In our latest Industry Interview, Infectious Magazine recently posed some questions to Under The Gun Review editor/Substream Magazine contributor Matthew Leimkuehler. They discuss the importance of a college degree, whether it’s necessary to live in Los Angeles or New York to succeed in the music industry, advice for aspiring journalists, and much more. Check it out below.
Infectious Magazine: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. How are you?
ML: I’m doing fantastic! Thanks for letting take part today. 🙂
Can you tell me a little about your background?
Yeah, sure! I hail from the humid muck of mid-Missouri where I was born and raised. I tend to claim the Kansas City scene as my “roots” because I am from the middle of nowhere and I always found myself running away to KC to connect to amazing music. I started in music with booking shows for local and regional bands in high school, which evolved into touring with my band(s) in college. When I left playing music I looked to writing as a new way of spreading and promoting awesome tunes to people–and thus we are here!
As a music editor at Under the Gun Review and contributor at Substream, what is one of the biggest mistakes bands make when submitting for placement?
The answer I always give for this is clarity and timeliness. Clarity meaning be specific in what coverage you want. Do you want an interview? Say so. Do you want a review? Say so. Premiere?…You get the picture. So many bands will drop me a link and a bio and leave it at that. When artists do grab my attention I always look to create a positive collaboration so the best content can be created for both parties. Timeliness refers most to bands who send me their record that dropped 6 months ago and are looking for a review. It’s valiant that you’re reaching out for coverage, but always remember to do so in a timely fashion. There’s little to no use reviewing a record that has been streaming on Spotify for six months.
What has been one of your biggest challenges in this industry over the years, and how have you overcome it?
Not giving in to a jaded lifestyle. It’s so easy to get down, give up or just run away. I try to overcome this by always remembering to move forward.
You have a BS in Mass Communication and are studying for your masters right now. Do you think having an education has helped you advance in the industry?
This has been a hot-button topic lately, I feel like. I understand that a bachelor’s degree probably isn’t needed to break out in this industry, and that’s okay. I feel there are certain skills and life practices that are learned during a college career — such as understanding a deadline, working as a group, tolerating said group, critical thinking, information retention — that can aid to any career path. With that being said, I think things are easier in this business if you do college. It’s either college or work really, really hard to gain credibility. And sometimes you’re stuck with both. As far as a master’s degree is concerned, God no you don’t need that much education for this industry. I’m getting my master’s because I was presented with a fantastic working opportunity and scholarship from the university I’m at and I want to teach at the colligate level after getting my hands dirty for a while in the industry. It’s been a bittersweet experience, but I think it will work out in the end. 🙂
Have you had any internships? If so, do you think they’ve helped you break into the industry? If not, is that something you wish you had explored?
I feel like playing and touring on summer breaks during college was my internship. I never really took the steps to scoring that cool NYC or LA internship like I really wanted — I was playing shows and trying to make a name through the band instead. As with most media-related industries, it is so critical to the future of your career. Don’t be like me, haha. Shoot for that killer internship — it will undoubtedly help you in the future.
It seems that location is often emphasized as being very important in this industry, such as living in New York City or Los Angeles. Do you think that’s true, or do you think the days of packing your bags and moving to a new city to “break in” are over?
It’s completely and utterly hypocritical of me to say, but location is totally important. There are exceptions to any rule, but yes. I do plan to head to one coast or the other as soon as my master’s is wrapped up. With any ambitious industry, you have to position yourself to best fit your ideal employer. Is a record label going to hire the kid who is out in Iowa and wanting to move to LA or the kid who is right down the block in LA?
What advice would you like to pass along to those looking to break into the music industry?
Work hard and be humble. My biggest fear is turning into the jaded guy who sits in the back of the venue bugging kids with “back in my day” stories. Always remember the reason you got into or are going into music, whatever it may be.
What is one question that you don’t think is asked nearly enough that you’d like to offer insight on?
Oh, man. Tough. When I was in high school or early years of college I would always ask myself, “but how did they get that job?” or “what’s it take to land that gig?” You know, like there was some secret rule written somewhere and I didn’t have the right moxy or talent to read it. Now I know there is no secret answer hidden somewhere in the future — you just have to work hard. And I’m totally okay with that answer.
In your perfect world, where would you like to see the music industry in 5 years?
More payment to artists for music streaming. More power in digital music discovery. It’d be cool to find out how the common American (common meaning not an avid music lover like you or I, but someone who enjoys the occasional concert and song) finds his or her music and how the parameters of that could be pushed digitally for better music discovery. I think there’s so much fantastic music out there and I just want it to be as easy as possible for everyone to find it, haha.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for the opportunity! It’s been awesome.