Listen To Your Parents And Then…

29/08/2011 § 2 Comments

Full disclosure here: I’m a parent. My eldest is currently at Boston University and another one who will be college-bound in a few years. I would love for both to land a job directly from one of their internships; with their freebie work acting like one long interview process. That would be very cool. And it happens. I’ve seen articles outlining the successes, where to apply for these programs and how students should consider doing that very thing in order to streamline their career path. I also know parents push their children to look for internships at prestigious companies with this very idea in mind. Don’t do it. For a whole cartload of reasons. Or at the very least, don’t expect anything and carry on like you will never get the carrot of the job they are dangling in front of you. Because you might not.

But, you should ask, if your work is NOT going to lead to a job then why do work at a place that you already know the ins and outs of from your professors at school? Good question. Some years ago, when speaking at Endicott College, I asked some marketing students how they liked working for a prestigious advertising agency then housed right down the road from Endicott’s campus in Beverly, MA. They hated it. Their supervisors had them doing the stuff no one wanted to do: spraymount the storyboards, make coffee, copying and binding reports going to clients, and on and on.

Of course, if you do get stuck doing that work, figure out how to turn the situation around. You ARE there to learn. Review the storyboards and ask someone why they did what they did. Find someone at the company to have a casual conversation with them about their work. Everyone’s too busy to do anything but work, work, work? Ask to sit in with them on your day off from interning. Take notes. Ask questions from your notes later, maybe over a coffee. Find a way to make an internship worthwhile for you, for your education.

I tell prospective interns looking at TKA, I would rather not have music business majors here who are interested in being an agent when they grow up. Oh, we do try and give them a background in booking when interning here, as well as marketing to promoters and buyers of entertainment. And every little thing I give my interns to do, I try and give them the larger picture. Don’t get me wrong, we do have a good program, and those interested in booking and management are welcome. But, consider this, wouldn’t it be better for a prospective agent to work at a nite club or venue and understand the problems they have there; with artists, with suppliers, with renting backline; so when agenting you have a full picture of who your customer is? Before considering any prospective company think out of the box, or better yet, throw the box away. What would make you better at what you want to do? What would add to your education, not what would look good on your resume.

Starting out as a performer you need to get press. Why not work for a publication and understand how press agents fail to place stories about budding artists? Or work at a PR agency. You read stories about managers ripping off artists; Bruce Springsteen sued his first manager, Mike Appel for all sorts of nefarious things, including the failure to pay income taxes. Work for a manager to see how they work, or don’t work, and get to know how to play the angles with the record companies from that end. Or A&R…jeez you want to be signed someday, right? Why not see why some musicians do not get signed so you don’t repeat their mistakes. You can see that within the A&R department, or from within management, or even within a booking agency that deals with starting/starving artists trying to get a record deal. Get on it.  (BTW, we are not that place. TKA does not deal with artists who don’t have a record deal already in place.)

And parents, you’re probably still stuck at the sentence up there where I mentioned that your son or daughter should not take a job just to look good on their resume. Right? And I’m not doing reverse psychology here. I mean it. The more your kids can add to their education, the better they can fully discuss the business with anyone, especially the person giving them an interview for a prospective job. Or better yet, the person they meet while networking outside the office. Our friend Claude Borenzweig got a job at PolyGram after one of our Second Story Television music video premieres. Claude hobnobbed with Len Epand, the head of PG production at the time, and one thing led to another and Claude was hired. Of course, Claude knew his stuff; he didn’t get the job due to his brilliant discussion of the business, but it was a start. If you can discuss your time spent at, say the House Of Blues, with someone at BIG NAME RECORD COMPANY or BIG INITIALS BOOKING AGENCY, it would put you in a different light with them; making you a tad unique. For me, the more unique a resume looks, the more interesting that person might be for the job. Not everyone who interns at BIG NAME RECORD COMPANY HERE will get a job there, especially in this economy. And how many interns will have BIG NAME RECORD COMPANY on their resumes looking for jobs at A DIFFERENT NAME BIG RECORD COMPANY? Many, many more just like your kid.

When I went to film school at Ithaca College, they wanted us to get a wider education than just film. We weren’t going to be making films about making films, were we? I was able to leave there with a degree in film and a minor in Anthropology. This deep background in Anthropology became very useful later on when I was put in charge of product managing Mickey Hart’s World Series at Rykodisc. From my work with those releases, I became the go-to guy for hard-to-market releases in the genres outside of rock and pop. Then A&R asked me to meet with Alan Lomax to discuss his huge cache of folk and world music masters. (Rounder ultimately nabbed the series, but I met the legend himself and was able to discuss his life’s work, intelligently.)

I obviously did not do all that Anthropology—the coursework, those long nights writing papers, a month of fieldwork, and trudging over to Cornell to their great library to research topics—in order to have it look good on my resume. In fact, I didn’t even get my job at Rykodisc because of a piece of paper; it was my producing and directing in the film world that Don Rose, the President, knew, as well his understanding of my ability to get work done under some wild working conditions. (More on this later. Check back here when I write my “Resume? Resume? I Don’t Need No ‘Steenkin’ Resume” blogette.) I took the courses because I loved Anthropology and, in a completely unexpected way, that knowledge became crucial to my career.

It’s probably a little scary to you—and to your parents—but let serendipity play a little role in your internship. Who knows where you are going to be five years from now, ten years from now, twenty? I thought I would now be in Hollywood making films, or writing for television, or on some island somewhere writing novels and there’d be a whole shelf of them in my library with my name on the spines. I wound up with a Grammy-nomination (albeit for a video) which propelled me into the music business. Which I still feel is pretty cool for, through my work at Rykodisc and here at Ted Kurland Associates, I have been able to bring to light, and find audiences for, some really extraordinary musicians and their amazing music.

Bottom-line: Make sure you can learn something at your internship, to build on your courses, not just continue to get the very same information in a different locale by people who can do, but perhaps cannot teach.

[Originally posted on January 13th, 2011, in the Berklee Internship Blog for my ongoing Blogging For Berklee Series.]

For more in the ever-intriguing, suspense-driven, series of blogs written for Berklee College of Music, see:

You Don’t Know Anything and Your Ideas Are Worthless (No, Seriously, Get Used To It…)

Bio for this bloggette:
DAVID GREENBERG is Director of Marketing and runs the internship program for Ted Kurland Associates, a boutique booking and management agency located in the Allston environs of Boston, MA. His background in this industry of entertainment has been quite an affair, (even getting to the Grammys and CMAs at least once) best read on his Facebook or LinkedIn pages. A few tidbits: he worked on the build of iCAST, an entertainment website, as the internet bubble was gaining a nice surface tension, he has visited more than his fair share of uranium mines and oil rigs while producing news films and other propaganda for Mobil Oil and very carefully ate melting chocolate ice cream with Yoko Ono and Don Rose of Rykodisc while on Studio One’s immaculately white couch.

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