The weekend before last, I worked at Yours & Owls – an annual two-day music festival held in Wollongong (just ninety minutes South of Sydney, for all my non-local readers). The COVID-safe event, held at Thomas Dalton Park from the 17th-18th of April, was one of just two major Australian music events approved to go ahead following the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, so, of course, I jumped at the opportunity to further my industry experience after an entire year of cancellations and postponements. While it was an extremely busy weekend – especially working the Peach section which was oversold by 300 tickets – it was unbelievably fun and a great networking experience.
This isn’t the only live music event I’ve worked at, however – in fact, this was my tenth. From Listen Out, to FOMO, to Lime Cordiale’s Robbery tour, I’ve done a lot, but each has pushed me one step closer to my ultimate goal of working full-time in the music industry in a marketing and event management capacity.
Regardless of what industry you’re in or the career you’re pursuing, one of the most popular pieces of career advice universally is to apply for internships. They’re a great way to build up relevant experience and interact with others in the industry, and (if you’re lucky) can even lead to a job offer at the end of your placement. In fact, they’re even a required component of many degrees as they allow you to gain practical experience in your desired field to supplement the theoretical knowledge gained in class. However, internships aren’t the focus of today’s blog (but they will be in the third blog instalment!). Today, I want to talk about volunteering.
Volunteering at an event, much like partaking in an internship, is a great way to network with other people in your industry and gain valuable experience, with the added benefit of being much easier to secure than an ongoing internship or paid employment. Similarly, it also demonstrates your commitment to your chosen career path as the work is usually unpaid and non-ongoing (hence, volunteering).
Nowadays, experience is considered the single most important quality in prospective employees by 37% of employers, with 80% of employers requiring at least some level of relevant experience (a minimum of three years’ worth for entry-level jobs according to 61% of employers, to be specific). So, in what’s often considered one of the most competitive industries, practical experience is crucial to those interested in pursuing a career in entertainment business. But, when positions in the industry are in such high demand, how do you gain experience as a beginner? You work. For. Free.
As I discussed in the first installation of my digital artefact, a lot of secondary research took place before I began applying for opportunities and building my portfolio. When searching for networking best practices and top tips for establishing a career in the entertainment business, a lot of blogs and articles covered the value of volunteering, such as this one by Phil Breman of The Balance Careers:
“One of the easiest ways to get experience is to offer to work for free. Almost everyone in the entertainment business could use an extra pair of hands, and if you can afford to forgo a paycheque for a short period, you’ll receive hands-on experience and networking opportunities. For example, if you learn of a movie or TV shoot, through research or by chance that day, walk up to someone on the set and ask if there are any departments that they know of that might offer volunteer opportunities. From the camera department to the makeup department, most movie sets are often shorthanded and more than likely, you’ll sign a waiver and be working the same day.”
A second blog post, written by Jen Hubley Luckwaldt also of The Balance Careers, added to this advice:
“If you’re stuck in a job that doesn’t use your skills or feed your spirit, volunteering can be a way to solve two problems at once. Choose an organization you care about, and you can gain a sense of purpose in the short term. Take this time to look for opportunities that help develop job-related skills and experience, and you can eventually move into a job that’s a better fit.”
Other sources also identified volunteering as a great way to find your niche if you’re unsure about the specific direction you want your career to take. While this is certainly true and a great place to start, once you’ve gotten your foot in the door, moving between positions become much, much easier, so don’t stress if you’re not set on one specific role just yet!
One of the things I wish I had been told earlier, however, which I ultimately learnt first-hand after I’d started applying, was that very few entertainment companies wanted volunteers with no prior experience (really!). Even now, despite multiple years’ worth of experience volunteering for many different entertainment companies and events, there are very few positions available to volunteer for in the industry, primarily being those on the day of the event related to patron entry processing (think ticket scanning, wrist-banding, checking ID, etc.). Additionally, a lot of companies actually charge volunteers a fee to apply to work (primarily to cover admin fees and insurance costs, and ensure volunteers will show up on the day), which can range anywhere from $5 to $50 per event.
Despite this, I’ve never had a bad experience volunteering at an event, and would still definitely recommend it to anyone with an interest in the music or events industries. While they can be long and hectic days, it’s a super fun experience. You meet likeminded individuals, often attend the event for free afterwards, and can usually secure paid positions at the same events in following years!
So, what do you think? Would you volunteer at a live music event? Or, have you already? And do you think this is going to be more valuable as time goes on, or will there be new methods of gaining experience that employers will prioritise? As always, I’d love to hear your feedback, advice and questions in the comments!
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