Features

How to get a job in the music industry

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We’ve teamed up with Heineken to introduce you to some men and women who have chosen to go beyond their borders, challenge the status quo, say ‘why not?’ instead of ‘it can’t be done’ – and as a result have made the world a more interesting place for the rest of us. For more people worth watching, head here. [Article image by The Supermaniak]


When you think about Australian dance music, Dan Zilber may not be the first name that springs to mind…but it probably should be. As the brains behind FBi Radio’s music programming for eleven years, Zilber helped launch the careers of The Presets, Flume, and countless other electronic acts who’ve shaped the Harbour City’s vibrant scene.

He’s curated parties in lounge rooms and festival grounds, and booked line-ups everywhere from Carriageworks to the multi-venue Kings Cross takeover that was last year’s EMCPlay. He also launched a whole new digital radio station called FBi Click that’s entirely dedicated to the Australian dance music community: his parting gift to FBi before his move into television as Programming Manager at MTV Australia.

He’s been involved in all different areas of the music industry: an intimidating legacy, but one that was kick-started by the same passion that inspires everyone who wants to works in music.

“It goes back to my teenage years; music was my only hobby,” Zilber says. “It was an era that was a little bit pre-internet – or at least the internet was too slow to listen to music – so I’d buy every magazine, every fanzine, I’d visit record stores every week and spend all my pocket money on music.

“I’d make mixtapes, and later CDs for friends, consuming as much music as I possibly could find, and by the time I’d finished school, I knew I could either get a job that I wasn’t particularly interested in, or I could try to crack the music industry.” A glance around Zilber’s new digs in the MTV offices quickly confirms that he did indeed crack the industry; but, as he explains, it took a lot of time, passion and international flights to make that happen.

Photo by Hugh O Brien at Input at FBi Social

“I went between Sydney, Manchester and London for about five years. There was obviously a massive scene in Manchester with big clubs like Haçienda and Sankeys Soap, so that’s where I really got into electronic music. When I ended up in London for a longer stint, about two-and-a-half years, I had a couple of jobs on the periphery of the music industry, just trying to get some experience.

“I was a buyer at a record store, I sold records at a record store, and I eventually got a job in sync licensing: finding music to put on anything from commercials to movies to TV shows. That was where I started to learn about publishing, licensing, music programming, and also testing the breadth of my music knowledge.”

The music industry has changed a lot since the turn of the millennium, and the whole transition from record buyer to sync licensor makes very little sense to someone from the Pirate Bay generation. But there are new ways to work your way up.

“If you want to get experience these days,” Zilber says, “there are a lot of ways to do it. You can volunteer at community radio, you can write articles for blogs and just start sinking your teeth in. Associate with people who you respect, who do good work, who work with the music that you’re interested in, and find your opportunities to grow.

“But the flipside is that sometimes you just need to start doing things. It can be on your own – as I have done in the past – or it can collaborative, working with other people who maybe also want to get experience, but have a different set of skills, and between you, you can put something together that’s really exciting.”

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