Most people, when I hear them talk about the music business usually talk about being one of three things, a musician, music producer or label representative.   These are all good aspirations to have…but did you konw that there are many different types of ways that you can make a sustainable living within the music industry?

There are many different facets of music that make up this wonderful industry.  There are also many different types of jobs and tasks that make up a huge network that we like to call the music industry.  Each piece of this puzzle is important to the success of any musician, band or artist. There are many less glamorous, yet really lucrative jobs that you can get and still find them to be rather rewarding.

Here is a list of 17 different careers that you can find within the music industry, that can be sustainable and bring in a decent living for you:

  1. Artist manager  – The aritst manager is responsible for the business of an artist, band, or musician.  Historically most musicians are not well known for having the ability to handle the right brained business and the creative left brained music parts of making money as an artist.  The job of artist manager is to oversee all aspects of the artist’s business and to make the best decision for the artist career.  For managers working with newer young artists, the work is endless and you end up doing everything under the sun. For established artist’s you typically work with the team of individuals and companies that ensure the artist’s successs.
  2. Booking agent– This can be a really fun but difficult job.   The boooking agent is responsible for acquiring, booking, and handling the logistics of getting an artist a live performance.   Booking agents typically have established relationships with with clubs, venues and music production companies and work tirelessly to get the artist(s) that are on their roster booked at these locations.   Typically agents get a cut from each location that they book and a regular business fee.  If you have a good established network, this can be very lucrative.
  3. A&R Representative– A & R stands for artists and repetuar. Typically an A&R representative is an employee of a record label that is responsible for discovering new talents and bringing in the best music with the most potential to the label.  The bad part about being an A&R rep is that if you bring to many unsuccessful artist to the label, then you most likely will be losing your job.  The good news is that if you have a good ear and a natural talent for finding good music, then this might be a very lucrative job for you.   It is not for everyone though.
  4. Talent scout– Talent scouts typically work for A&R representatives that go out to bars, concerts and clubs looking for new quality talent.  If you band has some press or a buzz going on aobu them, then there is a strong possiblity that you will have a talent scout out watching your band.  Talent scouts are typically a low paying job that is designed for college student or young professionals looking to create a name for themselves within the industry.   It may not be a sustainable way to make money, but will likely lead to other opportunities if you are good.
  5. Soundboard engineer– No one ever thinks about this guy, but the soundboard engineers can make a lot of money.  They also have a lot of different opportunities and different tasks they can do with their craft.  They can run the sound board for a local night club during the week nights, record bands and mix recordings during the days, and run the sounds for artists and bands during the weekends.   You will consistantly have a change of scenery and soundboard engineers are typically paid per event.  If  you are really good and become close to some artists you might even land being the soundboard engineer for a touring band!
  6. Concert promoter – This is super competitive, but can really rake in some big bucks if you do it well.   What a concert promoter is responsible for is promoting, marketing, and getting bodies through the door for a concert or night club.   If you have the ability to network well and bring bands and artists through the locations where you book, and you can fill a room, you will make a lot of money.  The trick to being successful as a concert promoter is to have the capability to bring in large volumes of people all the time.  It is way harder than it sounds, and very competitive.  Some of the biggest concert promoters in the world like, Live Nation and AMG started somewhere.
  7. Production manager– Production manager are responsible for running the logisitics of any event for a concert promoter.   There a many diverse task that are involved with being a production manager.  You will have make sure the sound guys are a working, the lighting equipment is functional, the artist/band are happy and attened to (or present at the venue), the ticket taker have what they need, the roadies haven’t broken anything, and so much more. The list goes on and on.  If you are an organized individual that handles money well, and cool under pressure, this would be a good career choice for you.  
  8. Tour manager – The tour manager is much like a production manager, only that he is responsible for all aspects of a touring concert.  Whether it is one artist of many bands, the tour manager is responsible for overseeing all aspects of an event.  Typically  tour manager interface with local production managers and concert promoters and handle all the interests of the traveling artists and bands.   You will need to be real organized and be one of those individuals that think make quick informed decisions.
  9. Roadie – Laugh all you want, but I happen to know two roadies that make very decent money working for different bands.  The roadies will typically handle and movement and set up of the equipment for the artists and are employed by the manager.   The sad thing about making money as a roadie, is they usually spend it because they tend to get a lot of the same benefits as the bands do.  The trade off for all you lost money will be the experiences, if you are secretly smart then you can make some money as a roadie.
  10. Music teacher – Music teachers not only create young musicians, but also get the rewarding experience of being a teacher.   Being a teacher may not be super lucrative, but will make you a sustainable living.   Schools are always looking for good music instructors and you can have a huge impact on a young persons life through music, and possibly be responsible for their success in the future. 
  11. Studio Musician– Studio musicians are typically hired by studios, labels or artists to play an instrument that they are well versed in to record their tracks.  The studio musicians are not part of any band but just provide their services for the recordings on an as needed basis.  Their is a constant need to have a talent guitarist, saxaphonist, or painist to layed down a track or two for an album.   If you are really great and working on a good project you can be in and out fo the studio in a day or two and make a coupel grand for each appear.  Typically you will get no credit for your performance on the album, but will make good money doing it.
  12. Licensor– A licesncor is responsible for go out and getting music liscensed for media outlets like TV, radio, businesses, and commercials.   There is no glamor involved with this job, but these individuals are usually paid a commission for each time they get someones music lisenced for use.   Some of the commissions can be quite lucrative.
  13. Pit band for broadway production – Broadway thrives on music! Plays without any music would be rather dull and boring. Typically quality performances, like broadway, hire top notch musicians to play their instrument for the show over and over again.   The payments for the jobs can provide a very sustainable income, as long as you dont mind giving up many of your nights for the play.
  14. Songwriter – Writing songs can be extremely profitable.  The reason for this is that if you write a successful song, the copyrights of that song can bring you money over and over again residually. People that wrote songs for people like Elvis, the beatles and Michael Jackson are still receiving royalty checks for the music that they created while these artist were alive.  They can still earn moneyf or the song and pass them off to their heirs. 
  15. Ghost songwriter – A ghost songwirter are people that are hired to write music for people, but sell the songs they right out right.  The good part of being a ghost songwriter is you make profits up front and can make a lot of money for selling your song outright. The bad news is that if the song really takes off, you will not receive the royalties unless you specific that in your contract some way.
  16. Music transcriber – Music transcribers are a rare breed.  Their sole job is the take a song and write it out on sheet music for others to perform.   Typically a transcriber will transcribe all parts of a song from the vocal melody, to the guitar solo, the bass and the drums. This job is not common, but if you can write music and have a great ear, this would be a great career for someone.
  17. Music journalist – Lets not forget about the people that love to write about music!!! Music journalist are a imporatnt piece of the industry puzzle that are typically employed by music magazines to write about the latest and great bands and artists.  You never know, if you write well enough, you can could be the next guy to write for Rolling Stone. 

As you can see there are many possibilities when we talk about the music industry.  There are many hidden opportunities that are available to you if you really have a passion for music and appreciate the culture that comes along with it.   Like anything else, a little creativity and good skills sets can lead you towards any of the jobs listed above. 

There are also many other ways to make money in music, but maybe you see a new path or potential opportunity with one of the facets that make up what we like to call the music industry.

About the Author: Wes

One Comment

  1. TK Goforth April 4, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Hello, Wes! It is SO great to find your blog! I am performer, music teacher and author, and it’s wonderful to connect with others in the “music biz”. I will be “stalking” your stuff.

    My son, who is 14, is extremely talented musically, and is also teaching a few lessons himself. He is considering a career in the music business, so I am going to show him your blog. I have several friends working in Nashville, as well, and will share your stuff on facebook, etc. Good stuff here, my friend!

    God bless,


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