How extracurricular activities helped me graduate into the music industry

David Simkins is a 2023 MA Music with Innovation graduate with a developing career in music and media.

Between working at a local record label alongside his studies, conducting student orchestras and scoring soundtracks for media projects, (including two feature films and a short film), being mentored by the Head of Marketing at Sony Music’s Columbia Records and interning at SoundCloud, David (pictured right) has been busy in the past 4 years!

Drawing on his experience with soundtracks, tech, and client management, David is pursuing a music career in creative sync and marketing while working to improve industry transparency, education, and inclusivity, especially for the LGBTQIA+ community.

We caught up with David about how his extracurricular activities throughout his degree helped him get to where he is:

How Bristol PLUS experience helped me achieve an industry award.

“My music career began five weeks after I started uni. I was reading Bristruths over breakfast when I came across an ad for an internship at local classical crossover label, Richard Irwin Music. I emailed an expression of interest, and one week later, I had an interview followed by a job offer.

Four years later, I had managed over 300 label releases including licensing, arrangement, production, copyright, and distribution. Struggling with his health, Richard slowly handed me the reins to the label’s commercial operations. I didn’t know how to do any of it before I started, but my enthusiasm, curiosity, and confidence convinced Richard I was the right candidate.

Working 2-10 hours a week, I soon built up enough experience to qualify for the Bristol PLUS Award. I registered to demonstrate how I was taking the initiative in my career.

Eight months after I finished working for Richard, and a week after he sadly passed away, I achieved recognition from the Music Publishers Association as an outstanding new entrant to the music industry. (Pictured left, David receiving his award)

To be nominated, I evidenced the employability I’d gained from Bristol PLUS.

Accepting the MPA’s award, I paid tribute to my former boss’s resilience, creativity, and ambition. My application of those same attributes enabled me to succeed. I’d come a long way from my student kitchen.

How the SME Internship Scheme gave me the skills to intern at SoundCloud.

One summer, to gain extra work experience, I applied through the SME Internship Scheme to PANDEK Group, which uses innovative facilitation techniques like LEGO Serious Play to support teams at the Ministry of Defence and NatWest.

In my letter of application to PANDEK Group, I chose 5 LEGO minifigures to represent my aptitude for the job (if you’re wondering, they were: ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Pizza Costume Guy’, ‘Fossil Hunter’, ‘Maraca Man’, and ‘Alien Villainess’).

At the start of my interview, the lead facilitator Paul gestured to my letter, smiled, and said, “Well you certainly caught my attention!”

I’m not suggesting you apply for jobs with LEGO, but I hope this story shows the impact of tailoring your application. PANDEK Group were looking for a copywriter to create imaginative cut-through content for their brand. My letter showed I could do just that. I got the job.

A year later, I pulled off the same trick in my application to SoundCloud, a music streaming service looking for an intern in a similar role. During the application process, I was asked to produce LinkedIn content to promote their blog.

This task was familiar. At PANDEK Group, I’d written articles for their blog and designed LinkedIn carousels to make their website content engaging on social media.

I decided to make a LinkedIn carousel for SoundCloud’s blog, which the team found so impressive they gave me the internship. (Pictured left, David at SoundCloud)

Ever since, I’ve been combining my copywriting experience and my musical knowledge to write music industry reports for SoundCloud’s blog.

The things you enjoy are gaining you experience!

Most nights of the week at uni I was in rehearsals, including conducting for Symphonia and BUMS. I was always the first to open the biscuits during the break!

I also enjoyed composing music. For example, I worked with a film student on a project that won Best LGBTQ+ Film at the Monkey Bread Tree Film Awards 2022. I was so proud.

I wasn’t expecting these experiences to lead directly to an industry role. But with a mentor’s help (David pictured below with his mentor at Sony), I realised how applicable my repertoire and soundtrack skills were in a new context: curating music catalogues to pitch for media placement (a sector called sync).

Amongst all that fun was the right next step for me. So I encourage you to reflect and focus your energy towards a specific, fulfilling opportunity (your ikagi) that aligns with who you are.

If you’re struggling, find yourself a mentor to build discipline and confidence about your career (I applied to this scheme at Sony).

Remember, job applications are a marathon, not a sprint. Build your resilience. If you’re not ready to apply yet, read through LinkedIn jobs to find what’s out there that interests you. Who knows what you’ll discover.

Good luck!”

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