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.
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