, courses, programs, travel abroad options, help with internships (and later, job placement), and who teaches there. I’m not suggesting you need to collect and read a bio of every Professor at every college you may consider but perhaps there is a specific musician on staff you know you’d love to work with or maybe one school is known to be great when it comes to giving students real-world experience, as opposed to keeping them cooped up in classrooms all day. These are things you may want to know and think about as you’re filling out applications and it can take a lot more time than you might imagine at first to collect all of this data.

The internet is, of course, the best place to find a lot of the information you’ll be interested in and there are hundreds of websites (this outlet included) that can help you learn more and which can guide you down the complicated, lengthy path of applying to and being accepted to the right school for you. Spend some time looking at the websites of each individual college, as they often post a lot of detailed information about their programs and who is involved and you may be able to locate everything you need in a relatively short period of time.

Also, feel free to start talking to people in the music world early on in this process, as they may have knowledge or be able to provide anecdotes you won’t find on the internet. Your Teachers, other musicians, and all kinds of people in the industry can be helpful, and even if they don’t have much to say about a certain college or area of study, they may be able to point you in the direction of someone who can give you valuable insight.

Start looking into different universities and colleges and what they offer in terms of degrees, courses, programs, travel abroad options, help with internships (and later, job placement), and who teaches there.

Lists

When applying to college, you’re going to be making lists — lots of them — so I hope this is something you’re already used to doing. I suggest making so many lists you actually make a list of lists you’re going to need to write out. That might sound ridiculous and I fully admit it is, but it will help you stay organized and ensure you don’t miss anything important.

Start by making a list of every college you’re considering and then a list of lists you’ll need for each of those. One should be to do your research (which we discussed above), which will include many different steps (speaking with people, looking online, and even going to the location, if possible), and another will be in regards to collecting everything you need to turn in to actually be considered by the school itself.

Perhaps the most important list and the one every student applying to any type of college should make is the schedule of what needs to be turned into the school and when. Every university, no matter what kind of institution, requires many different pieces to complete an application and while there are usually many things in common, sometimes there are glaring differences. Between the actual application, essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts, financial disclosures, audition tapes, medical papers and many other official forms and documents, there could be dozens of different items required to apply to just one school and there are probably just as many dates you’ll need to keep track of as well.

That’s enough to scare anyone off but if you have a system and a list, you’ll be able to stay on top of everything and send each form and paper in on time. Since every school will ask for different things by different dates, there’s no way you’ll be able to remember it all in your head, so please don’t even try!

It’s rare to find a college that doesn’t offer, or even encourage, tours of their grounds, their classrooms, and their dorms, because these site visits can be one of the greatest ways to either up your excitement about one option or help you decide you were entirely wrong.

Tours

While you’re doing your research about colleges with music programs you may find yourself crossing several names off your list of ones you want to apply to. Don’t feel bad about that or worry — it’s what you’re supposed to do! If you begin with a rather ambitious grouping of regal institutions and wind up with only half as many (or even fewer, depending on how many were there to begin with), you’ve likely done a good job looking into the programs and the Teachers, and you’ve found some seeming like they may be a good fit…as well as plenty of others that aren’t what you had in mind.

Once you have narrowed down your shortlist, start planning actual visits to as many of them as you can. It’s rare to find a college that doesn’t offer, or even encourage, tours of their grounds, their classrooms, and their dorms because these site visits can be one of the greatest ways to either up your excitement about one option or help you decide you were entirely wrong.

I can say from personal experience when I was applying to college, one of the schools I was leaning towards ended up being an immediate no when I went to see it. Sure, the photos they chose to post on their website were nice and it certainly had its benefits but it only took about an hour for me to know I wasn’t meant to go there…and it didn’t even take a meeting with a Counselor or any Professors for me to feel right about leaving it behind.

Touring every college on your list won’t always be an option for many prospective students for many reasons — they may be too far away, you might not have the time (or your parents or guardians might not), and it could easily wind up being too costly to make the trek to all of them, depending on where they’re located — but you should make an effort to head to as many as possible. It would be a shame for you to go through the hassle of applying and then maybe even beginning your secondary education at a college only to realize a short while after you arrive you’ve made the wrong decision and it potentially could have been avoided simply by walking around the school itself.

Tours should only take a few hours at most and you’ll likely only need to do one per college. If you can, try to schedule time with Professors, Counselors, and other musicians while you’re there, as they can give you insight no brochure or pamphlet will. You can even kill two birds with one stone and knock out a visit while you audition or interview…but more on that in the second half of this piece. (Stay tuned: Part 2 coming next week!)

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