The future of music

15 Best Careers in the Music Industry & What They Do

July 21, 2023
careers in the music industry

When somebody mentions a career in music, your mind probably wanders to the big stage.

But there’s so much more to a career in music than performance.

If you’re thinking about entering the music industry, there are many career paths you can take – you can become a booking agent, a tour manager, a music therapist… The list goes on and on.

So in today’s article, we overview the best careers in the music industry.

These careers are sought-after, well-paid, and interesting in their own way – you just need to find a path that suits you best.

1. Music Producer

woman recording music using laptop

If you want to be the boss behind the curtain (or the jack of all trades) you should consider becoming a music producer.

In essence, music producers are professionals who help artists turn their ideas into music.

They manage and oversee the whole process of making a record, and that includes:

  • Songwriting
  • Arranging
  • Recording
  • Editing
  • Mixing
  • Mastering

Music producers also advise musicians artistically, and depending on their exact career path, they either write songs or focus on a more technical part of making music.

In any case, producers can do it all, and that requires a special set of skills.

Generally, every successful producer should have the following skills and qualifications:

  • Basic knowledge of music theory and composition
  • Communication skills
  • Marketing skills
  • Production skills 

That said, starting a career as a music producer is not easy, and you’ll have to put a lot of work and effort into developing your skills, building a reputation, and finding good clients.

Nevertheless, it’s an exciting and very rewarding career, especially for those interested in both the creative and business side of the music industry. 

See also: How to Become a Music Producer & What Does a Music Producer Do?

2. Music Director 

musical director standing on chair

Music directors (or conductors) are professionals responsible for leading orchestras and choirs.

And truth be told, being a conductor is very hard, and it requires a lot of work, knowledge, and discipline.

Essentially, conductors bring a unified vision to the music – so in a way, they act as a messenger for the composer.

So you can imagine the scope of their knowledge, musicality, and awareness. 

Conductors need to be able to communicate musical ideas really well and be familiar with every aspect of a musical piece they’re conducting.

They also prepare the musicians in rehearsals and they choose the works to be performed.

Therefore, some of the skills and qualifications required to become a successful conductor include:

  • Music skills
  • Music theory knowledge
  • Musicality
  • Communication skills
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Leadership 

Since they’re leading their orchestra and bringing all the instruments together, trust and leadership are essential.

There are different ways you can become a music director, but most aspiring conductors get a master’s degree in music theory, music composition, or conducting.

3. Audio Engineer

person adjusting the music mixer

If you’re interested in music technology, a job in the audio engineering field might be ideal for you.

Just like music producers, audio engineers are involved in the music-making process – but unlike producers, they are focused solely on the technical part of producing music.

An audio engineer is responsible for capturing sound, handling the equipment, and manipulating the sound in the studio.

So, audio engineering is a profession that involves the scientific, aesthetic, and technological aspects of producing audio.

Some of the techniques audio engineers use include:

  • Recording
  • Editing
  • Mixing
  • Mastering

That said, audio engineers need to have in-depth knowledge of music technology, digital tools, and recording equipment.

They tend to work under the creative direction of the producer and the artist, and they often have positions in recording studios, venues, and theaters.

But engineers can also work in film production, broadcasting, and at any events that use live sound and music.

It’s a wide and diverse field, and it offers a variety of possibilities.

Since being an audio engineer requires a special skill set, if you’re interested in this music career path, you should consider enrolling in an audio engineering or music technology study program or at least an online course.

4. Music Agent

lady using a tablet

And if you’re interested in the business side of the music industry, you should consider becoming a music agent.

Generally, music agents help artists to schedule concerts, tours, and in-person appearances.

They also negotiate fees and contracts for those bookings and sometimes help them handle their social media accounts, interviews, and so on.

In other words, a music agent represents the artist and helps them navigate the music industry.

That said, being a music agent requires the following skills and qualifications:

  • Understanding of the music industry
  • Communication skills
  • Confidence and assertiveness
  • Knowledge of music marketing strategies and PR 

This is a very relationship-driven field, and music agents need to network and develop relationships with talent buyers, venue managers, promoters, and festival/event organizers. 

This is also sometimes referred to as a “mail room career”, meaning that many agents start in lower-level positions (usually as interns or assistants in an agency) and work their way up.

Nevertheless, there are many ways to become a music agent, but getting a music business degree and/or an internship will certainly improve your career prospects. 

5. Artist Manager

two ladies interviewing

While music agents help artists handle the business side of their careers, artist managers help them advance their music careers in general.

Artist managers go through organization, planning, negotiating, and directing to help musicians build strong and sustainable careers.

Some other tasks and roles of a professional artist manager include:

  • Planning album projects
  • Helping in booking gigs
  • Scheduling record releases and tours
  • Advising and guiding musicians

Artist managers play a crucial role in every famous artist’s success – in many cases, these artists simply couldn’t do without them.

Leadership and management are the most important skills of artist managers, but they also need to be passionate and care about their client’s success and well-being.

It’s an interesting and exciting career for sure, especially if you form a long-term collaboration with a successful artist. 

6. Tour Manager

man using a laptop

Unlike artist managers and music agents, tour managers are focused only on one thing – booking and handling tours.

But tour management is far more complex than it might sound.

Music tour managers (some called tour directors) have to be familiar with the mechanics of touring in every sense, and that includes:

  • Accommodation
  • Transportation
  • Finances
  • Scheduling

Successful tour managers understand how the music industry works, and they have a wide range of special skills.

For instance, they need to have excellent management and organizational skills, and they also need to know how to work well with others.

The best tour managers are also prepared for any issues and crises that might come up during tours, and they always make sure everything is handled professionally and efficiently.

7. Session Musician

person playing the drums

If you have great music skills and you’ve been focused on a specific instrument (like drums or guitar) for quite some time now, you can consider becoming a session musician.

Session musicians back and perform on another musician’s album or they perform with different acts in a variety of music genres and styles.

They also often contribute to recording sessions.

It’s an important and demanding role, but there’s certainly less stress than becoming a well-known musician and being in the spotlight.

Nevertheless, many famous artists started out as session musicians, including Cheryl Crow, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and so on.

That said, you never know where this career is going to take you. 

So if you’re good at playing an instrument and you’re interested in regular performing, you should certainly try it out.

8. Music Teacher

woman smiling while presenting

Music teachers and educators have a crucial role in music.

And being a music teacher is extremely rewarding.

However, teaching can take many forms – you can teach kids in a music school, work as a private instructor, find a position at the university, and so on.

In any case, getting a job as a music teacher or educator usually requires a music degree.

Thankfully, there are many great universities and colleges offering music education degree programs.

Music education encompasses a variety of music-related areas and topics, including music theory, research, music history, and music and vocal lessons. 

Music teachers need to be knowledgeable and musically skilled, but they also need to have excellent communication skills, leadership skills, and a general passion for music.

They also have to be patient, creative, and collaborative. 

See also: Best Music Education Schools in the US

9. Music Therapist

books on a shelf

Another way of delving deeper into research and general musical knowledge is by becoming a music therapist.

Music therapy is usually defined as the clinical use of music to accomplish individualized goals.

These goals can include improving mental health, managing pain, reducing stress, and enhancing memory

So, music therapists work with people to help them achieve specific goals and improve their mental and/or physical health by using music as their therapeutic tool.

That said, music therapists need to have the following skills and qualifications:

  • Knowledge of psychology, music, and fine arts
  • Counseling skills (active listening)
  • Patience and sensitivity
  • Interpersonal skills 

In most cases, if you want to start a career as a music therapist, you need to earn a music therapy degree.

Many great schools around the world offer music therapy degree programs, and such studies are becoming more and more popular.

With a music therapy degree, you can get a job in a variety of facilities and companies, such as medical, correctional, and educational facilities, independent music therapy companies, and so on.

10. Music Journalist

woman sitting on the sofa while using a laptop

If you’re passionate about music and journalism, it’s pretty clear what your ideal career path should be.

But music journalism encompasses so many things – from podcasts and music blogs to music criticism and TV.

Many music journalists make a living from reviewing concerts and new releases.

And you don’t have to write for a popular music magazine or website to be considered a journalist – you can also be a freelancer, work for a smaller publication, or start your own music blog.

In any case, music journalists need to have the following skills to excel in this field:

  • Writing skills 
  • Knowledge of journalism
  • Communication skills
  • Computer knowledge

As a music journalist, you also need to be immersed in the scene (both local and global), be familiar with recent trends, and know how to spot a good story.

11. Songwriter

person writing outside

Another field you might be interested in if you’re good at writing is songwriting.

Songwriters play a huge role in the music industry, and they’re the main reason artists can grow an audience and build a successful career.

Some artists are also songwriters, but in many cases (especially in popular music), there’s an individual or a team of songwriters responsible for their biggest hits.

Now, songwriters write lyrics as well as the musical elements of a song.

So, that’s the difference between songwriters and lyricists – unlike songwriters, lyricists are focused only on the words.

And that’s why being a good songwriter isn’t easy – you need to have musical and lyrical ability, and you also need to have technical skills to turn your ideas into music.

But what’s even more important is creativity and fresh ideas – and that’s something that can be learned through practice.

See also: How to Become a Songwriter

12. Composer

a piano with music sheets

Another creative music field you can explore is composition.

Generally, composers write and arrange original music in a variety of musical styles.

So, they’re not tied down to the specific genre – even though many people associate them with classical music.

While many composers do write works that will be performed by orchestras and various ensembles, many of them write for TV, film, video games, and so on.

It’s a beautiful and extremely rewarding career, but it’s also quite challenging.

The competition is high, and you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd.

Nevertheless, if your dream is to become a composer, you should think about improving the following skills:

  • Music skills 
  • Music theory knowledge
  • Creativity
  • Visualization 
  • Industry knowledge

13. Music Publicist

woman smiling while using a laptop

When it comes to business-related music jobs, music publicist is one of the most popular ones.

In fact, it’s a role based on marketing and communications.

In short, music publicists generate media attention and manage PR for solo artists, bands, and music-related businesses.

So, their skills and qualifications include:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Media Relations
  • Networking
  • Social media management

Music publicists work with media outlets, marketers, and venues, and they’re generally responsible for increasing public awareness of an artist they’re collaborating with. 

To become a music publicist, you should keep networking, enhancing your skills, and building a strong portfolio. 

This way, you can build a good reputation and start working with big names in the industry.

14. Promoter

man in a cafe using a laptop and headphones

This is another great career in music closely related to the music business and marketing.

Music promoters usually work with artists, venues, record labels, and coordinators to plan events and projects.

So, as a music promoter, you would generally be responsible for promoting and organizing musical events, concerts, or tours. 

To land a job in music promotion and marketing, you can consider an internship or a music promotion course, or you can even consider a bachelor’s degree in music or business.

Either way, you should update your knowledge of the music industry and be patient and persistent.

If you keep networking and improving your skills, you would be able to find a job in an established music promotion business or start your own business.

15. DJ

DJ turn table

A disc jockey, commonly known as DJ, is a person who plays recorded music for an audience in various events and situations.

Being a DJ is exciting and fun, but it’s not as easy as it might sound, especially if you want to earn a living that way.

The competition is high, so aspiring DJs need to find innovative ways to gain exposure and stand out from the crowd.

And to get yourself noticed, you need to think about effective marketing strategies, build a good reputation, and network as much as you can. 

And once you land a good job, everything will be easier.

DJs often work in bars and clubs, but they can also play music in a variety of other venues.

It all depends on the music genre and styles you’re interested in.

Which Music Careers Pay the Most? 

If you want to enter the music industry, you’re probably wondering how much you’re going to earn as a professional musician.

But as we showed you today, there are many different roles and positions in the music industry, and, therefore, salaries can vary a lot.

How much you’re going to earn depends on many factors, including your experience, skill level, music portfolio, collaborations, and so on.

For instance, music producers make around $32,379 per year as a base salary – but some successful producers make a lot more, and other producers who are just starting out are earning less.

Other highest-paying music industry careers include music agents, business managers, sound engineering technicians, film and music editors, composers, and music directors.

But once again, that all depends on a variety of factors.

The thing is, if you work hard and you get yourself noticed, it’s possible to earn a substantial amount of money regardless of what type of career path you opt for.

It all comes down to your goals and priorities. 

In any case, you shouldn’t expect to become successful and rich overnight – and for many people, this simply doesn’t happen.

Therefore, focus on your craft and your music, and everything else will fall into place eventually.

How to Start a Career in Music 

The music industry has a reputation for being one of the more difficult industries to break into.

And that’s somewhat true – it’s a very competitive field, and there’s no one-size-fits-all or secret formula for success.

However, there are certain steps you can take to get things started.

Choose your path

First and foremost, you need to choose the type of career you want to pursue.

You should base your decision on your existing skills, interests, and abilities.

But if you don’t have the skills necessary to enter the field, don’t get discouraged – there are many ways to develop those skills and learn everything you need to know.

Of course, you should also set realistic goals.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dream big.

After all, you never know what you’re capable of unless you try.

concert of a music band

Hone your skills

Regardless of what kind of career you want to pursue, you first need to hone your skills.

If you want to join a band or become a solo artist, you must work on your music skills and/or improve your voice.

And if you want to start a career in the music business, you should find a suitable course or consider enrolling in a study program.

Either way, you need to work on your skills and focus on your passion.

And don’t be afraid to take advantage of all the tools and possibilities you have at your disposal.

For instance, if you want to become a singer, you should record a demo and release your music online.

With large streaming platforms, digital promotion tools, and the power of social media, you can distribute and promote your songs without hassle.

And if you want to become a producer or a music agent, don’t hesitate to reach out to people and ask for guidance or advice.

Whether you want to become a guitarist or a music agent, networking will ultimately help you advance your career.

All in all, music is a difficult industry to break into – but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible and that you shouldn’t try.

Don’t give up 

If you want to get a job in the music industry, you should definitely go ahead and try.

Everybody has to start somewhere, and you might as well do it today.

But don’t get discouraged if things don’t go well right away.

Just like with any other profession, succeeding in the music industry takes time, and everyone has their own way of achieving their goals. 

That said, you should find your own unique path and focus on what really matters to you.

The important thing is not to give up – and success will come to you, in one way or another. 

Best Careers in the Music Industry – Final Thoughts 

We hope this article helped you find the best career path within the industry.

All of the jobs we mentioned today are regarded as some of the best careers in the music industry, and most of them are currently in demand.

But each one has its own challenges and rewards, so you need to think carefully and find a path that aligns with your goals, interests, and abilities.

You may also like: Types of Music Degrees

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