Will Robinson’s tips for working in the music industry

Posted on June 22, 2017

Will Robinson, Managing Director of I’m not from London tells us his recipe for a successful career in the music industry…

1 – Don’t be a dick!

There are far too many egos in music already and if you’re in the industry side you may have to deal with a lot of artist’s expectations and demands. You need to be able to get on with people and keep yourself grounded. You can be assertive without being a bully, you can be confident without being arrogant and you can be relaxed without being slack. You never know who the person you are talking to is connected to or where they will be in the future.

2 – Start as young as you can

The more experience you can gain in this industry the better. The good people will stay in the industry a long time, so knowing and having worked with people in the past means your network will be all the bigger for starting earlier. Like many other creative industries, people prefer to work with people they know.

3 – Do It Yourself

Jump in feet first, you’ll learn by your mistakes and if those mistakes are spent with your own money, you’ll learn incredibly quickly and hopefully you won’t repeat the mistake! If you have no connections, get stuck in and show you’re not afraid of hard work and getting your hands dirty and doors will start opening for you.

As Tony Camonte said in 1932’s Scarface – “In this business there’s only one law you gotta follow to keep out of trouble: Do it first, do it yourself, and keep on doing it”.

4 – Wear a lot of hats

The industry has so many jobs attached to it, lawyers, labels, artists, sound techs, publishers, DJ’s, producers, roadies, tour managers, promoters, publicists, accountants, make up artists, stylists, video directors, drivers etc. The more of these skills you can learn the better. Sometimes one income stream may slow down for some reason, so being able to turn your hand to something else which is still linked to your industry means you are not reliant on that one way of making money.

5 – Listen, learn and make friends with your peers

Listen to people and take in what they are saying, it might give you a fresh perspective on a situation. People naturally like to pass their wisdom on and it’s good to have a few “mentors”: people ahead of you in the game that you can call on for advice.

There’s also scope in being friends with your competitors. I call this co-opetition. If they like you, they may pass you work if they’re too busy and vice-versa.

6 – Plan for the worst

If you plan for the worst, you won’t be disappointed or taken by surprise when disaster strikes. Festival and concert/gig planning for example rely on so many different groups of people and sets of circumstances and there’s always something that may go wrong. Having a contingency plan and a back up will give you some peace of mind that you have a strategy should things go awry. The same goes for budgeting; it’s best to leave some over for costs that you didn’t plan for needing.

7 – Put the hours in – be tenacious

If you’re serious about a career in the music business, understand that it will be hard, competitive and for a while may be financially less than your ideal wage. You may have to volunteer your services for free until professionals value you enough to pay you. Think of it as a long game and concentrate on building your contacts, knowledge and reputation.

8 – Don’t burn your bridges

Despite what they say, business is personal. Sometimes it’s better to take a walk around the block than reply to someone with a furious ranty email which could take the situation to a place where a problem can’t be resolved. Try not to hold too much of a grudge for the simple reason that you may need to call on that person again. If you can try and stay above all the negativity in these situations you can come out the bigger person.

9 – Get shit locked down

If you’re about to start work with someone, or partner on a new project, try and make it official. Time is precious and working on a project for an extended period of time without commitment from the other party can be stressful. It’s good to approach these conversations as partnership contracts or agreements, laying out what you all agree on and expect from each other. The earlier you can get things agreed on legally and financially in writing, the sooner you can get on with the fun creative stuff as a team.

10 – Enjoy yourself

Confucious said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”.

If you’re making headway in your career, remember to enjoy it.

If you’re not happy, you’re probably not as productive as you could be so work hard of course but remember to be able to switch off every now and again. Consider yourself lucky and stay positive.

A love of music and community lead Will to become a music promoter. He chose the name I’m not from London as a reaction to the then London-centric nature of the industry. INFL’s continuing mission is to educate, nurture and champion the talents of those involved in the business & art of music on either side of the microphone.