Making It Big in the Music Business: The Best Music Careers for You

Jun 15, 2016

audience enjoying live performance, music careers to create such experience

Stereotypically, music careers are considered a mere pipe-dream. Unless you have the songwriting prowess and the star-power, you’re simply not going to make it, right? Wrong. In fact, the music business is one of the most diverse job fields around, with a wealth of different positions waiting for skilled graduates with their eyes on success.

Thanks to digital downloads and a solid and consistent interest in live performances, the music business in the US has revived in recent years and is now valued at around $15bn. This makes the industry a solid platform for anyone looking to build a career.

Find Your Path in Music Careers

“You should be able to clearly articulate your goals so well that there isn’t the least bit of uncertainty or confusion when you’re out making progress towards your plan.”

– Hisham Dahud, musician and writer

You may have decided upon a career in the music business, but which of the diverse paths that this field offers is for you? As hinted above, it is the digital downloads portion of the music industry that has been experiencing the most impressive levels of success in recent years. It has become the key driving force for the US music business as a whole, so digital could be the route for you.

Music for mobile devices is valued at $54.6m in the US and is continuing to grow, making a music career in this area a potentially lucrative one. iTunes still holds 64% of the US market share in this field, but an increasingly diversified marketplace is good news for prospective candidates.

If you have a passion for the live performance aspect of music, then the concert business could hold equally attractive prospects for you. Tour producers, tour managers, event promotional specialists; these are just three of the potential music career paths open to graduates in an incredibly dynamic field. Live Nation Entertainment are the market leaders, taking $4.73bn in revenue in 2015, underlining just how much potential this area has to offer.

Event Networking, vital requirement for Music Careers

Alternatively, if you are less interested in the excitement, venue-hopping, and constant networking of the concert business, then there are plenty of challenging, in-house music careers. Consider working in the business or sound engineering side of a record label. Record labels are the powerhouses that act as the medium through which artists can bring their music to the general public. If you would like to position yourself at this fulcrum, record labels have a wide range of different opportunities on offer. Producers, engineers, marketers, PR; these roles are highly sought after within the structure of a record company, and will be rewarded generously.

But maybe this is not what you want. Perhaps you got into music thanks to a pure, unfettered love of the business, and all you want to do is make music. It will take dedication, hard work, and a hefty dose of passion, but the future can be bright. Musicians and singers received a median hourly pay of $24.20 in 2015, with many session and touring musicians receiving much more. There are over 170,000 professional musicians currently operating in the USA.

If making music is your thing but you are looking for a more stable career, working as a music director or composer could land you a median salary of $49,820, with the potential to earn much more. There are currently 82,100 of these positions in the US job market, and this number is steadily growing.

From the outset, it is important to have a plan when tackling music careers. It is this strategy that will provide your roadmap to success. Follow it with dedication and passion, and build yourself a career doing what you love.

Build Your Qualifications

Unless you are planning to become a singer, songwriter, or musician, at least an entry-level academic qualification equivalent to a diploma or an associate’s degree in the music industry is going to be a must for most music careers. This includes composers and directors, and even musicians themselves may find it useful to undergo some formal training as they develop their careers. The SAE Institute offers such courses in Chicago, Atlanta, and Nashville, providing students with the skills they need to take those all-important first steps into work.

This degree should be viewed as a sort of minimum requirement – a necessity for an entry-level position. It is not a guaranteed ticket to your chosen career.

“A degree alone won’t guarantee you a job in the music business. It is a combination of a myriad of factors at entry level including your qualifications, experience, how well you get on with the interviewer, your online profile, and how well connected you are.”

– Leena Sowambur, digital music business expert

In order to enhance your chances as you approach the job market, you need to make yourself visibly qualified, adopting a diverse approach that will get you noticed. With increasing numbers of individuals now going to university, employers are seeking candidates with demonstrable practical skills in their field, as well as a degree.

In this sense, music careers – like any other – are as much about work experience and developing key sets of industry skills as they are about passing exams and receiving a degree. Both components are vital if you are to progress.

Network, Network, Network

“Music is a “who-you-know/who-knows-you” kind of business. The quality and quantity of your relationships will be the primary engines of your progress.”

– Peter Spellman, musician and Career Development Director

Great social skills and success go hand in hand. This is true in most industries, but in the music business, it is doubly so. For example, many positions in record companies may not be advertised. Instead, bosses will give the higher responsibility – and higher rewards – to the people who they know they can trust. You need to make sure that that person is you.

Attending events, getting to know people and – more importantly – making sure that people get to know you and all of the unique advantages you can offer; these things will help to drive you closer and closer to your career goals. Sometimes this networking will be great fun, and you will find yourself rubbing shoulders with some of the most dynamic figures in the industry. At other times, it will be a chore, but it will always be worth it.

As with any aspect of personal development in the world of music careers, treat it with passion and dedication and you will succeed.

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