Background Image Alternative Text: Taylor Rupp poses wearing her CMA Made By Music T Shirt
Background Image Alternative Text: Taylor Rupp poses wearing her CMA Made By Music T Shirt

The Business of Country Music

College of Business student Taylor Rupp shares her Nashville internship experience.

Dividends Magazine, 2023-24 Edition

By Taylor Rupp

In the summer of 2023, I experienced the opportunity of a lifetime interning for the Country Music Association (CMA) in Nashville. As a Business Administration major at Mississippi State University, I knew I wanted to be in the business world, but I had no further direction from there. I had two set-in-stone factors for my ideal internship—Nashville, TN, and something challenging to would push me out of my comfort zone.

I had interned the summer before with Paige Watson at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, and she mentioned a great internship that she had with the Country Music Association while she was in college, and she encouraged me to apply. Intrigued, I followed her advice and filled out the online application during Christmas break. It turned out to be perfect timing, as many companies were dropping their summer internships.

I heard back from CMA in late February, and before I knew it, I was in a virtual interview with the executive assistant to the vice president and another coordinator. They weren't just about the talk; they wanted to see my work. After the interview, asked me to create marketing graphics on Canva. Successfully meeting this challenge earned me a coveted position for the upcoming summer.

Based in Nashville, the CMA is a nonprofit organization that strives to heighten the awareness of country music and support its ongoing growth, both domestically and internationally. My role this summer was as an Industry Relations and Philanthropy intern where I was responsible for supporting and planning membership and industry events.

           What's cool about CMA is that they always as interns—fall, spring, and summer—so there's always someone or something new and exciting. Lucy, a student from Vanderbilt was already there when I joined, and she became my guide through the CMA maze.

I started right before the epic CMA Fest, a three-day summer concert series that raises millions of dollars each year for music education. During the series, my role was to manage the Celebrity Dunk Tank. At night, I worked the Industry Suite, which hosted music professionals and industry employees, and my first task there was to make sure the board had all their credentials.

I was also the coordinator for CMA EDU, which is a career development program for college students who are interested in working in the music industry. Taking inspiration from my leadership roles on campus, particularly as a rush chair for my sorority, I found myself contributing to CMA EDU's recruitment strategies.

Planning for the CMA EDU Leadership Summit in August was the real deal. It’s a three-day event with students from all over and industry execs sharing tips of the trade. Imagine sitting in on panels with Megan Maroney, Russell Dickerson, Concord Music Publishing representatives, and Morgan Wallen's tour manager, Mike Finn. It was a whirlwind of insights, networking, and the realization that the music industry is way more than just the artists we see on stage.

Intern life at CMA isn't your typical 9 to 5. Events like CMA Fest and the summit meant working odd hours, but I was all in. My dedication paid off, and I even got to go back for the CMA Awards in November as temporary staff. It was a surreal experience, rubbing shoulders with industry folks and being part of the behind-the-scenes magic.

Nashville, to me, is a land of opportunities, especially in the music biz. You don't need to be a star-- roles in finance, marketing, and management are in hot demand. And that's where my business education kicked in.

What I had learned in the classroom came to life in my internship. Marketing wasn't just about textbooks; it was about creating content and planning events. Working for the Country Music Association, I realized the importance of communication skills – from sending professional emails to addressing a crowd at a conference. My interpersonal communications class turned out to be gold, from the interview process to having confidence in speaking situations.

The skills I learned as a College of Business Ambassador—speaking to prospective students and at campus events—proved to be invaluable in the business world. Little did I know that talking to prospective students about CMA EDU would feel a lot like giving tours on campus.

Representing Mississippi State at CMA was like waving a Bulldog flag in Nashville. Staff members were impressed, and since I was their first MSU student, they even called me "Mississippi." It was a badge of honor.

To the freshmen out there, I offer a piece of advice: explore opportunities like CMA EDU early on. More than a club, it's a gateway to connections and real-world experiences. They not only connect you with industry professionals but also provide a reliable platform to showcase your skills. A lot of industry professionals channel only through CMA EDU just because they know the students who have been accepted for the program are reliable. 

As an intern, I also got to take part in several coffee meetings. Coffee meetings may not sound important, but in Nashville, they are like mini networking events, and people are genuinely open to helping newcomers in the industry grow. Trust me; they want to help you succeed.

I came into this internship without prior experience in the music industry, but I think my leadership roles on campus and communication skills helped me stand out. It's not just about landing a job; it's about gaining experience and confidence that will set you up for the long haul.

My journey at CMA was about more than learning. It was about translating what I learned in class into a real-world setting. As graduation looms, I'm all set to make Nashville my post-college home. The internship opened my eyes to the vast possibilities in the music industry. It's a business, and my MSU business education is my ticket in. I can see now that there's so much more to the industry – finance, marketing, management – all crucial cogs in the music machine.