Want a career in music? Learn about music industry jobs, requirements and salaries.
- The music business requires an understanding of finance, macro- and microeconomics, and data analytics.
- Apps like TikTok and SoundCloud have changed the way listeners consume music and how businesses market artists and their work.
- Recording engineers and video/sound engineers are two of the highest-paid careers in the music industry.
- Music teachers can use their creative skills and music training to develop aspiring young minds. They can work in schools or for themselves.
Musicians are just one of the many moving parts that help the music industry run. This creative industry needs more than instruments and performers, so there are multiple paths you can take to be part of it.
If you're looking for a career that allows you to surround yourself with music, some of the lesser-known avenues in the music industry can give you that and more, depending on your interests.
First of all, it is important to understand how this field has changed. Apps like TikTok, SoundCloud, Instagram and Spotify have changed the way music is consumed and, thanks to social media, the way it is shared and advertised as well.
Social media's influence on music
Musicians may not be selling CDs like they used to, but streaming platforms have taken up the mantle. According to research by MusicWatch, 29% of music listeners share songs, albums or playlists from streaming services. More than 50% of listeners use Twitter to follow or get updates from musicians and bands. Statistics show that our interactions with music have shifted, which ultimately affects the music business and the management roles behind it.
Today, artists and their teams have more control over the distribution of their music than they once did: how it's advertised, how new music is released and how concerts are promoted. It has also changed the control that artists and their publicists or managers have over their brand and image.
Furthermore, musicians no longer need millions of fans to make them profitable. Social media has enabled fans to segment themselves into fandoms or large supporting groups, which allows musicians to make substantial income based on their talent, endorsements, ads or views. [Read related article: 5 Music Industry Startups That Are Positively Impacting Artists]
What to expect from a music business degree
A degree in music business has three components – analytical, musical and managerial education, according to Larry Miller, director of the music business program at New York University Steinhardt.
- The analytical component includes understanding the international music business marketplace, macro- and microeconomics, mathematics, marketing, financial accounting and management, and entertainment and organizational analysis.
- The musical section teaches music theory like aural comprehension, music history, keyboard skills, and music in contemporary world culture.
- Managerial training includes music publishing, concert management, entrepreneurship, writing, media planning, finance and entertainment law.
"It's a well-rounded program that engages the left and right brain," Miller told Business News Daily. A good music business program also prepares students for jobs that don't exist yet. "It trains students to invent the future of the music business."
How to choose the best music business program
When choosing a music business program, your goal is to be as close to the industry as possible, just in case opportunity comes knocking while you're pursuing your degree. Being in a place where you can secure internships and opportunities at nearby record labels or companies is an important advantage. Some of the top cities for music are New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Nashville.
Access to internships should be a deciding factor for where you study music, said Michael McCutcheon, a career coach at Wanderlust Careers. Besides teaching you microeconomics and concert management skills, a program with stable and long-standing relationships with music companies will benefit your future. Seek programs with excellent internship programs and networking opportunities, which can be just as vital to your success as your understanding of your courses.
Difficulties for pursuing careers in music
The business side of music is not always as glamorous as the performances. That might be a problem if you're not familiar with the day-to-day of your field.
"You may realize partway into the job that you don't want to do this anymore," McCutcheon said.
The work might be more making phone calls and filling out paperwork than following your passion, and that could be discouraging. This is why internships and job shadowing are important parts of the process. They give you the chance to experience the work and uncover the parts you don't like.
Earning the music business degree itself is no walk in the park either.
"You need resilience," Miller said. "When you're looking at the business side or hope to run your own company or label, that requires focus, work ethic, and working hard in some areas that don't come so easy to the student."
Jobs you can get with a music business degree
You don't have to be a performer to work in the music industry. For instance, here are 10 behind-the-scenes jobs for music lovers.
1. Video and sound engineers
Video and sound engineers have one of the highest-paying jobs in the music industry. In this role, you're responsible for mapping the sound and voice effects for video games. Equally lucrative positions within this niche include recording and score composers. All of these jobs have a hand in the overall sound and feel of the game. Video and sound engineers are also useful in television and film production.
Median salary: $40,000 to over $120,000
2. Recording engineers
Recording engineers record, edit, and mix sound for artists or music companies. They manage the artistic and technical aspects of the recording session. They typically work with or as music producers, movie sound editors, musical composers or song arrangers. They can also work for television or concert production companies.
Median salary: $25,000 to $150,000
3. Music directors/conductors
Music directors or conductors are responsible for leading orchestras and choirs. They select and arrange music for their performers, and lead rehearsals and performances. Music directors typically lead school bands, church choirs, youth orchestras and performance companies, and some even work for television or radio companies.
Median salary: $43,098
4. Music teacher
As a music teacher, you can share your skills with musically inclined students. This is an incredible way to give back to your community, help students develop their talents and teach them the fundamentals of music. Schools or academies are ideal settings, or you can hold your own classes and programs. Whether you specialize in teaching a specific instrument or want to teach music generals, you'll likely find joy in sharing your expertise with others.
DJs bring parties to life, using their mastery of music and beats to entertain crowds. Working local gigs, you'll be able to add your personal touch to the music and excite audiences with tunes they can dance to all night long. Not only will you be able to enjoy the events you work, but you'll have the chance to meet new people and connect with others who share your love of the art.
Median salary: $58,907
6. Musical therapist
Musical therapists use sound to help improve the mental state of others. Many people find music to be therapeutic, calming the mind and helping them cope with difficult situations. Music therapists work with patients to manage their stress and pain, both emotional and physical, with the power of music.
You can earn certification through various music therapy programs that teach you how to apply various techniques to patients in different settings. Musical therapists can work through a private practice or at hospitals, mental health agencies, rehab centers, day care, nursing homes and schools, according to the American Music Therapy Association.
Median salary: $57,094
7. Music journalist
If you prefer to remain behind the scenes, music journalism may be your answer. Writing for a music magazine like Rolling Stone or Billboard, you can cover concerts, profile artists and review new albums. Even if you're just freelancing or working for a small, local outlet and producing content about your local music scene, your writing could influence many readers to get more involved in music.
Median salary: $50,011
8. Music agent
Music agents or reps help musicians handle their contacts, events, social media and the many opportunities offered to them each day. They also promote their clients' songs, albums, shows and more.
You can become a rep for a musician by working at a music marketing firm or by starting your own. Project management, press releases, interviews and the like are also big parts of the job. You would be responsible for managing a musician or band and their public relations campaigns.
Median salary: $50,255
Lyricists or songwriters are a huge part of the music-making process. Each song tells a story, and the charm of words can make a No. 1 hit. It's not an easy field to break into, but if you have a knack for poetry, you should consider becoming a lyricist for a musician, sharing your own stories and experiences.
Median salary: $51,360
10. Music franchise owner
Being a music franchise owner allows you to explore the entrepreneurial side of music. There are plenty of music franchises on the market, like School of Rock, a program designed to guide students through their musical journeys, and Music Go Round, an outlet that offers affordable equipment for musicians. You can channel your passion by promoting your love of the art and support for the industry. Owning and operating a music franchise that enhances the community may be your calling.
Median salary: $69,327
Companies to consider for music careers
Regardless of the specific field you choose, working for one of these music companies can help you get the paycheck you desire in a music-related career.
- The Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) is a music and live sports company that works with venues like the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
Apple is everywhere, of course, and iTunes has been a big part of the company since the beginning. In addition to Apple Music, Apple develops music recording software GarageBand and Logic Pro.
- The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers is filled with lyricists, composers and a variety of music publishers. It promotes and licenses the music of its clients, receives a large cut of public performances of their work, and collects royalties.
Fender creates electrics guitars, basses and amplifiers. Its guitars have been played by music legends like George Harrison and Jimi Hendrix.
Sony Music is one of the three biggest record companies in the world. Its labels include RCA, Epic, RED Music and Columbia Records.
- Spotify has more than 140 million users and has helped to shape the music world since 2008.
Sammi Caramela contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.