Career: Music Executive
Music executives develop and sell music. Some seek out new talent; some market new recordings; some expand a particular group’s product line. They oversee virtually all aspects of the commercial recording process, including the production of companion music videos. Their influence is wide, but their is tenure short-lived if they fail to deliver chart-topping hits. It’s a tough, competitive business. The music industry rewards the bold, innovative, and aggressive individual who can greatly improve the bottom line of the large recording companies that hire them. Music executives not only keep pace with musical trends and tastes but try to influence them in order to keep up with the continuous redesigning of pop culture. There are also music executives who work on their own; the independent producer has become a staple in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing music industry which is tapping into all genres of music and feeding it to a highly impressionable and fickle young audience.
Music executives are in charge of the entire process of producing music: Finding new talent; choosing music to be recorded; arranging for studio recording time; hiring studio technicians, background musicians and vocalists, and engineers; and doing marketing and promotional work. Staff producers usually have production support staff, while independent producers often handle these tasks solo. Independent producers can make large sums of money and a name for themselves if they can produce artists who consistently make their way to the top of the charts. Independent producers make their living on what sells, earning three to five percent of retail sales, so they can literally embrace success overnight or be scanning the classifieds for another career after one disaster.
Music executive jobs do not come through the classifieds, nor are there formal courses that prepare you for such positions. If you’re interested in the music industry, informational interviews and internships are key. Any experience in a music-related field, the ability to play an instrument or sing, vast and current knowledge of the industry, technical knowledge or experience in audio and recording technology, sound engineering, and studio setup provide a solid background to this field. Courses in business administration or management are particularly helpful to the independent producer. Because of the highly competitive nature of the business, newcomers must be willing to take just about any entry-level position with a recording company, independent producer, or recording studio and work hard and long hours to get to the top. Stress is a way of life for all music executives, so the entrant must determine his or her level of tolerance. Even after getting your foot in the door, this industry places considerable emphasis on your record in the field: What you’ve done, who you’ve produced, and how much money you’ve brought in. Thus an individual’s ability to find and sign talent is paramount.
Music executives who grow tired of the cutthroat business side may leave for technical positions such as sound technician, mixer, or audio and recording engineer. Opportunities also exist in talent management, publicity, and as agents and road managers. Music executives who are also musicians can use their industry experience and connections to seek jobs as background musicians, arrangers, composers, and songwriters.