You know that moment, when you’re reaching the last couple months of your first year in university, and you start thinking, “Yes! It’s almost summer, I can finally get my tan on and not worry about anything other than where my next vacation is going to be, etc.” We’re all guilty of it, no one’s excluded, and it’s the greatest feeling – just up until you realize that actually, there’s no such thing as a care-free summer, especially when you’re a music student who’s trying to get as much experience under your belt before finishing your degree and applying for “entry-level” jobs that require at least two plus years of experience in the industry (go figure)! That’s where I found myself around springtime last year and it was both a scary and an exciting place to be.
I was going to be in New York City for a month during the summer, so my aim was to find a music-related internship that would allow me to expand my knowledge about the music industry and how it works. It’s safe to say that I applied to over fifty internship programs through Internships.com. Whether they were legit or not, I cannot say, but it was the best resource I could find for opportunities that did not require a degree or that were long-term. Another thing with these websites is that you never know whether the applications are going into a bottomless cyber-pit or if they ever actually do reach the intended recipients. Nevertheless, I made sure that the little experience I did have whilst in London (work experience at The O2 Arena and the Roundhouse) was highlighted and worded as a selling point. One of the internships I applied to involved working with Jatta Records and its featured artist, Taj Weekes & Adowa.
Soon after I sent in my application, the artist’s manager and co-founder of Jatta Records, Shirley Menard, emailed me and set-up a phone interview. We spoke at length about my experience, who I was, and essentially what my role would be during my time with them. Needless to say, I got the job, and in July, I made my way to NYC with my drive to succeed and the desire to make the most of my time spent with the company and in the prolific city. The internship was not an everyday, nine-to-five, office kind of job. Instead, I was sent work for the week and was free to do it at home and in my own time. Some of my tasks involved reaching out to radio stations for airplay, to journalists and specific magazines for interviews and album reviews, as well as universities for lectures and songwriting workshops. I was also researching different festival organizations around the country in order to find the ones that best suited Taj and his music. This kind of set-up not only allowed me to continue my internship and get all my work done from home, but it also allowed me to get the most out of the city I was living in. I saw over fifteen artists perform, including Kendrick Lamar, neo-soul queen, Erykah Badu, and other artists such as Gregory Porter, The Roots, Taylor McFerrin, and Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals (if you don’t know these artists, I would definitely recommend checking them out!). It also allowed me to explore New York, discover the different boroughs, and spend quality time with my cousins, with whom I was staying, and my friends from New York.
Towards the end of the second week, Shirley emailed the interns informing us that Taj would be shooting a music video for his single “Here I Stand”, a song from his fifth studio album, “Love, Herb, and Reggae”. The song is all about loving each other for who we are and is his attempt of bridging the gap between the reggae and LGBT communities, debunking the generalization that all reggae artists are homophobic. Taj had already achieved so much, just by writing the song and then performing in PRIDE NYC. We were all invited to come to the set and help out with the shoot, put together by an awesome team of NYU Tisch graduates and final-year students. It just so happened that one of the actors for the video couldn’t make it, so Shirley asked me to step in and actually be in the music video. The shoot lasted about eleven hours and it was definitely emotionally and physically draining, but I was so excited to be part of something special, important, and extremely relevant today. The video has been shared on all social media networks under Taj Weekes & Adowa, so if you get the chance, check it out!
By the end of my time in New York, I had seen some amazing concerts, been in a music video, and created some unforgettable memories. My internship was extended, and I took on tasks like promotional video editing and content creation. This experience not only allowed me to learn about the music industry, but it also showed me what there is to know about shooting a music video, what it takes to market an album and its artist, and also how much there is to learn about other musical genres. I also had the chance to find out about other organizations, such as Sofar Sounds, a global initiative whose aim is to bring the magic back to live music. Sofar is an intimate event in which the best upcoming artists showcase their talent to a room full of passionate music lovers. They are secret gigs that do not announce any line-up, have no headliners, and serve the sole purpose of bringing people together to listen to some amazing music, without the distractions of cell phones, or people talking and leaving during sets. If I hadn’t been exposed to these gigs in New York, I would have never gotten involved with what I am doing now: volunteering as an MC/host for Sofar Sounds London! So, if there’s something I’d take from all of this, it would be to really put yourself out there, get involved in anything that crosses your path, and take advantage of all the opportunities you are given – you never know where they might lead you.
Carlotta Adams is in her second year at the University of West London in the UK. You can listen to her amazing voice on various tracks on Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/naima-adams and see her debut in the Taj Weekes & Adowa music video, here: tajweekes.com/videos/here-i-stand