Be Polite: Here's a hard truth: whether you're trying to break into the industry or you're already there, working in music involves lots of cold calling/emailing. Some people will ignore you. Some will take ages to get back to you. Some of them might respond to your 10 emails with a single word response. It's incredibly frustrating. What can you do about it? Nothing. It pays to stay polite and professional at all costs. If someone blows you off, resist the urge to tell them off. If someone takes the time to help, SAY THANK YOU. The music biz is a smaller place than you think, and your shoddy behavior will come back to haunt you.
Don't Be Afraid to Make Some Money: Getting involved in the music business because you eat, sleep, and breathe music is the RIGHT reason. Going into music purely for monetary gains is a drag, and in fact, there is definitely an argument to be made that chasing profits has come at the expense of good music at many labels. But, don't confuse that fact with an idea that it is wrong to want to make money in the music business. To able to work in the music business, you need to be able to pay the bills from your music job. Period. Getting a paycheck doesn't mean you are crossing over to the dark side - rather, it lets you keep doing what you love.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask: If you don't ask, you don't get. Do you want an internship, a job, to work with a certain producer, an opening slot on a bill with your favorite band - the people who can get you these things aren't mind readers. They're not going to come along and knock on your door one day to offer you the shot you're after. If you want something, ask for it. Sometimes, people will say "no." That's not a problem, because sometimes, they will say "yes." Don't be so sure you know what the answer will be - ask, and you may be surprised what you can get.
Get it in Writing: Yes, even when you're working with friends. Even when there is no money involved yet. Beyond the financial reasons, a contract is a good way to clarify working relationships and responsibilities. You'll be able to get things done a lot more effectively if everyone knows where they stand and what is expected of them.
Say "I Don't Know": If you're working at your first music business job, or your band is meeting with a label, and you, well, don't have a clue what everyone is talking about, say so. People often feel a lot of pressure to appear "cool" in the music business, and so they pretend to know a lot of things they don't. Having the nerve to say you don't know what something is about is absolutely a lot "cooler" than flubbing your way through a conversation that is over your head - you'll almost always give yourself away. Besides, if you're serious about this, you'll have to learn the ropes eventually. Do yourself a favor and speak up.
Above All Else - LISTEN: Whatever you're trying to do in the music business, you can bet you're not the first to try it. Now, granted, most people who enter the music industry have a life long love affair with music that gives them some level of knowledge - but don't assume that because you've bought a lot of music and read a lot of magazines that you REALLY know how things work. When you get a chance to get some advice from someone who has been around the block, listen up, even if you think it sounds like a sell out. The people who really get ahead in music are the people who never stop learning from those who went before them.
- Heather McDonald