A Career in the Music Industry Takes Tough Skin, Tenacity


At 13 years old, Shane Cole couldn’t dream of what it meant to have a career in the music industry. He loved to play guitar, loved music, and took every opportunity he could to fuel his passion. The first opportunity placed him on a stage, at his dad’s church, with a guitar in hand.

Little did he know that 12 years later he would be a full-time, traveling musician. Cole and Kennesaw State University student Hannah Gordon are two of many who make a living doing music.

In 2010, one in every 1,146 Americans was a working musician. This includes singers, songwriters, guitar players, music teachers, and even music supervisors, promoters and band managers. The number indicates that it takes hard work and dedication to be that “one”.

Young adults are eagerly filling these spots every day, bringing fresh ideas, young energy, and hard work to the table. They’re also juggling school, relationships, family and a music scene that can be hard to handle.

Gordon, a senior at KSU, has been working with the Kurt Thomas Band for two years and counting.

“I have learned that having a title in the music industry does not mean a thing,” Gordon said. “I started out booking, later I promoted and booked, now I do everything from booking to making sure the boys match on stage.”

Not only does Gordon work for the country band, she is also a full-time student, assists in booking bands for the new KSU soccer stadium, and maintains her relationships with family and friends.

Cole and Gordon have both created a lifestyle that works for them, but it is one not many can accomplish.

“Flying out to Los Angeles, hopping on a tour bus, and playing a few shows sounds like a good deal, but it is tough work,” Cole said. “What people don’t realize is the seven years it took to make the relational connections to play with the band, the amount of time spent on developing the skill, how much time you’re away from home, and the lack of personal space on a tour bus for six days straight.”

Where the Journey Starts

The Kennesaw State University Music Entertainment and Business Program just recently graduated their first class of students. Many students in Atlanta have been drawn to the program in hopes of finding the perfect job opportunity. The rigorous program takes a commitment of 24 hours, a weekly externship at a local company, an interview with the director – and tough skin.

The program allowed Gordon to learn quickly that it wasn’t going to be easy.

“The music business program is the real thing,” said Gordon.

It allows the students in the program to get hands-on experience participating in different aspects of the field. Weekly classes consist of guest speakers, interviewers, and other music industry professionals who have much to offer KSU students.

The journey for these young adults in the music industry has just begun. Cole plans on continuing his musical career and is also  in the process of writing a book. Gordon hopes to take the Kurt Thomas Band to the top of the country charts. These are two of the few professions available to young adults interested in pursuing a career in music.

“Be sure and take initiative,” said Gordon. “Don’t sit around and wait for things to be handed to you. You get a lot more handed to you after going after it for yourself first. When I started working with the guys I never asked to do anything. It’s how we built the relationship.”

“Everyone in the business starts somewhere,” said Cole. “No matter how high they are ranked, they are willing to help young people out.”


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