Throughout my professional heyday in the music industry the common fashion of adding a few helping hands to the team was by graciously accepting a few pleas of a million requests by passionate music aficionados, wanting to make their way ‘in’ at any price. Welcome to the world of interns. Generally they were young enthusiasts, happily dismissing the fact of exploitation in return for a few free gigs and records and ‘the prestige of working in the music industry’ – a glorious picture often fading quickly, the velocity of it depending on the level of fairness and integrity by the benefactor. Let aside the quality of freebies received.
This fashion, still actively being practiced today by many music industry veterans, is slowly being challenged by a new and more ethical trend of collaborating with remote professionals. And the good news is: they are often affordable to anybody, which makes them non-exclusive to the rich and established. Revolutionary.
Yes, they cost money, which might initially scare off the small label just starting out, emerging musicians trying to get their feet off the ground and the independent music distributor, hoping not to budge to new industry market trends. In addition to this, alas, ‘Virtual Assistant’ surely does not sound as sexy as ‘Publicist’, ‘PR Agent’, ‘Booker’ or “Head of Creative Services”.
But ‘the power of the inconspicuous’ should not be ignored, and here is why:
1. JACK-OF-ALL-TRADES WITHOUT COMPROMISING QUALITY
Whilst the aforementioned professions are most likely top-notch in what they do, fact is that they are specialised in their field and their job description often does not extend any further. You rarely get a publicist to care much about your administrative needs, and that’s totally okay. A VA on the other hand is often capable of filling more cracks than one by ticking a few more requirement boxes along the way. Their job description is often broader and wider, which can be a real asset to you.
2. WORK WITH A PRO IN YOUR FIELD
I understand the challenges of tight budgets and the temptation of ‘cheap labour’ (coming back to our intro), but often it comes at the expense of experience and knowledge in the field. Passion can be a significant driving force in doing something well (and hell yeah, we need more of that), but if you have no experience on how to do something, it can definitely work against you, as you spend more time explaining and training the person than focussing on the stuff that moves you forward. Delegation and ongoing training are two very different things and can be costly.
3. THEY LOVE JOBS YOU HATE
Or let’s say: VAs are happy to take over the jobs you don’t want to do and which keep wasting lots of your time. Time you could fill with so much more creative and fun stuff! Sourcing merchandise contacts, answering the gazillion of e-mails flooding you each day, eying your diary, uploading music and videos, affiliating with media outlets, booking venues, scheduling/updating Social Media and website content are only a few of the tasks a VA could take over for you. The list is endless, check here for some more ideas.
4. THEY KEEP YOU ON TRACK
When you end up doing it all by yourself, or more than you should because you’re understaffed, it can easily happen that you don’t see the forest for the trees anymore and forget milestones, appointments and other important aspects of your daily twang. Not to mention the vision you harvested initially, which keeps fading with each new demand. VAs carry the stigma of being terribly organised, pro-active and productive (challenge me!), which helps keeping you on track and all demands in check.
5. TRANSPARENT AND COST-EFFECTIVE PAYMENT
Saving the biggest seller to the end: working as independent contractors, things like overheads and other employee-related costs are ZERO when working with a VA as you only pay for the work actually done. In our case even billed by the minute. You don’t invest into coffee breaks, new release listening sessions or the adventurous practice of creative dance performances. All these are on the house.
The Upshot to the Initial:
If I’d be in my early twenties again (at times I dare thinking about it), an internship in the music industry would most likely be the Holy Grail. Fast forward a few (many) years, and looking at it from a different angle (and ‘the other side’), I have been granted the wisdom of understanding that this might not be the right kind of support for every biz or professional, especially if you don’t have the resources and time to teach somebody from scratch.
On the other hand ever-changing trends in the music biz are forcing everybody to re-evaluate and think out of the box in order to find a cost-effective way for everyday business and demands. VAs happen to be just that.
The Secret Truth:
I might just be utterly disappointed of not being 21 anymore…