Tales from the Big Apple by a rising Irish music exec

After graduating from Dublin City University (DCU), I found myself at the same crossroads most graduates reach when they come to the end of their study: the “so what’s next?” conundrum. A lot of my friends knew what they wanted to do; they had graduate programs lined up, new jobs or were going on to do masters degrees. I had reached a point in my life where I didn’t know what the future had in store for me, and although a scary thought, it was also exciting.

I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in the music industry. I grew up obsessed with music, and it was inevitable I would at least try to go down that route. I always dreamed of living in New York, and when I learned of the J-1 graduate visa, I knew I had to go for it. I spent the months following graduation working two jobs, and saving up and planning. After almost a year to the day I left DCU, I was at Dublin Airport boarding a plane bound for the city of dreams.

Upon arrival, my main focus was looking for a job. I treated my local Starbucks as an office and began the search. I’d spend my days editing CVs, scouring the internet for jobs, calling companies, and sending emails. I remember thinking about those famous Frank Sinatra lyrics: ‘if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere’ and suddenly I was taking those words as my mantra. Within a couple of weeks, my hard work paid off, and I was offered a position at a boutique artist management/booking agency; I felt like I had made it. Within weeks I was working on album releases, attending industry parties, working at photoshoots, and going to concerts all over the city.

Three years have passed and I’m still in the industry. I’ve learned a few things along the way that I had to adopt.

1. In the music world, the normal 9-5 lifestyle does not exist.The entire industry moves incredibly fast, and I learned pretty quickly that I needed to keep up. A lot of events also happen at evenings and weekends, and in order to meet people and discover new acts, I needed to get out there. I remember the CMJ Music Marathon my first year and attending three events in one night, jumping from a showcase hosted by Australian artists to another party thrown by the French consulate. There is a constant shifting tide with new waves of trends that I had to be on top of; everyone wants to discover the “next big thing” and music is always changing.

2. There is no such thing as “an overnight success.” I don’t know which media outlet first started using this term, but the fact is it’s simply not true. There’s a saying in the industry that “it takes 10 years to become an overnight success,” and it couldn’t be more true. I’ve worked with bands who have been playing together for a long time, and even they haven’t found that sort of “overnight success” status because it doesn’t exist. This doesn’t just apply to recording artists, it applies to all aspects of the business. Every Manager, Publicist, Agent, Producer or even Stylist has spent years building their own careers, trying to establish their names.

3. Relationships are everything. I’ve been lucky enough to work in various aspects of the industry over a short period of time and have made connections with people from all areas. A lot of the experiences I’ve had and people I’ve met are because of someone else. I never would have imagined I’d be a Producer, but upon meeting a musical theatre Composer/Writer, I was asked to be producer for a musical. I also never pictured myself Tour Managing a band, but one Manager asked me to do it and before I knew it, I was driving all over the U.S. tour managing for two weeks. Relationships are what supply opportunities. The music world in New York is quite small and everyone knows everybody. I see all of the same people at the same networking events, and that’s how I was able to build connections.

4. The music business is rarely glamorous. I found that this business is tough and that I needed to be in it for the love and passion, and luckily, I am. A music industry veteran once said to me that “the music business is 23 hours of stress, pain and hard work, and one hour of magic; you live for that one hour.” Artists are working constantly for that 90 minute show. Behind the scenes, everyone is thinking of social media, marketing campaigns, writing, recording, touring, budgets and so on. From the outside, it looks so easy. Artists just show up, perform, and then go home. Nobody knows that that 90 minute performance took months of preparation and hundreds of people working non-stop for countless hours.

5. Teamwork is essential. Looking back over all those countless groupwork assignments I had to do in DCU, they really did prepare me for the real world. Nothing is different in the music business. I am constantly in contact with artists, venue personnel, journalists, publicists, managers, and together we all have to work together, for the same desired outcome. Everyone wants their act to make it, but the team around that act is just as important as talent is. Even the largest stars in the music industry didn’t get there on their own – the teams of people they surround themselves with are who help them achieve that status.

Today, I’m still working with some of NYC’s rising stars; I’m constantly moving forward and looking towards the next project. I arrived in New York having worked in retail and banking – that was my CV. Now I can say that I manage, book and publicize artists along with having worked as a Producer, Creative Director, and Writer too. In a few short years I have gone from not knowing what I was gonna do, to working on things I never thought I would be able to. But the dreams keep growing; they keep evolving, and even though I’ve come a long way, I have so much more yet to achieve.

Keep up with my adventures on Twitter/Instagram – @garrethbrowne

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