Joe Barbe, Columbia Records apprentice

 16 October 2012

Music-loving Joe started out as an apprentice at Columbia Records. He discusses what he learned and gives his thoughts on apprenticeships.

Joe Barbe now works at Atlantic Records as an A/R Assistant.
Joe Barbe now works at Atlantic Records as an A/R Assistant.

"My apparenticeship meant working as an assistant in the A/R (Artist & Repertoire) department at Columbia Records.

"A/R is all about finding the artists, making the albums – doing the creative side. It’s the sort of department that people really want to work in, so I was doubly lucky.

The apprenticeship only lasted nine months, but it helped me learn the ropes, get a bit more knowledge and get a sense of what this kind of job actually involves.

"I’d never even worked in an office environment before, so that was an extra complication... I quickly learned that what you put in is what you get out of it – you’ve gotta go out there, find the artist, really believe in what they’re doing and bring it through.

"I quickly learned that what you put in is what you get out of the apprenticeship"

"But it’s brilliant to be doing that."

Getting into music

"I decided to do an apprenticeship after talking to a friend who was working in the same building as Livity, in Brixton.

"I was really into music and had been involved with it at a small independent level, but I’d never contemplated getting into music for real – and never through a major label!

"So when I got my CV together and sent it over I wasn’t really thinking it would go anywhere."

Work experience

"At the end of the nine months, the apprenticeship just came to its natural conclusion (although they did extend it for a couple of months).

"So then I went away with this new experience on my CV and just applied anywhere and everywhere – I went into every publisher, every record label, every organisation that did anything to do with music!

"Then I got lucky – I got an email from Warner Brothers saying that there was some work experience available at Atlantic. The very next day I was in there for the interview, and I got it.

"Nowadays I'm a full time Artist and Repertoire Assistant. The apprenticeship really helped me."

"I worked there for three months on expenses, then applied for an opening in the A/R department."

Working as an Artist & Repertoire Assistant

"Nowadays I’m a full time A/R Assistant.

"I’m working with acts that I’ve signed, or working with acts other people have found. I’m also doing a whole host of remixes and a lot of co-ordinating studios – that sort of thing.

"It’s the same sort of environment as the apprenticeship, but I’ve got a lot more responsibility these days!"

Thoughts on apprenticeships

"The apprenticeship was such a great thing for me – I was completely ignorant and unaware of any of the formal stuff, and without the attention and support I got from the guys who ran the apprenticeship scheme there’d be no way I could go into a record label in a full time role.

"It was a learning curve, but it really helped me – and shaped me.

"I’d definitely recommend an apprenticeship to someone else."


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