How to Land a Music Internship in Nashville

by | Oct 20, 2021 | Blog

So you’re trying to get your foot in the door of the music industry,  and you’ve got your eyes set on “Music City” aka Nashville, Tennessee.

By now, you may have realized one of the best ways to get into the music industry with little to no experience is through a music internship, but how do you make yourself a stand-out candidate among the dozens of intern applications on the hiring manager’s desk at your dream record company?

Nashville is the perfect place for getting started in the music business, but it can also be very competitive.

Every semester at Full Circle Music, our music production company and online education academy here in Nashville, TN, founded by GRAMMY award-winning songwriter and producer Seth Mosley, we get dozens of resumes from potential interns.

The truth is, we only end up choosing about five.

Why is that?

There are just so many people passionate about the music business in this town, that unfortunately, having talent isn’t always enough to make the cut.

If you want to land an internship with a record label or music company in Nashville, it’s important to understand the following things:

  • How music industry internships work
  • What type of internship is right for you
  • The best ways to find internships in town
  • How to stand out among many applicants
  • The culture of Nashville’s music industry

This article will outline all of these factors, and guide you through the most important steps to securing your dream music internship in Music City.

Why a Music Internship?

Before we dive into the step-by-step guide, let’s make sure you are clear on what exactly a music internship is and whether or not it is the right next step for you!

If you struggle to find entry-level jobs in music because of your lack of experience, internships may be the perfect solution.

Internships are a great way to:

  • Work in the field with little to no experience.
  • Gain real-world knowledge of the industry.
  • Network with people in the field.
  • Build relationships.
  • Develop career skills.

They may also provide you with the opportunity to shadow and work behind some successful music industry professionals.

A music intern typically works with companies like record labels, music production companies, and publishing companies.

They can last anywhere between one and four months, lining up with a college semester.

With internships, it is important to have the ability to work without pay for at least 10 hours a week. They are not for you if you are struggling to make ends meet and need paid work.

Types of Music Internships

There are a ton of focuses and fields you can intern for in the music industry.

Here a some listed below:

  • Marketing
  • Publishing
  • Touring
  • PR
  • A&R
  • Management
  • Songwriting
  • Audio Engineering
  • Session Singing
  • Musician
  • Producing
  • Booking

Let’s discuss some types of internships you can get in the music industry.

Paid and Unpaid Music Internships

A music intern typically works with companies like record labels, music production companies, and publishing companies. Internships are a great way to work in the field with little to no experience, gain real-world knowledge of the industry, network with people in the field, build relationships, and develop career skills. They may also provide the opportunity to shadow and work behind some successful music industry professionals.

Internships typically last between one and four months, lining up with a college semester.

An internship may be right for you if you struggle to find entry-level jobs in music because of your lack of experience.

With internships, it is important to have the ability to work without pay for at least 10 hours a week. They are not for you if you are struggling to make ends meet and need paid work.

Part-Time and Full-Time Internships

A music intern typically works with companies like record labels, music production companies, and publishing companies. Internships are a great way to work in the field with little to no experience, gain real-world knowledge of the industry, network with people in the field, build relationships, and develop career skills. They may also provide the opportunity to shadow and work behind some successful music industry professionals.

Internships typically last between one and four months, lining up with a college semester. 

An internship may be right for you if you struggle to find entry-level jobs in music because of your lack of experience. 

With internships, it is important to have the ability to work without pay for at least 10 hours a week. They are not for you if you are struggling to make ends meet and need paid work.

In-Person and Remote Music Internships

As the world has become increasingly remote, so have internship opportunities. 

Depending on your desired field within the music industry, you may also have an opportunity to intern remotely.

For example, some of our digital marketing interns work remotely, and we check in with them using communication software, such as Discord. On the other hand, if you were looking for an internship in production, it would be less likely for you to find an internship that is remote.

One of the most important things you can bring to an internship– for yourself and the employer– even before starting, is clarity about your goals and area of focus.

This will help you stand out as a candidate and leads us to step number one.

Step 1: Know What You Want

Knowing what you want to do in the music industry helps the company utilize your services best while also helping you get the most out of the opportunity.

Keep in mind, this does not mean you will only be doing what you enjoy doing during a music internship. In fact, most of your internship may be running errands and cleaning. Nonetheless, it does make the music company aware of your interests and goals. This means they are more likely to give you opportunities to work and gain experience in those areas as opportunities arise.

Just as it is important for you to prove your value to the company, it is also important for the company to be valuable to you. You are there mostly to serve, but it’s important to know what you want out of working with them as well.

In fact, knowing what you want makes you a more ideal candidate, as the record label or music company will see they are investing in someone who is serious about a future career in the music industry.

Another great way to distinguish yourself is an acute self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses.

Understand what you want to do in the music industry, then assess where your current skills and experience stack up against professionals in your desired field. Then look for internships that will best utilize your strengths, but also provide you training and real-world experience in the areas you are looking to grow in.

Lastly, it’s important to remember a huge part of an internship is to learn and grow, so having awareness of your weaknesses can help you grow in that area while at the internship.

Try creating a list of three valuable skill sets you can bring to a music company as an intern. Don’t underestimate anything, it can be something like creating awesome graphics in Canva, harmonizing well, engaging with clients over the phone, or reading super fast.

The important thing is to do everything you can well; even the small things. If the company can trust you with the small things they are going to be way more likely to trust you with the big things.

Here are some more specific questions to consider before you apply for a music internship:

  • What unique skills can you bring to the table?
  • What are you passionate about growing in?
  • What are your weaknesses and how do you plan to improve?
  • What is your specialty?
  • What area would you like to focus in?
  • Does this music company align with your values?
  • How much does this music company work in your desired niche?
  • Can this music company give you experience in the fields you want?
  • How aware of your weaknesses are you, and how open to growth and criticism are you in that area?

Overall, if you are not clear on your skills, goals, strengths, and weaknesses; you cannot expect the company that hires you to be. This lack of clarity can lead to them either not selecting you in the first place, or you not making the most of your music internship. 

Step 2: Do your research

Once you are clear on your desired direction in the music industry and what skills you bring to the table, you can begin to research intern opportunities in that field. 

Here are some great places to network and find music internship opportunities in Nashville:

Visit the “Careers/Jobs page” on music company websites.

Keep in mind that some opportunities will require a little more digging and reaching out to discover an internship.

If there is a desired company you would like to work with, visit their website and find the careers page. Typically, if they are actively seeking interns, they will have information about it there.

However, if you do not see information for internships on their site, with a little further digging on their website, or using tools like Hunter, you can find company emails to reach out to for inquiries.

Join Nashville Music Facebook Groups

Music Industry Facebook Groups can be helpful for connecting with other musicians and professionals in the industry, and through those connections you may find entry-level music jobs, internships, or volunteer opportunities.

Below, we’ve listed two local music industry Facebook groups for networking and finding internships in town.

Music Biz Gigs: Nashville

Focused on “filling the gap between newbies and veterans,.” this group is about helping you navigate the Music Industry and making the search for internships and entry-level positions in Nashville FUN. 

Music Biz Gigs states that it is “dedicated to connecting motivated & hardworking students and recent grads with Music Industry professionals to find internships and entry-level positions in Nashville.”

YEP (Young Entertainment Professionals) Nashville Community Group

The YEP (Young Entertainment Professionals) Nashville Community Group is a private Facebook group (you should be accepted upon request) designed for “the next generation of up-and-comers in the entertainment industry to help expand their network of contacts and friends through social gatherings.”

In this group, you can find all sorts of information about upcoming shows, record labels, events, publishers, Nashville industry news etc.!

Navigate Internship Directories

Handshake

Handshake is a common resource used by many colleges for finding internships for students. In fact, it’s currently used by 1,200 colleges and universities to help students get great jobs and internships. The website will allow you to apply directly to some internships or have you apply externally, depending on the preferences of the employer.

Chegg

Chegg also has a large database of internships that you can search by location, position, job type, etc.! By creating an account, you can apply directly from the website and save your favorite finds!

Something unique about Chegg is that they also offer further resources for helping you discern direction in your career through their tabs, “Career Profiles,” and “Advice.”

Use Linkedin

LinkedIn has a feature called the “Student Jobs Portal” that is built specifically for college students looking for entry level positions. What is especially helpful is the “Alumni Tool.” This function allows you to see who from your university has worked at the company you’re applying to, and makes it easy to reach out to them for potential advice and recommendations! It also lets you know where you might have a better chance of getting hired, considering that the employer has hired students from your University before.

Step 3: Apply Early and Consistently

Another important thing to consider when applying for a music internship is that you need to apply way ahead of time! 

So, if you are looking to intern for the fall season, you should begin searching and applying for internships during the summer. You must think ahead because the hiring process can take up to months to complete. 

Once you find some opportunities, begin to apply to as many as you can! 

Set some goals for yourself!

Depending on what other commitments you may have, that could mean applying to three a day or three a week. Remember, it’s about applying for as many as you can. 

If you don’t get a response from a person or company within a week or so, send a follow up email! This shows that you care about the company and potential position, which could help set you apart from other candidates.

You may also find it helpful to create a tracking system. Keep a document of what internships you’ve applied to, who you’ve followed up with, etc. 

Step 4: Create a Music industry resume and cover letter.

There are two things you can almost guarantee companies will require upon application– a CV or resume and a cover letter.

In both of these documents, it is important to demonstrate the skills and experience you have that apply to the position you want. Even more so, you need to show your tenacity, initiative, passion, and self-motivation.

Internships are an opportunity to learn and grow. Even though you may not have the skillset you desire yet (that’s why you’re applying to internships in the first place!), having volunteer experience and substantial recommendations can go a long way.

Ask yourself: what are some transferable skills I can bring? 

Have you led a team, club, or small group?

This may show that you’re a skilled leader.

Do you consistently find yourself coming up with new ideas? OR trying to solve problems as they arise?

Sounds like creativity may be a strength!

Also, remember– enthusiasm is key when it comes to an internship.

So, if you don’t have much experience, show you that you are both willing and excited to learn.

Resumes and CVs

Resumes and CVs are designed to market one’s personal skills, achievements, work experience. CVs (curriculum vitaes) are typically longer than resumes, including more details regarding one’s education, certifications, affiliations, etc. than a resume. You can find more information regarding these differences here.

One of the most important things to emphasize on your resume or CV for an internship in the music industry is your experience. Experience is important in any field, but especially music! Experience can include employment, education, volunteering, etc! It’s especially important to include any music-related accomplishments that you’ve had.

Think through accomplishments beyond those often formerly recognized.

Did you help organize and market a show for a friend? 

Volunteer at a festival? 

Help execute the production of a music video?

These are just a few examples of other accomplishments to consider. More formal accomplishments are also important– awards, etc.– but don’t underestimate the importance of these other experiential accomplishments either!

Furthermore, recognize the importance of presenting yourself as someone who is reliable! In both the interview/application process, and while starting an internship, it’s important to demonstrate that you can be trusted in both the little and big things!

Cover Letters

A cover letter is the first document that introduces you as a job seeker to an employer. This document is one page and almost always followed by your resume or CV. The goal of a cover letter is to introduce your professional history and why you are interested in the internship. 

Here are three main components that are crucial to a successful cover letter. 

The intro, body, and closing.

Intro

At the top of the letter, be sure to begin with your name, address, and contact information. Follow this by including the name and address of the hirer or recruiter you are addressing, the date, and a professional salutation. 

Always make sure that your cover letters are tailored specifically to the opportunities you are addressing with the name of the person in charge of hiring you. 

Body

In the first paragraph, describe how you heard about the position and why you are writing about it. 

The second paragraph is all about describing why you think you are a good fit for the role. HOWEVER, don’t make this section all about you! The goal is to show that you have a good understanding of how the role fits into the larger organization, and how you believe you would fit this role well.

So, describe how your past experiences line up with the job, but remember to highlight the company’s goals instead of your personal goals.

Closing

The final paragraph of the body should acknowledge any additional documents you are attaching. Also ask for a follow up, and let them know how you plan on following up if you do not hear from them.

At the bottom of the letter, be sure to sign above your printed name! Also list any annotations or enclosures as necessary. 

Here is a great example of a cover letter!

Take your time on this. Essentially, this is your chance to show your tenacity, initiative, passion, and self-motivation through a list of experiences and accomplishments on two sheets of paper.

No pressure 😉

Step 5: Follow Up is a Must!

Do not forget or hesitate to follow up with a company. 

Especially a music company in Nashville.

It’s important to remember that music companies are busy. So help them help you!

Keep yourself front of mind by following up consistently, and show them you are enthusiastic and serious.

Follow up after sending your resume to make sure they’ve received it.

Follow up after the interview to thank them for their time.

Follow up after not hearing from them when you expected to.

Do not worry about reaching out too many times.

Always follow up!

Step 6: Bring an attitude of service.

Last but not least,(in fact, this may be the most important step); before you accept an internship, make sure you are intending to bring an attitude of service. 

Music Industry Internships are an opportunity to serve, build relationships, and provide value to the industry. This is a way to build trust and eventually develop ties and connections that can  jumpstart your professional music career.

This attitude especially rings true to the heart of Nashville. 

Service and relationships are a huge part of the music industry in this town.

In fact, Tennessee is often nicknamed “The Volunteer State.” 

Having the heart to serve is a part of the culture.

You will certainly discover in Music City, that the industry is truly built on relationships and trust. These relationships take time to develop, and that is why some people call it a “ten-year town,” meaning it can take upwards of 10 years before you will actually see anything “stick.” 

Hopefully, it does not have to take ten years for you to see your dream music career take off, but if you try to enter into the Nashville music industry only thinking of what you’ll get out of it, you may mess up your chances of ever getting in. 

Don’t end your career before it starts by neglecting to serve and bring value.

So what does an attitude of service look like?

It looks like this:

Smiling – People like to work with nice people.

Being Humble – Don’t despise humble beginnings, if you are asked to do a coffee run or to take out the trash; do it with excellence. Be open to criticism and critique, that is a huge reason why you are there.

Listening – Listen more than you speak. Take the opportunity to learn and soak in the environment around you, and pay attention. You shouldn’t have to be told the same task multiple times if you listen well.

Staying focused – This is not the place to self promote, or pick an industry professional’s brain. This is the place to serve, grow, and build. 

Being flexible – Everything may not pan out exactly how you’d like during the internship, but be open to trying new things and be patient with delays or switching gears.

Standing Out – Not by bringing attention to yourself, but by going above and beyond on the tasks you are given.

Remember that a lot of the people you are working for now were once interns too. This is a valuable opportunity to show your skills, but most of all, to show that you are a kind, trustworthy, and reliable person.

Those attributes will always override any other skills you can bring to the table. Like the common phrase, “Talent will get you there; but character will keep you there.”

The music industry isn’t easy on newcomers – especially in a town like Nashville.  Music companies typically want candidates with experience in the field. Music industry internships can help you gain that experience with real-world knowledge and training.

Following this guide will help you stand out in a crowd of intern applicants, and make you an undeniable candidate.

Here at Full Circle Music, we believe one of the best ways to make it in the music industry is through that of serving others. We choose interns that are not only passionate about the industry and have clear goals for their career but have a heart to serve.

So, if you are looking for a music internship in Nashville and believe you possess these qualities, we’d love to hear from you.

You can apply to our internship program here.

We wish you the best in your career endeavors and can’t wait to hear about how these steps have helped you land your dream Nashville Music Internship!

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