How to get into the entertainment business

If you’re waiting for that big break that leads to a job in the entertainment industry, you may have a long wait.

“You have to get into the entertainment business,” says Christine Osazuwa, chief strategy officer at Shoobs and founder of Measure of Music. Osazuwa says: “To break into the industry, you just have to do the work. The music industry doesn’t care what you know or what fancy degrees you have. What they care about is what you did and only that.”

Mark Williamson, Co-Founder/CEO of ROSTR and Jobs by ROSTR, believes it’s important to be clear about what you want to do so you can be intentional about pursuing that opportunity. “Saying I love music shows nothing to a recruiter. If you show that you’re actively involved in the industry, you’re much more likely to get a job.” Participation could include freelance work, a job at a record store, or blogging on topics related to the industry you’re in you want to get started include.

Tami Shelly, owner of Greenlight Creative, one of the first and only women-owned creative agencies in the entertainment industry, believes it’s important to think creatively. “Be imaginative! Do more than other applicants.” Shelly cites a friend who recommended her for a job at Sony and who, after she submitted her application, had several colleagues who worked for various companies in the entertainment industry write letters of recommendation about her to human resources had sent. Shelly believes this helped push her CV to the top as her friend knew her well when she was interviewed. Your friend got the job!

Stand out in an industry oversaturated with candidates

“In the entertainment industry, there is a never-ending stream of young people who want to work in this industry,” Williamson says. “The majority never make it or don’t persevere.”

Here’s how to land one of these coveted roles.

Follow the rules. “If you require a cover letter in an application, you must include one. The letter should be clear and concise and show why you are suitable for the position,” says Williamson. “Tell me how hiring you will make my life easier.”

Show who you are. When you apply for a job, Don’t be who you are not. If you’re hired randomly and aren’t yourself, there’s a good chance you won’t last in this position.

Make an extra effort to stand out. “Looking for a job takes a lot of time,” notes Shelly. “It’s mentally taxing to think that more work might be needed. The majority of people won’t go out of their way to stand out to give another applicant the opportunity to do so.” That can be good news if you’re willing to put in the extra effort necessary to stand out to stand out from the crowd.

Do your homework. “Research the company and the position you are applying for,” explains Osazuwa. This way, you can use relevant examples to illustrate why you are the perfect candidate for the job.

Find out what particularly qualifies you for the position. You have to position yourself in a way that says, “I am the right choice for this job.” Osazuwa calls this your unique selling proposition (USP). In her case, she has experience in the music industry, an MBA and a Masters in Data Science. How many people do you know who can say the same thing? Because of their unique selling point, it’s natural for someone to say, “Cool. I want to talk to this person who seems to be a perfect fit.”

Mistakes to avoid when looking for a job in the entertainment industry

The entertainment business isn’t all that different from other businesses. “Everyone thinks this industry is really sexy and all fun and games,” Williamson says. “That’s not it. Overall, this is a really hard and often underpaid job.

Consider the following:

Take off your blinders. Ask yourself: What is the job I want to do? In most professions you wouldn’t say, “I want to do X in Y industry.” You would say I want to do X and then look at all industries. You are looking for a job and a specific role, but it may not be in the entertainment industry.

Send messages to the most senior employees in a company. These people are busy and most likely won’t respond. Instead, Osazuwa suggests emailing an assistant or coordinator or sending them a message on LinkedIn. They may look at the resume first. You may also have some things in common with them, which makes it easier to get in touch.

Error using your network. If you’re just starting out, you may not have a large network. However, you know people. Some of these people may be in a band or have a side job that could benefit from your expertise. Let everyone in your network know what type of role you’re specifically seeking, and don’t forget to let them know how things are progressing.

Don’t make your resume machine-readable. Use short phrases and keywords that match the job descriptions of the positions you are applying for.

Don’t be specific when asking for help. Be specific when asking for help. Shelly advises people to avoid a blind request like, “Hey, can you introduce me to someone in production?” Make the effort and find the person or people you want to meet. Then ask your contact if they know Jane Smith and if they can provide an introduction.

Failure to regularly monitor social media and job boards. Both Shelly and Osazuwa create lists of industry jobs and share them regularly on their social media pages, and Jobs by ROSTR constantly lists new opportunities. The early bird often catches the worm, which is why you should check your social media and job boards daily.

Remember that every gig is an opportunity to gain experience and expand your network in the entertainment industry. Get out and attend conferences (many offer scholarships) and meetups – volunteer in your community. Take a position that will help you pay your bills while you search for your dream job. And remember that there is no overnight success because success takes time and commitment.

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