June 30, 2011

Copyright Misconceptions: Do You Have to Register Your Work with the Federal Government

As a future entertainment lawyer, I get asked a lot of legal questions by my artist friends (and friends of friends, family members, etc.). The more conversations I have with artists, the more I find that many are confused or unsure when it comes to important copyright concepts and laws. So I will be debunking the myths and misconceptions that I am asked the most about, starting with one from the very beginning of the legal life of the work:

You have to register your work with the federal government to protect your work

Not true! The moment you create your work and fix it in a "tangible medium of expression," your work is copyrighted. This means that the moment that you write down a poem, record a song, or shoot a film, whatever you just created is - BAM! - automatically copyrighted on the spot. How cool is that?
So why register your work with the federal government? Well, there are a few reasons:

June 23, 2011

There Comes a Time . . .

(What to do When You Know BETTER.)

Being an intern can be tough. If this comes as news to you, you probably haven't started your internship yet. You're stuck with grunt work, thrown into roles and responsibilities that you feel desperately unprepared for, and you're doing it all for free – or as close to it as local slave-labor laws will allow.

Sometimes, you're even told to do things that you know are wrong. I'm not talking about Agent Orange wrong, or dead-hookers-in-your-trunk wrong, but just things that are . . . technically incorrect. Like applying phantom power to a DI box that doesn't need it, or using the “wrong” mic for a given situation. These kind of things may seem trivial, but it's grating when your mentor tells you to change an EQ curve from one that you like to one that you don't.

June 22, 2011

First Impressions: The Portfolio

In the music business, the phrase "It's not what you know. It's who you know." is referenced daily. More often than not, a highly-qualified loses a potential job because an under-qualified person has an in with the company, so there really is no replacement for good self marketing. In order to accomplish this, you need to be able to tell people four things at a moment's notice: who you are, what you do, what you've done, and how to get in contact with you. While networking at a conference, or other music event, people are constantly throwing their card at anyone who will take it, which is an important first step. It's the "hello" of the business relationship. On the card, especially for newer music industrialists and interns, there are two main bits of info. One is basic contact info, and the other is a link to an online portfolio.

The portfolio is a crucial marketing tool for the budding engineer, composer, foley artist, or any number of other possible tech careers. A good portfolio grabs the attention of the guy doing the hiring, while a bad portfolio can cost you a job. Now, what makes a good portfolio? Efficiency. You want to say as much as you can while using as few words as possible. No one wants to read a wall of text (he says while writing his wall of text), and a recruiter has so many portfolios to get through that he's/she's most likely just taking a cursory glance through it. This means that your portfolio needs to have a lasting impression.

A good portfolio will have four pages: About, Resume, Listen, and Contact. They don't necessarily have to be called that, but it's a good idea to name your pages something similar, as to not cause confusion.

  • The About page is a 2-3 paragraph blurb about who you are and what you're trying to do. Make sentences concise and easily read, as grandiose verbiage can quickly become befuddling (see?). Start out by listing the exact points that you want to touch on, and expand from there. Remember, if the recruiter is worth his weight in salt, he'll/she'll at least peruse the other two information pages to get a general idea. The about page is more of a hook to let everyone know what you're looking for.
  • Wait, I didn't think I needed a Resume in the music tech industry. Wrong! Just as with any industry, someone looking to hire you cares about what experience you have. Granted, the stuff on your resume will be different than if you were looking for a job in accounting, however it's still a crucial part to the job hunt. Type out your resume in a word processor first, and if it's more than one page, cut it down and edit it. The big thing to remember is that recruiters don't have all day to read your work experience, so you want to have short, bulleted lists to highlight your most important work. Before publishing the site, look through your resume. If it takes you more than 2 flicks of the scroll wheel, it's too long.
  • The Listen section of your portfolio functions much like your resume, except that the recruiter can actually listen to your finished product. This is by far the most harrowing to put together, but also the most worthwhile. Take examples of your work from all different paths of your career thus far. Make sure to highlight work that you're looking to continue doing. For instance, if you want to be an engineer at a studio that does work mostly based in R&B, there had better be R&B tracks in this section. Additionally, make sure to have one or two pieces that highlight your work outside of that main genre. Taking the previous example, also try including some rock, or pop, or even classical. All music builds on its predecessors, and showing your versatility tells the recruiter you can be comfortable in any environment.
  • Finally, the Contact page should be extremely simple. List your cell phone number, an e-mail address (either your personal one, or preferably one set up specifically to take e-mails related to work), and a contact form. The contact form should be basic, having fields for a name, an e-mail address for replies, and the body of the message. This next point is debatable, however, I would recommend not having a captcha, because it's just one more step between you and a job. However, not having one means you'll undoubtedly be inundated with spam, which means you'll have to maintain your e-mail account once the site goes live.
Once the portfolio site is up, all that's left to do is get the message out. Print up business cards, go to industry events, advertise to Facebook and Twitter, and most importantly: point everyone to your portfolio. If you've spent enough time working on it, and it shows your best work, you'll have an easier time of getting noticed, and that means finding work. As always, if you have any questions, or you feel I've missed something, post a comment to this post, or send me an e-mail at Alden@internlikearockstar.com and I'll be sure to answer as best I can.

June 21, 2011

Inappropriate Work Topics

Remember those days in grade school when certain topics were off limit like sex, drugs, and rock & roll? Well, maybe 'rock & roll' was okay, as long as you left out the sex and drugs part but then what's left to write about? Ok, I kid, but seriously, it has recently come to my attention that some bright, young, promising interns have gotten a little over-excited about the expanded topic freedom they've gained in college and are including these in their job applications. Yes, it's the adult world and no one needs protection for their delicate virgin ears anymore, however, I'd still recommend being a bit conservative when presenting materials to potential employers. It's probably not the best idea to submit a paper on sexual innuendos in children's movies as your writing sample nor is it advisable to list aerobic pole dancing as an activity on your resume. Oh, you may laugh, but those are real reasons intern applicants have been turned down at my company.

It's the same with any stranger, really. Would you introduce yourself to a potential friend by telling them your thoughts on the relationship between Facebook and the spread of STDs (another real example, folks!)? Well, maybe, but you'd certainly be taking a risk for how the other person would react or the assumptions they may make about your character. After you've been working at a company for long enough to get a feel for the atmosphere and the personality types of your co-workers, you can be a better judge of whether or not those kinds of topics would be well-received.

Katie Hazard | Digital Artist, User Experience Designer
khazard@internlikearockstar.com | @katie_hazard

June 16, 2011

Career Mistakes You Might Be Making: Incomplete Emails

You may be spending so much time worrying about crafting the perfect resume or preparing for that interview that you may be overlooking the smaller details. Unfortunately, some of those seemingly little mistakes may actually be costing you a great opportunity. So, I'm starting a new series of posts to highlight some of the mistakes you should be sure to avoid. I'm starting with what I believe to be on of the most frequent and most lethal of career errors: incomplete emails
I know, it seems like it would be pretty hard to send an incomplete email unless you accidentally hit send before you finish typing. The real problem though is all the emails that you believe to be complete but are actually lacking in key information. Have you ever emailed a company to apply for a job or internship and said something along the lines of "Hi, I'd like to apply for an internship. My resume is attached. Thanks." If so, sorry to say that you are guilty. 

June 08, 2011

Legal Interning Tip #6

Dealing With Doubt

It is normal for law students to wonder if going to law school was the right choice for them.  Whether it's less than stellar grades, a particularly harsh critique of your memo from a senior associate, or even a sense of just not fitting in as you hide in your cubicle, you will likely experience some doubt during your quest to become a lawyer.  When it comes to summer internships, some lawyers (mainly in large firms) may be hard on you, even going out of their way to humiliate or dehumanize you.  Keep in mind that this is done to toughen you up and motivate you to work harder.  Even knowing this, it can be frustrating and disheartening to have to completely rewrite a memo that has been marked up so much that the paper is more red than white.  You will think that you're not cut out for this.  And maybe you're not.

But before you throw in the towel, take a deep breath and remember why you wanted this in the first place.  If you started this journey for all of the right reasons, any weaknesses you may have can be improved and overcome with hard work, drive, and passion.  Take advantage of your strengths to create opportunities, and use the extra time you will have this summer to work at improving your weaknesses.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: getting into entertainment law is not easy.  This can't be something you try for before moving on to plan B.  You have to want it.

Good luck to all of the summer associates and legal interns out there.  Remember that this is both a learning and a networking opportunity for you, so ask questions, work hard, and make friends.

- Lauren
Email: lauren@internlikearockstar.com | Twitter: @Musicn3rd

June 02, 2011

If You Have to Ask . . .

(What to do When You Just Don't Know)

In the course of a typical live sound day, you might hear something like this: “We're gonna fly our cans off the box, so pop in those cams.”

Or this: “We're gonna run our blinders off our distro, so we'll need your cams or tails.”

These are two different ways of saying this: “We're bringing in additional lighting, which we will power from our own power distributor. To do this, we'll need to access your house electricity, which (hopefully) has an idiot-friendly camlock connection system.”

Do any of these make sense to you? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, you've entered the surreal world of Technical Jargon.

It's easy to be overwhelmed when confronted with TJ. If you've ever been to a doctor, a mechanic, or the Best Buy Geek Squad, you're no stranger to this feeling of bewildered ignorance. You have no idea what is being said, and you might as well just quit, go home, and hope that your collection of baseball cards can support you for the rest of your life.

Alright, let's get real.

When you find yourself in a TJ encounter, remember the following:

1. Don't panic.

2. Seriously, don't panic. This is not the end of the world. (Insert Harold Camping reference here.)

3. If you don't know what's being said, just ask. Remember that the whole point of the internship is for you to learn – if you already knew everything, you wouldn't need the internship.

Reader's Digest version: DON'T BE AFRAID OF TECHNICAL JARGON. Everybody who's spouting off about impedance loading and band-passing started off just as clueless as you. They learned, and so will you – if you ask.

Rock on,

Nathan Schied
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