We might even think about DJs and music producers but these aren’t the only careers in music that are available. If you love music and want to find a career in the music industry there are other prospects.
We put together this article to outline the various paths there are out there for careers in music. We spent days searching career websites for careers that even non-musical music lovers can get into. All of these jobs are critical to the music industry in general.
If you are looking for a great resource to start some schooling in any of these areas, check out our friends at dBs Sound & Music Institute. Alongside a range of educational courses, they have also created a series of career spotlights to help aspiring music and audio professionals find their place in the industry.
Yearly wage estimates are current as of March 4, 2021, and are averages found from Payscale, ZipRecruiter, and Monster.
Singer or Musician (41k)
This one is pretty obvious. What every young artist wants to do is make it as a singer or a musician. To play the big stages and have your music out to the whole world. To tour and record music for a living is the dream.
This is a highly competitive field where networking and building an audience are the keys to success. Utilizing touring, social media, and traditional marketing streams can give you the ability to build up a loyal band of followers.
It is important to build up a presence on social media so that when you are trying to book shows or find promoters you have something for them to look at and decide if you fit what they are looking for.
There are some things that you can do to make money in the meantime:
- Cruise ship musician or singer
- Session player or singer. (play on other people’s recordings)
It is a difficult world to break into but it is not impossible.
Music Producer (51k)
Traditionally, music producers were the creative directors of a recording project. They were hired to oversee the whole recording and mixing process.
This role has changed a lot in recent years. The ability to become a music producer is much more accessible as the gear has become cheaper and more readily available. As a result, the “bedroom producers” have been making an impact on the music scene. Most notably Finneas and Billy Eilish produce at home.
The line between producer and artist is blurry at best. In the EDM world, the term producer is almost synonymous with artist.
Every song was written by someone. Some artists write their own songs, but a lot of artists use a songwriter to create the music they will release. Songwriters can be responsible for writing the music and the lyrics of a song or will often partner with a lyricist.
Many professional songwriters partner with Music Publishers so that the songs they write can get into the hands of performers. The writers only make money if the song gets purchased or played commercially.
A DJ is mixing together a list of curated music for a dance party, nightclub, wedding, festival, etc. DJs earn money through performing. If the DJ is also a producer they will earn royalties for their own music.
It is not hard to get started as a DJ today. The equipment is widely accessible and comes in a range of prices from entry-level to pro. The key to being successful is practicing your craft. Learning how to mix in a way that gets people dancing is the most important.
Beginner DJs can start to build up a career by playing local clubs, and weddings. Networking is important for finding new opportunities and for building your brand.
Audio Engineer (53k)
Audio Engineers use either analogue or digital tools, or a combination of both, to record, edit, and mix music to create audio files. When a musician or a band brings a song into the studio, it is the audio engineer who takes those rough cuts and brings them together to form a polished sound ready for mastering.
The audio engineer needs to be fluent in the software and hardware used for production. This includes the use of DAWs and software plugins, as well as, hardware compressors, EQs, and of course the mixing console.
Behind every great recording is an audio engineer who has made the right mixing and recording decisions.
Mastering Engineer (72k)
The last link in the chain to producing a song or album is the Mastering Engineer. This is the stage when the dynamics, volume, and spectral balance are polished up for presentation. It is the job of the Mastering Engineer to make sure the song or album is cohesive and ready to play on a wide range of formats and devices.
This requires extensive training and experience in audio production as well as some amazing ears. To be a mastering engineer is not an entry-level profession as it requires pro-level gear and an exceptionally well-treated room.
Traditionally this is the musician who would accompany a singer or another solo musician. This term though is not sufficient to encompass all that a pianist can do with other instrumentalists. The term Collaborative Pianist is more widely used now.
The collaborative pianist could play with vocalists or instrumentalists as well as, with chamber music and with full orchestras. They are also utilized for student recitals or even hired at Places of Worship.
It is not the highest-paying job but can be very rewarding because of the sheer amount this musician gets to play.
Film Composer (50k)
Simply put, Film Composers create soundscapes for visual media including film, TV, commercials and documentaries. Film composers can produce music in a wide variety of genres and are adept at creating a mood for the specific intention in the scenes they are scoring to.
About writing for film, Hans Zimmer says this, “After determining the raw material and scores, the next step is to actually write the music. This is only possible when a composer has a deep understanding of the film and the areas where he needs to put his music. It depends upon the composer what all music he will use for different areas like themed music, hip-hop, symphonic, melodic, etc.”
This is a very wide career path as there are so many forms of visual communication that require a score to accentuate the story.
Video Game Composer (50k)
Much like the film composer, the Video Game Composer is the one who creates the soundscapes for video games. Companies like EA, Tencent, Bioware, etc employ composers to create the soundtrack to their games.
There is a huge disparity in pay because the field is so young. There isn’t a lot of data and there aren’t as robust standards of pay. However, it is a booming field and video game composers are highly sought after.
Orchestral Musician (49k)
Securing a seat in a prestigious orchestra is the goal of many classically trained musicians. It is a highly competitive field as there are limited seats and the longevity of players is high. But for those who can break into this career, it is both rewarding and can be a very good source of income.
For those wanting to break into a symphony orchestra you must plan ahead. Many of the prominent orchestras have very strong ties to certain colleges of music. You can increase your chances by attending these schools and proceeding through these connections. Examples of this are:
- Boston Conservatory – Boston Symphony Orchestra
- Carnegie-Mellon School of Music – Pittsburgh Symphony
- Juilliard School – New York Philharmonic / Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
- Northwestern University Bienen School of Music – Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Music Teacher (44k)
Music Teachers are those musicians who are passionate about sharing their skills with the next generation. Giving them a love for music along with the technical skills to play and perform.
A music teacher will meet with students 1 on 1 or in groups to play music, work on technique, scales, chords, and theory. Many music teachers teach music history as well.
Teachers can work within formal schools or as private teachers. Private teachers either rent space for teaching or teach out their homes. Private teaching allows for determining your own schedule and can be a great added income for musicians looking to “make it” but aren’t quite there yet.
Music Therapist (42k)
Music Therapists use their skills, passion for music, and love for people to provide therapy to patients in hospices, older adults, disabled individuals, at-risk youth, and hospital patients, among others.
This is a growing field and most likely requires training in the form of a bachelor’s degree. Usually, they are hired by hospices, hospitals, treatment centers, and the like.
This is a very rewarding job for those who want to use music to help people.
Music Publisher (58k)
A music publisher is someone who makes sure that the creator of a song gets the money they are entitled to when the piece is used commercially.
Composers and songwriters make agreements with publishers to sign over the Copywrite to the publisher and in return, the publisher helps the artist with licencing, promotion, distribution and collection of royalties.
The publisher is paid by sharing the revenue through a percentage. In essence, the music publisher is like an agent for the composer or songwriter.
This field requires a lot of business knowledge, people skills, and the ability to network with the right people.
A&R Coordinator (44k)
The Artist and Repertoire Coordinator works for the record label and is the one who is responsible for looking for and acquiring new talent for the label. A&R coordinators keep up on trends in the industry and help the artists to choose singles for release, book recording times, and other tasks related to releasing their music.
The A&R coordinator will also help the artist to get connected to the right producer for their music.
The pay is based on the size of the label, with smaller labels paying much less than the larger more established labels.
Artist Manager (46k)
The Manager is the one who is responsible for bringing together people and projects to further the career of the artist. Their priority is to get the artist noticed and to find as much work for the artist as they can.
A manager will keep the artist instep with the label’s goals if the artist is signed. They need to have extensive knowledge of the music industry and have the ability to make important contacts to further their artist’s careers.
Essentially, if the artist doesn’t make money then neither does the manager.
Artists Booking Agent (49k)
Artist Booking Agents negotiate appearances for their artists. They do this through building relationships with concert promoters and venue owners and pitch their artists to them.
Booking agents are vital in negotiating performance contracts. They know how to dot all the “i”s and cross all the “t”s.
Agents are also responsible for booking tours and figuring out all the logistics that go along with touring.
People skills, networking, and being highly organized are requirements for this job.
Music Photographer (40k)
Being a music photographer is more than just capturing great images, they are also capturing history and chronicling it for fans now and in the future. The Music Photographer seeks to collect the imagery surrounding the artist.
The photographer may work for the artists in a studio to make images for album artwork or promotional materials. They may be freelance or working for a label. The music photographer could also focus on concerts and festivals, taking live-action shots for editorial use or for the artist’s personal promotion.
Like any other photographer, this takes an in-depth knowledge of the camera, lighting, and editing software.
Independent Label Owner
Independent Labels have been around for decades. Many musicians have opted to open their own labels. Today it is much easier to start and run an independent label than it ever has in the past. The Label owner will most likely start out doing everything. From finding artists, to the promotion, to distribution and collection of revenue.
There is a lot that needs to be planned out and so a good strategy is vital. Sound on Sound has done a good piece on what to do when starting a label.
The income that an independent label varies so much based on how many artists you have and how well they are selling.
Staff Musician (40k)
Many businesses actually hire resident musicians. Places like theme parks, cruise ships, Dinner Theaters and Houses of Worship hire full-time musicians. They are responsible for entertaining customers or providing certain musical accompaniment.
These can be great places for an unknown artist to get experience in performance and still get paid.
Public Relations (PR) (49k)
A PR person serves the artist by helping promote the awareness of the artist to fans and interested parties. The PR person can help the artist build a brand that is recognizable and marketable.
They work hard to ensure that the artist is seen in a good light. They work with media companies and advertising to find opportunities for their artist to be recognized. This could be traditional marketing, TV appearances, and digital marketing strategies.
In order to thrive in this field, the PR person needs to have excellent communication skills and in-depth knowledge of marketing.
Music Store Manager (49k)
Like any other Retail Store Manager, they are in charge of personnel and daily operations of the Music store. They are the ones who hire, train, schedule and manage employees. The manager will be responsible for reconciling all the daily sales and organizing the deposits.
They are vital to making sure the employees follow procedures and execute the companies purpose.
This is a great job for musicians who love gear and are passionate about sharing their knowledge of the latest musical innovations.
What to do NEXT
Now that you have an idea of what’s out there for careers in music there are probably one or two that really jump out to you. Follow your passion and jump into the training that is needed.
For us here at HomeStudioLabs, we are focused on the bedroom music producer. As home studio enthusiasts and bedroom producers, we will find ourselves working a lot of these roles at once as we seek to carve out our own paths. Our goal is to be there with you on that journey.
For more info on producing at home, read our guide Music Production: 6 Stages in the Life of a Song.