How Internships Can Help Your Music Career

Today, anyone who wants a career producing, engineering, or working in many of the other music-oriented jobs in the recording industry has many choices when it comes to educating themselves about the business. In addition to the many schools, programs, books, web sites, and other informational tools at their disposal, the chance to do a good old-fashioned internship still exists.

In fact, more than ever many companies will not consider hiring someone unless they have had some 'real world' experience in a studio. post-production facility, record label, distributor, store, live performance venue, or other businesses related to recorded audio products.

For example, you may think you are qualified to work in a recording studio just because you have some training in Pro Tools, or have helped set up a school-related recording project. You may also have taken courses where you aced all the written projects, and marketing classes, and think you have what it takes to work for a recording facility or record label. Well, that is all great experience, but it isn't enough!

Nothing is more impressive than having done some work as an intern. Businesses that offer internships may demand a lot of you. They may (and will) test your patience by having you do what you think are mundane, boring, or menial tasks... stick it out. Most likely you are being given a form of initiation. Most people in the recording industry started out doing menial tasks and when given the chance to express their skills... did so, and were rewarded with jobs, job-leads, promotions or recognition of some kind.

I can only do so much to encourage you to get yourself an internship. You have to bug your music industry contacts: teachers, producers and engineers you have met or just heard about. Also, go out and pound the pavement. Talk to guys who are working your favorite club or live venue. Bug the retail clerk at your favorite record store. Hang out in the music scene of your choice. Be pro-active. Ask everyone if they know of any internship openings in their field.

Do research on the types of audio-related businesses in your city. Use the Internet. Go to the library and look up the many directories, and read the weekly and monthly recording industry trade magazines and journals. Get on the phone, and do some informational interviews with the recording industry business you would most like to work for. Even knock on people's doors. Do whatever you have to do to get an internship. Internship opportunities do not come knocking on your door. You have to motivate yourself to get involved with this industry.

This technique has a tradition attached to it. It is called "The School of Hard Knocks". It means that everyone worth anything in this business had to push themselves forward and find a way to get noticed. Producers have to do this. Engineers have to do this. Certainly recording studio, and record label have to do this. And, artists need to do this. So, while being laid back and mellow is a great way to relax, it will get you nowhere in the whirlwind world of the recording industry. "Get Up, Stand Up!" Do something!

This industry is nothing but competition. Not just for jobs, but competition that finds one company fending of another company for clients and deals. So, businesses are looking for the most highly motivated employees they can find. Are you up for the challenge?

Once you say, "Yes, I'm ready to show the world how good I am," and you have found your first internship, learn how to work that opportunity. You will have to take the good with the bad. Interns may start out as the low men and women on the ladder, but those that impress with their positive attitudes and dedication to their work, whatever it may be...will reap rewards. So, read the following suggestions on how to work with your internship employer for the mutual benefit of your career and their increased business.


  • Be on time, and better yet, be the first one in, and the last to leave.
  • Be hungry to learn.
  • Be friendly. Introduce yourself to co-workers, even if you have not been introduced to everyone during orientation... and network often.
  • Complete the tasks given to you before taking on other work.
  • Make yourself invaluable to the company. (Look for things to do.)
  • Make friends with co-workers, and offer to do some of their grunt work.
  • Volunteer to take on the responsibilities of a worker who is ill, or going on vacation.
  • Be willing to do the most menial of tasks. Even the most boring and repetitive work should be eagerly undertaken.
  • Cover phones while co-workers are on break or at lunch.
  • Ask permission to use any equipment, software or computer programs.
  • Offer to help prepare for any studio-setup or tear-down, or to prepare any business reports.
  • Organize the information you need to know to carry out your work.
  • Create your own databases of any staff members, and their job titles.
  • Know that as an intern you are not being trained to take a manager's or executive's job, so do everything you can to learn the jobs that lead to those positions.
  • Feel free to take the initiative when you the time is right.
  • Make things easier for your employer or supervisor, they will remember you for that.
  • Offer your help when you notice help is needed.
  • Attend as many concerts and events that are not your favorite music. (You will learn a lot by doing this.)
  • Keep in touch once you are gone. Stop by and say hello!
  • Get a letter of recommendation, and send the company a thank you note for hiring you and giving you the opportunity to work for them.


  • Ask for free things like CDs, tickets or studio time right away.
  • Look like you are lost. Avoid standing around.
  • Avoid long conversations during work hours with co-workers, or celebrity guests who may be conducting business in your workplace.
  • Offer your opinion on how you would run things if you were in charge.
  • Cop an attitude of any non-professional kind, even if you're being paid.
  • Phone your boss or supervisor first, if you aren't going to show up.
  • Make any personal phone calls in front of co-workers during your shift.
  • Cruise the internet on your company's time.
  • Get caught reading magazines or sloughing off on the job in any way.
  • Ask at any time "NOW, what should I do?"
  • Be offended if someone snaps at you. (Everyone has bad hair days).
  • Say thank you when any promo CDs or concert tickets, or free studio time are offered.
  • Talk dirt about any recording artists, producers, or other companies while in the presence of co-workers, or at any networking functions. (It's a small world and you never know who your co-workers, boss, or supervisor knows, has dated, has worked with, etc.)

Throughout his fprty year career in the music business, FourFront Media & Music's Christopher Knab has shared his experience at many industry conventions and conferences, including the New Music Seminar and the Northwest Area Music Business Conference.

Knab was owner of a San Francisco music store, co-owner of the 415 Records label, and station manager at KCMU Radio in Seattle.

He currently provides a unique consultation and education service for independent musicians and record labels. His new book is entitled "Music Is Your Business".

Christopher Knab

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