6 Careers People In Ottawa Can Pursue In The Music Industry

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Live in Ottawa and want to work in the music business? Learn about our favourite positions in the music industry and how to take the first step for chasing that career.


Imagine waking up every morning to a song that you set as your alarm. That song, with your help, got onto a major media platform and now millions of people have it in their Spotify library. Perhaps instead of getting it onto a blog, you ended up designing the cover art for the song, and now you have full creative control over the artist’s upcoming project. Even better, that same artist who’s song woke you up is your best friend, and you have the opportunity of managing their career. Now you tour the world, visiting city after city, country after country. What a life, eh?

These are not far-fetched scenarios. They are a lot more realistic than you think. Working in the music industry seems unlikely for us living in a city like Ottawa, known for its lackluster entertainment scene and government driven priorities. However, this shouldn’t hold you back from living out your passion for music. Believe it or not, there are plenty of resources in the Nation’s Capital that can help you get started in a music industry career.

Over the next few months, we are going to be sharing these resources along with some tips and advice about the music industry that we hope will inspire the music lovers of Ottawa to start considering a career in these fields. The following is a quick list of 6 careers we find the most fascinating, and we hope you do too. Enjoy!



  1. Artist Manager

Drake’s manager, Oliver El-Khatib.

Drake’s manager, Oliver El-Khatib.

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

We all have that one friend that is gifted at recording music, but can’t seem to grow their fan base or online presence. That’s where a manager comes in.

A manager is the first point of contact for an artist and is responsible for developing a solid strategy in order to grow their brand and making sure as many people hear their music as possible. They take care of all the nitty gritty small stuff along with important tasks including; building strategic relationships and making sure that the artist’s team runs like a well-oiled machine. In short, the artist comes first and the manager has no problem understanding that.

This is a career that embodies the true spirit of entrepreneurship and learning to work for yourself. If you’ve ever dreamed of avoiding the corporate rat race, this career is for you.

Salary:

  • Typically 10-20% of the artist’s generated revenue

Education Needed:

  • Nothing official

  • A couple post secondary business courses can for sure go a long way


3 Successful Managers You Can Learn From:

2 Up and Coming Managers You Can Learn From:


The Best Manager We’ve Ever Worked With at Smallworld:


Skills You Must Have:

  • Time Management

  • Verbal Communication/Negotiation

  • Standard Financial Proficiencies  

Bonus Skills:

  • Marketing & Promotion

  • Sales Pitching

  • Listening Skills

Similar Positions:

  • Road Manager - takes care of all business related tasks when an artist is on tour or performing in another city.


Must Read:

2. Promoter (Talent Buyer)

Miami-based event promoter, YesJulz

Miami-based event promoter, YesJulz

This is the job us at Smallworld love the most. Producing and promoting events and concerts is one of the riskiest things one can put them self through. There’s a lot of sleepless nights looking up at the ceiling wondering if you’re going to sell enough tickets to break even, let alone make a little bit of profit. It’s all worth it when you pull it off and create an incredible experience for the attendees.

Check out our previous events here


Promoters are responsible for coordinating everything that goes into producing a show including; booking the venue, booking the artist, selling tickets, marketing the show, and making sure the attendees have an incredible and safe time. One of the best parts of being a promoter is getting to work hand in hand with your favourite artists.

If you can work effectively under pressure and can bear the responsibility of dozens of different tasks over the course of a few weeks, we recommend giving promoting a show a chance.

Salary:

  • When booking an artist, a promoter tends to make 15% of the show’s net profit after all expenses are accounted for (Learn more about a Promoter-Profit Deal here)

  • When producing an event without a headlining act, promoters can be a lot more successful as there is lower risk and lower costs involved. For example, if you book your friend who DJs for $100, rent a venue for $1000, rent sound equipment for $300, and sell 300 tickets to your event for $10, you’ll be up $1600 (there are a lot more smaller expenses to keep in mind but this gives you a general idea).

Education

  • Nothing official

  • At Smallworld, none of us went to school for Event Planning. We learned everything we know from connecting with industry representatives and watching a tone of Youtube videos.


3 Of Our Favourite Successful Promoters

The Best Promoter We’ve Worked Alongside With:


Skills You Must Have

  • Social Media Marketing

  • Critical Thinking

  • Social Perceptiveness


Bonus Skills:

  • Complex Problem Solving

  • Customer Service Skills

  • Data Analyzation


Similar Positions:

  • Venue Owner/Bar Manager - if you become fortunate enough to run a venue, you get to book the talent that performs at your club. You also add an additional revenue stream with drink sales (that’s huge).


Must Read:

3. Content Creator

Hip Hop Photographer, Gunner Stahl

Hip Hop Photographer, Gunner Stahl

Producing media content in the music industry can be one of the most fulfilling careers for the creative and artistic people. Media includes photography, videography, graphic design and so much more. The possibilities are almost endless.

Our 3 Favourite Media Careers In The Music Industry

  • Music Video Director

  • Tour Photographer

  • Artwork Designer

Salary:

  • Most of the time, a media creator will find themselves doing freelance at the beginning of their career in order to build up their portfolio to showcase their potential to future paying clients. Once you build up your name, you can set the price for each piece of content you make.

Education:

  • For freelance work - nothing official.

  • A degree or diploma in your desired field if you’re looking to work for an agency, music label, or any established music organization/business. For example: Graphic Design, Filmmaking, Professional Photography.

3 Creative People Killing The Music Media Creation Game

The Best Content Designer We’ve Ever Worked With

3 Skills You Must Have:

  • Creativity

  • Photo/Video Editing

  • Branding


Bonus Skills:

  • Negotiating

  • Time Management

  • Group Collaboration

Must Watch:

5 MAJOR Mistakes To Avoid When Creating Music Videos! (Music Video Tips)

4. Publicist (Public Relations)

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Music publicists use public relations skills and media knowledge to help a musical artist maintain his or her desired public image. Their duties may include helping to market the artist's work, representing the artist through press releases, arranging for interviews with the media and writing speeches.

This career got us thinking, who are the heroic souls that have to publicly vouch for loose-cannon artists like Cardi B?

Learn more about here publicist Patientce Foster, here. And follow her on Instagram here.

Salary:

Education:

  • Bachelor’s Degree or higher in Communications, Public Relations, Marketing, Journalism, Advertising, or another related field is key.


3 Articles about Music Public Relations to Check Out:


Our Music PR Shoutout goes to Kevin Bourne of Shifter Agency (pssst he’s based in Ottawa).

3 Skills You Must Have:

  • Effective Writing

  • Time Management

  • Verbal Communication

Bonus Skills:

  • Public Speaking

  • Networking

  • Current Media Trend Knowledge

Last but not least, check out this video Working In The Music Industry: Public Relations (PR) with Nikki McNeill

5. A&R (Artists and Repertoire)

Senior VP of Universal Music Group, Steve Victor

Senior VP of Universal Music Group, Steve Victor

This is definitely one of those careers people have where they continuously tell themselves; “I can’t believe I get to listen to music all day...and get paid for it!” If you are the one who’s always digging through Spotify playlists and startup music blogs looking to find that next popular artist before any of your friends, this career is right up your alley.

“...Finding artists and new talent, overseeing the current musical project, finding anything that would be a good fit for a song on it or on the label. (Being an A&R Coordinator involves) everything from recruiting musical talent, whether it’s producers, artists or musicians, to typing out the credits for each song with everyone’s publishing house and real name.” - Andrew Corria of Aftermath Entertainment.

“A&R is seen as the glamorous part of working in a record company. This is because A&R is in charge of discovering new talent. A&R people work very hands-on with the artists that they sign. They do everything from assisting with song selection to choosing the people that will produce the album to deciding where the album will be recorded.” - Allison Klein of How Stuff Works

Salary:

  • $27,000 to $85,000+


Education:

  • Post Secondary Degree or Diploma can help but networking and making connections with individuals at record labels can go a longer way.

Three Videos About Music A&R You Should Watch:


3 Skills You Must Have:

  • Music Industry Knowledge

  • Verbal Communication

  • Networking

6. Agent

Fictional but inspirational Agent, Ari Gold from HBO’s Entourage

Fictional but inspirational Agent, Ari Gold from HBO’s Entourage

The last career we wanted to talk about with you is the career of a booking agent. At Smallworld, we’ve had a lot of experience with dealing with agents from many different agencies. The underlying personality trait they all seem to share is: THEY CAN HUSTLE. We’ve had agents email us at two in the morning, we’ll reply six hours later, and the agent replies back instantly...it’s like they never sleep!

Booking agents want what’s best for their clients (the artist). That means intense negotiating conversations in order to get them the most money they possibly can while getting them to play in the best venues in the biggest cities. They are the middleman between the artist and the promoter (or the purchaser) and are responsible for making sure the promoter has all the necessary requirements in order for the artist to perform.

In all honesty, we don’t know how agents do it. From the outside in, it surely looks like nothing but a stress infused career. That being said, if you thrive under pressure and can multitask like a motherf**ker, let’s look into what it’s like to be a music agent.

Salary:

  • $20,000 to $1,000,000+


Education:

  • A degree in business can surely help, but we suggest pursuing internship opportunities and connecting with agencies to see exactly what they are looking for from possible candidates


Three Videos That Will Give You A Great Understanding For What Booking Agents Do:


We hope this gave you a brief introduction to a path you can pursue in the music industry. There are hundreds if not thousands of other careers you can chase as well. At the end of the day, we hope you choose to follow whichever one you are most passionate about because there is nothing worse than having a job you despise going to every day. A career that you love waking up to in the morning is damn near priceless.

If this article inspired you, let us know! We’d love to talk with you.

And please share with your friends if you think this could give them a boost.


If you are interested in joining the Smallworld team, please review our open positions here.


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