New Ideas In The Old West

Nikole Luebbe

Los Angeles is truly the wild west of the music industry. Young Berklee grads are sent into the desert with their covered wagons and MacBook pros trying to champion a rising niche or lay stake to any piece of intellectual property they can lay their hands on; breaking and battling new technologies and a constant barrage of unprecedented legal copyright cases as if they are fighting off wild beasts and plagues. This music industry mecca has always attracted a multitude of young talented artists and industry innovators, but it has also struggled constantly to hold onto anything resembling authenticity. In a digital age where most anything can be produced in a closet with good WiFi, it hardly matters where you start your career. Yet, there is still something special about conquering the City of Angeles and finding your place among the legends of this old town.

LA is interesting because time passes so quickly here in comparison to Boston. Orange and brown leaves don’t fall from the sky to remind you that the cold is coming and things are slowing down. The cold doesn’t come and no one ever slows down. So instead of using seasons to keep track of time you find yourself stuck in traffic one day on the 101 realizing you’ve already lived here for three full years, and you still haven’t hiked to the Hollywood Sign! The constant ebb and flow of the industry is due to the fact that the majority of major record labels, production companies, studios and freelancers are either based here, started here, or have some kind of connection here. This makes LA an excellent town if you haven’t yet made a name for yourself. There is a plethora of mentors and employers with big names to hitch yourself to while you earn 3-5 years of experience required before anyone can take you seriously on your own.

I originally came to LA in December of 2013 to intern for Alex Patsavas and the Chop Shop Music Supervision team. It was an exhilarating, fast-paced learning environment and by May of 2014 my time was up and I left with an upgraded resume and a strong sense of how show biz and music intertwine. I flew back to Boston for a week, graduated school, and started in on the daunting job hunt. Every day for two months I sent resumes, cold emails, cold calls, searched, and cried as I stressed about the end of my student loan grace period coming up and the reality that finding a job in this industry is not easy. In a period of 8 weeks I sent over 300 resumes and contacted Justine Taormino (Associate Director of Alumni Affairs, LA) to see if she had any leads. Finally one day, Justine did have a lead, for a boutique music library seeking a replacement music coordinator/pitching agent for their current employee (another Berklee Alumn) who was moving on to work as a music coordinator at Activision Games. I sent an email with a resume and cover letter, assuming I wouldn’t hear back. Then, to my surprise, I was called in for an interview and hired the following week! I worked there for two years, and in August of 2016 I moved on to work as the Music Coordinator at Tinopolis USA with Music Supervisor Carrie Hughes. We are constantly working on anywhere from eight to twenty shows, including Top Chef, American Ninja Warrior, and Braxton Family Values.

Though the fast pace of the Los Angeles work environment is initially overwhelming to most, once you find your bearings you see that there really is an over abundance of creative projects happening at any moment. You just need to figure out how and when to jump in. This makes LA the ideal spot for anyone with the faintest taste for entrepreneurship. In the same way that Uber/Lyft, Etsy, and Food Trucks have lowered the barriers to entry in the ridesharing, small business, and restaurateur professions, innovations in recording software and crowd funding have really made it possible to turn our musical side hustles into legitimate ventures. For example, there are hundreds of LA based composer assistants who do their own film projects with top-tier sample libraries on the weekends. Or the protégé recording engineers at major record labels around town who produce their own albums from their basements and then go on crowd funded national tours. I am able to work as a music coordinator 40 hours a week but also find time to teach voice and piano, sing in bands and choirs, and work on my own freelance music supervision projects. Once you’ve gained a little momentum in LA, there is enough of a current to help keep you going if you’re willing to let it all happen.

Though LA certainty does not have the communal feel of city like Boston or New York, there is a camaraderie that comes with knowing you get to work everyday with the best of the best. This is still the heart of the industry, and it’s the first of many beasts one needs to conquer on the way to becoming an established industry professional. With access to world-class facilities and unlimited creative networks, there really isn’t a better place to begin. Not to mention, you can always clear away the stress and escape the hoi polloi with a relaxing drive down the Pacific Coast Highway to the beach 365 days a year!