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10 Careers In Music And How Much Money You Can Make 

10 Careers In Music And How Much Money You Can Make

When it comes to working in the music business, most people’s minds go to those performing on stage, but behind the curtain are a number of fulfilling, and often lucrative, jobs. Here we look at the top ten jobs in the music industry. 

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Guest post from Berklee Online 

When you think of a career in music, you might start with the performers who are center stage. But when you pull back the curtain, you’ll find people with an array of music business jobs and careers that help make performances possible. You have the people who coordinate and promote the music, the folks in the recording studios and on the soundboard who make the musical act sound topnotch, the writers who compose and arrange the music, and much more. 

There’s more to a career in music than just performance — it can involve one or many disciplines. The more versatile you are, the more opportunities you will have to work in the music business. 

Breaking into the music business is harder than other industries. Competition is high, but if you hone your craft, network with the right people, and put in the hard work, here are some music business careers to consider and what compensation you can expect out of them.* 

* Salary information is from the 2016 Edition of Music Careers Dollars and Cents by the Career Development Center at Berklee College of Music 

1. Music Producer 

 Want to be a jack of all trades? A producer understands both the creative and commercial side of the business and develops relationships with both musicians and the record label. A producer should create an environment that enables artists to create and express themselves. A producer also assists an artist’s recording project with many of the details, including choosing which material to record, interfacing with the recording engineer, adapting arrangements, balancing the recording budget, and influencing mixes. 

What to Learn: If you’re looking to become a music producer, consider learning about foundational audio and music concepts, start studying various types of software, and dive into what makes a good sound. To be a truly great producer, you’ll need to acquire knowledge in engineering and mixing. Look at the credits of your favorite albums: who produced them? Who engineered them? Find out what other albums these people produced, and get even further acquainted with their style. Read interviews with these people about their techniques. There isn’t one path to success here, but you can forge your own way as you develop the necessary skill set.  

What’s the Money Like? 

$25,000 – $1,000,000+  

 

2. Recording Engineer 

 An audio engineer is responsible for capturing sound and manipulating it in the studio. You’ll deal with both analog and digital audio, compressors, microphones, and signal flow—and typically combine both traditional and tech-savvy recording techniques to record music. You could also be responsible for organizing recording sessions and repairing any technical problems when they arise. And sometime you may catch the brunt of the producer or musicians if something goes wrong in recording that magic take! 

What to Learn: Become well-versed in multiple recording technologies and develop file management skills. Some jobs in sound engineering may require additional training in mixing and editing. You’ll also need to know how to solve problems, run recording sessions and take initiative. 

What’s the Money Like? 

$25,000 – $150,000+ 

 

 

 

3. Musician for Hire/Session Musician 

 As a session musician, you back and perform on another musician’s album or perform with various acts onstage. This means you have the freedom to dabble in multiple styles, genres, and sounds. You’ll interact, meet, and form relationships with a heap of other musicians. You may be asked to contribute to a recording session or join a band on tour. If you’re extremely proficient at your instrument, the path to becoming a successful session musician can be rewarding and even lead to a solo career. Before their solo careers, Stevie Ray Vaughan was a session musician for David Bowie, Sheryl Crow was a back-up singer for Michael Jackson, and Jimmy Page played in countless recording sessions. And some recording studios even have their own house bands. (See Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Muscle Shoals, and Twenty Feet From Stardom. Really! See these movies!) 

What to Learn: A successful session musician is a connoisseur of their instrument and has a solid reputation for their craft. You should be able to step into any musical arrangement to offer your skills and also be proficient and experienced at improvisation. Another necessity is to learn how to build a reliable network and solid relationships. You’ll want to have great communication skills and general industry knowledge. 

What’s the Money Like? 

Extremely wide range, $100 – $2,500 per day or up to $100,000+ 

The American Federation of Musicians (AFofM) specifies the minimum rate 

 

4. Artist Manager 

 An artist manager exists to create opportunities, connect, and propel the musical act forward. You have to wholeheartedly believe in your artist and help them build a strong and sustainable career through planning, organization, directing, and negotiating. You may not get all of the credit and adoration that the artist gets, but you’ll have to do as much—if not more—work! See that photo above? You probably recognize at least 80 percent of the people, and know their names. But how about the man in the center? That’s Brian Epstein, the manager of the Beatles during their rise to fame. Without the influence of Brian Epstein, it’s likely you’d never know the names John, Paul, George, and Ringo, much less know any of the music they made. 

What to Learn: Management and leadership skills are key here. Not only will you be streamlining and organizing multiple moving parts between musicians, publishers, and booking agents but you’ll also be making sales calls, negotiating contracts, and giving constructive criticism. 

What’s the Money Like? 

10 -50 percent of artist’s earnings 

$30,000 – $200,000 for a developing artist 

$2,000,000 – $10,000,000 for a mega successful artist 

 

5. Tour Manager 

As a tour manager, you’ll be involved in every aspect of a band’s career on the road. You’re the behind-the-scenes mastermind who has hands in every piece of transportation, accommodation, scheduling, and finances of a tour. You’ll make things run smoothly for everyone involved. You’ll need to have self-motivation and be okay with shouldering the band’s responsibilities—especially the financial ones. 

What to Learn: You’ll need to know the industry like the back of your hand. There are music business management programs you can study but you should also self-study tour logistics, accounting principles, and daily scheduling management. Get experience in different components of the live music industry and learn to anticipate and cater to needs while sticking to the schedule. To get a more thorough sense of what this job entails, read our profile on Berklee Online alum and Wilco tour manager Ashley ‘PK’ Mogayzel. 

What’s the Money Like? 

$2,500 – $10,000 per week for theater/arena-level touringBreaking into the music business is harder than other industries. Competition is high, but if you hone your craft, network with the right people, and put in hard work, here are some careers to consider and what compensation you can expect.… Click To Tweet 

 

6. Music Teacher 

Teaching can take on a variety of forms. You could teach in a school, a small music shop, or teach independently. You could teach theory or a specific instrument. You’ll also have freedom to choose which age range you’d like to teach—each one comes with its own advantages and obstacles. If you like encouraging people, sharing knowledge, and practicing patients, a career teaching music could be right for you. 

What to Learn: Your required education and background depends on which teaching path you’re most interested in. For example, teaching in a school will likely require more certifications than going down a self-employed route. You’ll certainly need to be proficient in the subject you’re teaching and feel confident giving lessons. 

What’s the Money Like? 

$30-$120 per hour for studio teacher/private instructor 

NOTE: Lesson fee should reflect amount of teaching experience and the going rate in a region. Be aware that it may take some time to build up a profitable clientele. Travel to a private student’s home may require an additional fee. 

$30,000-$71,181 for a public school music teacher (K-12) 

NOTE: Requires state certification. Schools are supported largely by property taxes so schools in wealthier communities are typically able to pay more. 

$43,140 -$67,360+ for an assistant professor (full-time on a tenure track) 

NOTE: Salary depends on the size of the institution, budget, and reputation of the teacher. At least a master’s degree is required, more often a PhD. 

 

7. Booking Agent 

 Your job here is to get the band onstage. Booking agents facilitate a lot of the logistics around live performances, including securing concert venues, negotiating deals, arranging technical equipment, and hospitality. You’ll work closely with management (of the artists and the venues) and event promoters and determine what an artist’s touring schedule will look like. 

What to Learn: A degree in music management, marketing, or accounting would help you prepare you for a career as a booking agent.  You’ll want to learn about contract negotiation, copyright law, sales, marketing, and event planning. Begin working in event promotion and administrative roles to understand the foundational elements of booking shows.  

What’s the Money Like? 

$20,000 – $3,000,000 

Commissions range, typically 10-20 percent of the act’s gross income per show. 

$50,000 for a developing artist 

$500,000 – $3,000,000 for a star 

$50,000 – $250,000/Booking Specialty Agent 

 

8. Publicist 

 A music publicist works closely with media outlets, marketers, and venues. Publicists ensure that their musicians’ concerts, releases, and announcements are covered by the media in a way that feeds positively into their public perception while increasing awareness of the artist. The good news is that you’ll see your hard work pay off in a very tangible way—whether that’s a sold-out show or a spot on the radio. It can be tough to break through to journalists in a media landscape that is increasingly cutting staff and eliminating outlets that cover music. This role is more than just PR—it’s about selling a story, building a network, managing a reputation, and staying ahead of the game. 

What to Learn: This is a communications and marketing-based role, so start there. Learn the basics of public relations strategy and develop your people skills. To become a publicist, you’ll have to network, be tenacious in your outreach efforts, and ask the right questions. Arm yourself with on-the-ground experience as well as writing, crisis communications, and publicity campaign development.  

What’s the Money Like? 

$500-$10,000 per month 

 

9. Composer 

 Composers aren’t just tied down to the classical music genre; they can write for film, TV, and video games. They can also write and arrange recorded or live music across genres. Regardless of which avenue you wish to pursue, you must have a masterful understanding of music theory, you must be able to really play one or many instruments, and have the technical capabilities to capture your compositions effectively, whether it be through music notation or recording. 

What to Learn: Formal education and experience are keys to success here. Composers are proficient in one or many instruments and have a deep understanding of music theory and arrangement. Being a great composer means understanding the technicalities and mechanics of music on multiple levels. Start learning composition software and begin practicing. There are event elements of sound engineering that can come in handy, like notation software and recording programs. 

What’s the Money Like? 

Composers are usually paid on a per-project basis. 

Television 

$1,500-$7,500+ for a 30-minute episode 

$2,000-$15,000+ for a 60-minute episode 

$2,000-$55,000+ for a TV movie 

Film Score Composer 

$0-$10,000+ for a student film 

$2,500-$500,000+ for an indie feature  

$35,000-$2mil+ for a studio feature  

Video Game Composer 

$30,000-$75,000+ for Creative Fee deal – interactive game (30 min. of music) 

$30,000-$60,000+ for Package Fee deal – interactive game (30 min. of music) – covers composing and all expenses 

$300-$600 per minute of finished music for casual games (creative fee only) 

 

10. Music Arranger 

A music arranger is responsible for taking a piece of written music and reorganizing it to achieve a new sound or goal. You might have a client ask you to take a pop piece and add a Latin rhythm, shorten or lengthen a piece, or change the key. Arranging is a specialized skill and those who pursue it can work as a freelancer or for a band or music organization. 

What to Learn: Music arrangement can be a single career or an added skill set as a writer and composer. An arranger, like a composer, also requires a deep understanding of music theory, different instrument groups and how they work with one another. Before learning about arranging, learn the fundamentals of music theory, composition, and the technical aspects involved. 

What’s the Money Like? 

$20,000-$43,000+

2020 Colorado Music Educators Conference Presentation 

I am looking forward to speaking at the 2020 Colorado Music Educators Conference at the Broadmoor Hotel and Convention Center in January.

My topic: Makin a Living Making Music: Entrepreneurial Opportunities in the New Music and Entertainment Industry.

Click here to view the CMEA Conference Schedule

Today’s music industry is the wild, wild, west! The gatekeepers who once determined the fate of an artist’s success, the projects that would be recorded, the songs to be released, the bands that would take the stage, no longer wield their career crushing power. To succeed in today’s music industry, musicians need to expand their skillset from being musicians alone to being musical entrepreneurs. This session, Making a Living Making Music: Entrepreneurial Opportunities in the New Music and Entertainment Industry, will help you discover and declare your IDENTITY as artists and entrepreneurs, your VISION for the life and vocation you dream of, and your INTENTION and plans to begin to transform your dreams into realities. 

I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak by CMEA Tri-M Music Honor Society Chair, Michelle Ewer. Tri-M Music Honor Society offers students, grades 6 through 12, an opportunity to perform, serve the community as well as places them in leadership positions. It helps to bring a music department together and operate as one. Tri-M looks different in every school. Colorado has one of the most robust Tri-M conventions across the country; Students come together to share and discover new ways to make their chapters stronger. Students walk away feeling excited and eager to try new ideas they have experienced at the convention. Feel free to click on the links below to answer questions that you may have.  

Click here to start a NAfME Tri-M® chapter at your school 

Click here for NAfME Tri-M® chapter resources

Michael Pickering, President and Chief Creative Officer of Lionsong Entertainment, Inc., and former Director and founder of the Music and Entertainment Entrepreneurship program at the Community College of Aurora, is a creative leader, entrepreneur, educator, and musician. He holds a Master of Arts in Music Business Degree and a B.P.S. in Interdisciplinary Music Studies Degree from the Berklee College of Music. He has served on the boards of local arts and entertainment organizations, authored post-secondary music curricula, and spoken at many local and national music industry events. He also provides music and entertainment business and performance consulting services (www.mpickeringmusic.com). Michael and his wife, Amy Pickering, remain active as national headline music and clean comedy performing artists for corporate, theatrical, educational, outreach, cruise, and private clients worldwide — www.michaelandamy.com.

Now Is A Golden Age for New Artists: Be Encouraged (And Realistic) 

Why This Is a Golden Age for New Artists (So Long as They Keep Their Ambitions in Check) 

We’re seeing a clear commercial emboldening of “middle-tier”‘ musicians at the expense of megastars 

Guest Post By TIM INGHAM 

What Is happening to streaming’s superstars? That was the big question asked in this very column two months ago. The answer, delivered by a myriad of game-changing stats: they’re getting squeezed. 

New data now shows that this trend isn’t going away – and is, in fact, calcifying. Industry monitor Nielsen recently released its half-year U.S. music trade report, which revealed the total number of interactive audio streams played in the first six months of 2019. This figure stood at 333.5 billion – up 28% year-on-year.  

Within Nielsen’s report, the body also confirmed the artists who attracted the most on-demand audio streams in the States during this period. The top five for the first half of 2019: 

  • Drake (2.66 billion streams); 
  • Ariana Grande (2.59 billion); 
  • Post Malone (2.35 billion); 
  • Billie Eilish (2.23 billion); 
  • Juice WRLD (1.91 billion) 

Guess what? The cumulative amount of audio streams accumulated by these Top 5 artists (11.74 billion) was actually smaller than that racked up by the equivalent Top 5 acts from Nielsen’s H1 2018 report (11.83 billion). The top five for the first half of 2018: 

  • Drake (3.33 billion streams); 
  • Post Malone (3.15 billion); 
  • XXXTentacion (1.92 billion); 
  • Migos (1.90 billion) 
  • J.Cole (1.53 billion) 

It must now be beyond doubt: There is a very significant shift in the democratization of music industry revenues taking place, with the momentum swinging away from blockbuster megastars and towards a much larger “middle tier” of artists. A juicy takeaway stat: according to Nielsen’s midyear reports, Drake was the biggest audio streaming artist in the United States in both the first half 2019 and the first half 2018. But, from one year to the next, his streaming tally actually fell by approximately 670 million plays.  

This, remember, happened amid a macro streaming marketplace which continues to shoot up by a double-digit percentage every year. 

Stats like these fit neatly with what Spotify – the world’s biggest subscription audio streaming platform – calls, to this day, its “mission”: “[To] unlock the potential of human creativity by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by these creators.” 

We don’t yet know how many acts relevant to that “million creative artists” goal are “making a living off their art” but we do know this: According to MBW research, the three major labels jointly saw their streaming revenue growth shrink in the first half of this year; simultaneously, Spotify’s revenue growth grew faster than ever. 

The most likely conclusion, there: Spotify is increasingly paying more of its royalty money to acts outside the three major record companies. 

This trend – the clear commercial emboldening of a “middle-tier”‘ of artists at the expense of megastars – is, it transpires, also bleeding into the live music arena. 

One recent hard data point shows this fact very clearly. The biggest concert promoter in the world, Live Nation, saw its total concert revenues grow by 16% year-on-year in the first half of this year. The driver of this uptick? Ticket sales for shows by artists operating outside LN’s Top 100-grossing acts. 

This sub-100 club saw their concerts revenue grow by 32% in H1 2019, Live Nation revealed last month – double the size of the percentage increase across its entire business. 

“[We’re] seeing more artists than ever in the history of this business selling between 2,000 and 4,000 seats [per show] right now.” 

The rise of the “middle-tier” artist has definitely been noticed by the world’s other largest concert promoter, AEG Presents – the owner of Coachella, which also works on tours for huge artists such as Elton John, BlackPink and The Rolling Stones. 

Rick Mueller is President of AEG Presents in North America. “I don’t know whether to call it a golden age or a renaissance, but we’re seeing more artists than ever in the history of this business selling between 2,000 and 4,000 seats [per show] right now,” he tells me. “I’ve been in this business for 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. Artists are coming out of the club world into theater venues at an incredible rate.” 

Mueller is certainly well-versed on this subject. AEG owns theater venues including Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium – which he says is now hosting roughly 65 shows a year. Meanwhile, the city’s Hollywood Palladium, owned by Live Nation, is hosting closer to 100 shows a year. And over in New York, the recently-opened Brooklyn Steel – co-owned by AEG and Bowery Presents – laid on a whopping 220 shows in its first 12 months of operation. 

“These are astronomical numbers in major markets, but even in the smaller markets you’re seeing a significantly larger quantity of shows taking place,” says Mueller. “Bands just keep coming out of nowhere and filling these rooms.” 

AEG suspects that this trend is closely related to the “middle tier” streaming artist phenomenon, with services like Spotify, combined with social media, putting the ability to build significant audiences back into the hands of performers and their teams. 

“Rewind 20 years ago, for a band to get the scale and following they needed to [sell out] a 2,000 seater venue, securing radio airplay was critical,” says Mueller. “But the advent of social media, streaming and viral media in general has changed everything.” 

This is all excellent news for artists hoping to quit their day jobs. Industry insiders suggest that a typical U.S ticket price for a 3,000-capacity theater venue today sits at around $40, and that, depending on production values and other factors, an act can expect to take home a 65% margin from that pricetag. 

Playing ten sold-out theater shows like this across the States would therefore gross $1.2 million, from which 65% would see $780,000 retained by the artist in question. 

Willard Ahdritz, the founder of artist/songwriter services company Kobalt – and the originator of the “middle tier” epithet – estimates there are currently more performers than at any point in history making a living from their recorded music catalogs. Presumably the same goes for the touring market? 

“I think that’s a fair suggestion,” says Mueller. “Between what an artist can make on the shows themselves, then adding in merchandise sales, there’s a good living to be made at that 4,000-cap level.” 

So what’s the catch? Evidence suggests that, just like in streaming, as the earnings of the “middle tier” of artists explode in live music, so the relative success of global superstars may inevitably start to dwindle. 

According to Pollstar data, the volume of ticket sales to the world’s Top 100 tours fell 6.1% year-on-year in November-May 2018/2019 compared to the same period in 2017/2018. Revenue from those ticket sales also fell, down 3.8%. Meanwhile, there is a notable lack of new artists breaking into the ranks of mega-grossing touring artists: As Rolling Stone noted last week, the average age of an artist behind a Top 10 global tour is now a creaky 53. 

Mueller says that AEG is not blind to the difficulty of elevating artists beyond the ranks of those 2,000-4,000-cap venues and into 10,000-plus cap arenas or huge stadiums. “I won’t call that a problem, but it’s definitely a challenge,” he says. “There is just so much music out there now; how do you get scale and [consumer] focus to grow someone into a true superstar?” 

Mueller refutes the idea, however, that the age of the mainstream breakthrough icon may be grinding to a halt. He points to recent Rolling Stone cover star Billie Eilish, who he says has “shot right past club and theater level into an arena superstar within literally 18 months”. 

And then there’s Ed Sheeran. At 28 years old, Sheeran is now a conspicuously young face amongst the world’s biggest-grossing live artists. Earlier this month, the British singer/songwriter broke U2’s all time record for a world tour’s total gross, generating a startling $736 million on a Divide-themed trek which will eventually see him play a jaw-dropping 255 separate nights. AEG is one of a handful of concert promoters that Sheeran has worked with on this global jaunt. 

“What I find most impressive about Ed is that he built off his first [global] touring cycle to get even bigger second time around,” says Mueller. “That’s one of the most challenging things for artists today: after earning that early success, how do you sustain it and grow it?” 

He adds: “Ed Sheeran continually puts out monster hit records. At the end of the day, that ability to build and build your audience comes down to one question: did you keep on writing songs that resonate with people?” 

As some elements of the music industry rulebook get torn up in front of our eyes, it seems, other passages remain resolutely unchangeable. 

Tim Ingham is the founder and publisher of Music Business Worldwide, which has serviced the global industry with news, analysis and jobs since 2015. He writes a weekly column for “Rolling Stone.”