Good news -- you don’t have to. Here are five career tips from Quadio Media CEO Marcus Welch that will show you the way.
When I was in college, dying for a job -- any job -- in the music business, everyone gave me the same advice: “Network.” I hated it. First, because I'm a card-carrying introvert, but second, and more so, because “networking” sounded so phony and mercenary. Why would anyone want to schmooze with me, an undergrad whose main credentials were a radio show, a major in Communications, and an obsession with obscure Indie bands you’ve never heard of? I knew the answer was, “No one,” and I was right, and yet, here I am, the CEO of a music tech platform, and five real-world tips on what it really takes to launch your music career.
- Forget kissing up to “big” people -- just make friends, lots of them, and do friend favors. Here’s the truth. People in the industry with big jobs and clout -- they have no reason to know you or help you; tbh, you have nothing to offer in return. Sure, a few natural-born mentors exist out there. But they’re rare. So running around, trying to get a meeting with the major label VP who knows your dentist’s cousin -- forget it. You’ll talk for five minutes, and it’s over. Instead, do what feels natural. Get to know your own people, aspiring artists and managers and producers. Get to know them well, and then, just be the good person you are. Help them as much as you can. Go to their shows, promote them on your socials. It’s really kind of simple. Having more friends makes your world a better place, but here’s the nice part: you will learn more from your friends than you can imagine. It gets better. I assure you that, in time, this strategy pays off far more than trying to “network” with strangers, as you and your friends will all enter the music business together, and help each other -- authentically -- for years and years.
- It’s never too early to create and promote your “brand.” The music industry is a crowded place, and breaking in requires standing out, the sooner the better. For instance, without many specifics in my brain, I knew I wanted to make a career out of discovering new artists. And so that’s how I started describing myself in college -- in conversations with friends, on my radio show at Cornell, on my resume, in job interviews. Yes, your “brand” may change with time, and authenticity is essential, but I’ve definitely observed that the most successful people in this space start by defining themselves from the outset with a public persona that answers: this is who I am, this is what I want, this is how I’m unique.
- Seize every opportunity to expand your “field of exposure,” even the opportunities that seem kind of pointless. I’ve now been fortunate enough to meet enough “big names” in our space to know that a successful career in the music business is a journey of small steps, not leaps and bounds. You cannot miss a chance, however small, to get seen and meet more people. You’ve got a chance to do an open mic with 10 people in the audience? It feels dumb, but do it anyway because you might make one or two fans, which is better than staying home and adding zero to your roster. There’s a lecture on campus with a music exec from a genre you don’t really listen to? Go anyway, you might learn a thing or two, and as important, meet the person sitting next to you, and leave a positive impression on them. And dull as it can seem, get yourself on LinkedIn, and follow every industry leader you can, because one day, thanks to your smart online comments on their posts, they might recognize your name on a resume. Exposure takes time and effort, over and over again.
- Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. When we started Quadio a couple of years ago, my co-founder Joe Welch and I were driven by how hard it had been to find a community of creatives while we were in college. Joe, for instance, was an EDM producer, and it wasn’t until his senior year that he discovered that a guy down the hall in his dorm was making beats all night long. Once they found each other, their output exploded in great ways, because the truth is that creatives need each other -- for growth, inspiration, sometimes discipline, and best of all, for fun. You cannot make your best music alone, you cannot build your music career in a vacuum. We all need other artists, and they need us. So here’s what works: deploy every collaboration tool you can to find. If you’re a college artist, make sure you plug into Quadio, but also, keep your eyes open for collab opportunities at open mic nights and in campus clubs.
- Be a super-fan with no expectations. One of the most counter-intuitive things you can do to grow your career is the most effective: go big on building other people’s careers. This is not about being a friend, as per Bullet Point 1 above, this is about being a stan. If there is a great artist on your campus, promote and praise them on your socials. If there is an emerging artist you love out there in the world, follow them everywhere and comment with effusive praise. If there is a music manager, producer, or executive whom you respect from afar, write them an open letter, making sure to include the line, “I am writing this with no expectation of hearing back or gaining anything, I just wanted you to know you have taught and inspired me.” Maybe this all sounds kind of extra, but helping and supporting others has no downside, and often has unexpected outcomes. At the very least, it adds good ju-ju to the universe, which is never a bad thing, and wait and see, could be a very good one.
About Quadio: Quadio is the groundbreaking college creative network, with community members including 24kGoldn, Ayoni, Hannah Hausman, Tiffany Day, and UMI, among others. Quadio exists to champion college creativity, which they achieve by-way-of their trademark social media app and extensive community programming, bridging the gap between what’s fan-facing and what typically happens behind-the-scenes. By curating unmatched opportunities for students to have direct access and discourse with some of the best industry leaders in the game, Quadio now boasts 15k+ college creatives engaged in their community, and touts over 900 schools represented across the country. Visit Quadio online at quadio.com/ •