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Interview: Chatting with Brian Penick of Music Industry Careers

Former professional musician, venture capitalist, founder of Musicians Desk Reference, and CEO Brian Penick introduced his latest endeavor, Music Industry Careers (MIC), a few days ago.

MIC is tailored to the music industry – designed to provide resources for individuals and companies in the music community, spanning the spectrum from internships to collaborations to employment, as well as mentoring and education. In the latter realm, MIC is hooking up with academic institutions to equip students for success by offering guest lectures from industry notables, along with early access to innovative tools, products, and branded marketing materials, including case studies and featured listings.

Most significantly, the program is free.

Premium services are also available: fee-based gateways, featured listings, and dedicated applicant campaigns. To remain up-to-date, MIC automatically removes all Career and Opportunity posting every 30-days. Relevant listings may be renewed simply and easily by a single click, while all profiles remain online once generated.

GritDaily caught up with Brian Penick to discover more about Music Industry Careers, Musicians Desk Reference and, specifically, how MIC operates and what it offers to those in the music industry.

How did you come up with the idea for Music Industry Careers?

Technically, I’ve been working in the space since 2013 when I launched Musicians Desk Reference, a music education and project management system that is part of the same product suite as Music Industry Careers. Career development was a natural extension of education––people attend school, especially higher education, to find high caliber careers in their field. What always intrigued me was the gap between schools and employers, particularly with the lack of resources outside of career fairs and alumni introductions. On the other hand, the majority of musicians and industry professionals do not attend college. Additionally, platforms like LinkedIn, Upwork, Fiverr, Glassdoor and Craigslist do not offer many music-specific posts, and those listed are buried among other industries, which is why I wanted to build something dedicated to our industry. 

Have you generated much interest prior to launching?

We’ve primarily been in stealth mode with the launch of Music Industry Careers and several other products will soon launch. Despite our secrecy, we have aligned with major partners, and will even launch a full custom private-label version of our product suite for a top 3 US market later this year. We have many exciting announcements in the queue, all of which will benefit our industry when it needs it most, so the timing could not be better.

What was your mission at the outset?

It’s simple: we want to provide access to quality education and career development resources to help stimulate the music community. A large portion of our product offerings are free for users, and all premium products have extensive free trials. We believe that by helping creatives become better entrepreneurs, in addition to aligning everyone from educators and policymakers to private industries, the entire music economy will become more sustainable, accountable, and transparent.

How many employees?

We have a growing staff of partners, employees and contractors, the vast majority of which come from musical backgrounds (with some still active in music performance). 

What services and products do you offer?

Music Industry Careers is a marketplace for careers (internships, freelance work, part/full-time employment) and opportunities (peer collaborations, service professionals, mentors, lessons). Musicians Desk Reference is an education and project management system for individual and enterprise use. We’re about to launch an online academy and media outlet, in addition to several branded services. The Counter Rhythm Group, my service company and think-tank for all of these products, has offered artists development services to now platinum-level artists and multi-national music companies, and also launched several other products, including Soundstr, which was acquired in 2018.

How will you advertise?

Users have never seen a banner advertisement in our products to date, and we will continue with that philosophy as long as possible. We seek out organic partnerships that add value to our users and industry as a whole. We only place the right companies and opportunities in front of our users through highly catered brand relationships, which result in the highest engagement from our users and the best performance with advertising organizations. There is an ethical approach to advertising, and we pride ourselves on valuing the user experience over ad revenue.

To what do you attribute the success of Musicians Desk Reference?

Musicians Desk Reference began as an internal tool I developed for myself and my staff to use for early campaigns at The Counter Rhythm Group, working with artists like Walk The Moon (back in 2010!). I decided to scale into a broader platform for artists to use, and their team members (managers, agents, publicists, etc.) quickly started requesting it for use with their other clients. Several schools reached out and began using it in their classrooms, and now there were thousands of users worldwide. The platform is currently being developed to support entire music city economies and lives at the heart of all our products. The success is primarily due to the platform’s capabilities to scale from a single user to an entire city and consistently grow with the amount of information included. That’s why, despite many requests, we’ve never released it as a physical book––the text could theoretically be outdated by the time it’s printed. Having a digital platform (and now ecosystem) allows us to sustain. Even after nearly a decade, we’re just starting to see the real potential of what began as an idea, which I think is amazing.

What’s the difference between Music Industry Careers and Musicians Desk Reference?

All of our products serve a specific purpose to solve a problem. Music Industry Careers helps you find careers, opportunities, earn revenue and build a music community. Our academy will offer you a variety of educational resources catered to your specific interests and experience level. Musicians Desk Reference helps you apply that knowledge to real-life experiences, offering a sense of accountability and transparency to you and your team members. The most powerful aspect is when all of the products are used in tandem to learn, grow and achieve. This is why we are now offering our product suite as a private-labeled solution and where it will prove to be the most successful––helping entire music economies grow together.

What’s the primary goal of Music Industry Careers?

We want to offer musicians, music industry professionals, educators and students the best career development resource. This platform can help users advance their career, land their dream job, earn alternative revenue through mentoring and lessons, and strengthen the overall music economy. 

What makes Music Industry Careers unique? 

It’s built specifically for our industry by those who have the first-hand experience. We’ve spent a long-time crafting something that offers value to the music industry while removing what’s unnecessary from the career development landscape. We’re very proud of what we’ve built with Music Industry Careers and all of our products.

What one piece of advice do you have for someone interested in a career in the music industry?

Hustle (in a positive sense, of course). I’m in my 21st year in music personally, and I’ve done everything from selling CDs by hand at Warped Tour to touring overseas, failing forward with startups to having companies acquired, being rejected by investors to becoming a partner at a venture capital firm, and I’ve never stopped hustling to accomplish my goals. Times will get tough, and people will doubt you, but your passion will be enough to guide you as long as you are open-minded, determined, innovative and kind to everyone you meet. Never stop hustling.

From a pragmatic standpoint, I’m a music journalist. What services does Music Industry Careers offer to benefit me?

Great question! If you are seeking freelance writing Opportunities or Careers, you can find them listed on the platform. If you are offering your services as a freelance writer, either to media outlets or artists seeking professional copywriting (Wikipedia pages, bios, etc.), you could offer your services as an Opportunity on Music Industry Careers. If you want to help others get into journalism, you could offer free or paid mentoring Opportunities on our site. You can also message anyone on the platform to network, collaborate and explore additional possibilities. Music Industry Careers is especially helpful to furloughed music industry professionals and musicians unable to tour due to the pandemic, as it will allow them to offer paid mentoring and lessons to generate alternative revenue when it’s needed most.

Visit Music Industry Careers and Musicians Desk Reference