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65 Music Careers for Student Musicians to Look Into

Mike Lawson • Commentary • October 3, 2019

Music is ubiquitous, so it is no surprise that entrepreneurially speaking it is a diverse field with myriad careers.

From the classroom to the music store, from the stages of concert halls to the stages of Broadway, from jazz clubs to recording studios, booking agencies and licensing organizations, numerous opportunities exist for those wishing to pursue a music career. Indeed, there are careers in the fields of performance, education, composition, technology, recording, publishing, retail and manufacturing, among others. There are also numerous peripheral careers that although are not exactly music are attractive to those who wish to do something around music.

Many careers require a college degree, and some even a more advanced degree. Performance careers often require a high degree of talent and years of intense practice. Other careers require a particular skill or kind of training. In considering a music career, the student might need to do some research to see what it entails and if he or she is willing to see it through.

Following is a list of a number of music and music-related careers that the student interested in a music career might consider (this is just a small selection of music careers as there are many others).

Brief blurbs follow the career names, but anyone interested in these jobs should conduct further research.

• Symphonic musician. Be part of an outstanding group of musicians carrying on an important tradition and contributing to the culture of a city

• Soloist. The truly gifted musician can have a stellar career playing as a featured soloist with orchestras and other ensembles

• Ensemble or chamber musician. The small group musician can have a rewarding career

• Broadway show or pit musician. Playing musical shows is an exciting gig in which you bring alive the wonderful music of shows

• School music educator. Have a big influence on young people by teaching them music in their impressionable years in public and private schools

• Grades 1-12 conductor. Lead children, tweens and teens playing in their first or early music ensembles

• College music professor. Teach college students and help them develop the skills they need to obtain a bachelors or more advanced degree; music history, music education, musical theater, music technology and music business are some of the music majors at the undergraduate level

• College orchestra conductor. Play an important role in making a college orchestra prominent in its community

• College band conductor. There are college concert bands, jazz bands, MIDI bands and more to choose from

• Choral director. Various opportunities exist for the choral director with different kinds of choral groups at all levels of schools as well as professional ensembles and houses of worship to choose from

• Symphonic orchestra or professional concert band conductor. The pinnacle job for the conductor; some conductors are chief conductors for a particular orchestra and lead orchestras in other cities, both nationally and internationally

• Private music teacher. Teach privately full or part time; you can give music lessons at home (or in a student’s home) or at a music school

• Music school owner. For the entrepreneurial music educator; run a school for music students that can reflect your own philosophy of music pedagogy

• Vocal coach. Privately teach aspiring singers including those who want to go into opera, musical theater and other areas or who want to sing in bands

• Music therapist. Use music to help people through their health issues

• Club or wedding musician. Not the most stable career, but steady gigs could bring in nice money

• Rock group musician. Everybody wants to become a rock star, but it isn’t easy; the cliched life of the rock musician—lots of rehearsals, low-paying gigs, tensions and anxieties until you make it—is basically true, but today with the internet, the enterprising rock group has a better chance of getting heard than ever

• Recording artist. Getting signed to a major label is the dream of many; it’s a ticket to fame but not a guarantee

• Record producer. Guide the artist and others in the making of a record in a recording studio and hopefully create a hit; today, producers with track records are almost as famous as the artists they produce

• Pop songwriter. The pop music field is so competitive that it’s difficult to earn a living writing tunes for pop artists, but some do so if the passion is there it’s worth a try

• Serious music composer. What a great thrill it is to hear your compositions brought to life in the grand concert hall before an overflowing audience of adoring music fans

• Opera composer. Sure, it’s difficult for the unrecognized opera composer to get his or her works performed by a professional opera company, but once established it can be a magnificent career

• Arranger. Write the charts for the musicians and singers who perform in recording sessions or concerts, or who record music for film, TV and advertising.

• Orchestrator. Take a composer’s music and score it for an orchestra; it could be for everything from symphonic performances to motion picture scores

• Musical theater performer. Sing, dance and act in musicals; performing regularly to great applause can be intoxicating!

• Musical theater director. Guide cast, crew and musicians in putting together a show; it’s your vision and like the coach of a team you’re often credited for the show’s success or failure

• Musical theater composer, lyricist or book writer. It takes a libretto and songs to make a musical, and that requires a book writer, composer and lyricist though some scribes do two or all three of those things

• Music critic. Evaluate new albums, singles and concerts for consumer and trade publications

• Music journalist for mainstream media. Write articles about artists and their music for newspapers and magazines geared toward the general public

•Journalist or reporter for a music or entertainment trade publication. Write for a professional trade publication such as Billboard or The Hollywood Reporter or Variety; knowledge of the particular trade you are writing about is necessary

• Music publisher. Be part of a company that acquires and exploits pop songs or other kinds of musical compositions so they may earn revenue for the company; songs can be licensed in many different ways creating many different revenue streams

• Record label employee. There are numerous kinds of positions at labels including A&R (the people who sign artists to the label), promotion (getting radio airplay and records on streaming service playlists), and publicity (getting media exposure for the label’s releases and promoting the careers of artists on the label)

• Music public relations (PR) firm publicist. Promote the careers of musicians

• CD/Record store owner. Are there any stores left that still sell CDs and vinyl? Yes, but in our digital age, caution is warranted here

• Video producer. Music videos are commonly made of songs and the producers of these videos whose visions are set forth in them are recognized as artists in their own right

• Musical instrument manufacturer employee. All sorts of positions can be found in these companies; enterprising individuals may start their own instrument manufacturing companies, or related ones such as making mouthpieces for instruments

• Music accessories manufacturer. Guitar bags, guitar straps, music stands, fuzz pedals, drumsticks, strings for instruments, instrument cases, music cases, mutes, kazoos, and reeds are just some of the products made by accessories manufacturers

• Musical instrument retailer. Be a salesperson or other employee at a store that sells all types of musical instruments, music electronic equipment, music accessories, print music and other music-related merchandise

• Musical instrument repair technician. The instrument repair technician is like a doctor for broken instruments—you diagnose and mend—and you enable the show to go on!

• Audio company employee. Numerous kinds of positions are available in these kinds of companies, which manufacture products such as loudspeakers, loudspeaker controllers, amplifiers and related equipment

• Music supervisor. Select the music for movies, TV shows and commercials; your musical taste, knowledge of music repertoire and feel for what music is best for a scene or product campaign can go a long way here

• Recording studio owner. This is a business endeavor for the audio entrepreneur, but it can be risky today with musicians able to record professional masters on their own equipment in their homes

• Recording studio engineer. Operate the equipment for recording sessions; requires special skills

• Entertainment attorney. Manage the legal affairs of musicians and entertainers, or work for labels, publishers and other music companies and organizations (of course law school is the route to this career)

• Personal manager. Guide the overall careers or musicians (singers, bands, recording artists)

• Business manager. Manage the financial affairs of musicians and entertainers; these professionals are usually an accountant or CPA

• Radio station program director. Use your knowledge of music and radio to determine which recordings a station plays to attract listeners and get high ratings; adult contemporary, country, classic rock, alternative rock, hip hop, classical, jazz, Spanish, urban adult contemporary are just some of the many radio station formats around today

• Radio station disc jockey. DJs are the on-air personalities of radio stations; it’s competitive to get a job as a DJ but every city has radio stations and there are numerous station music formats to choose from

• Licensing organization employee. Songs and sound recordings are licensed for public performance by a variety of organizations such as ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, The Harry Fox Agency and SoundExchange

• Concert promoter. Engage acts to perform in venues; it’s financially risky but concert promotion can be lucrative to those who make it

• Booking agent. Represent acts to perform in venues

• Playlist curator. Have an expertise in a certain kind of music? Streaming services hire music experts to compile playlists in all sorts of music genres

• Theatrical producer. Enter the rewarding (albeit financially risky) profession of mounting musicals and other types of theatrical shows

• Casting director. Find the right talent for musicals and other types of theatrical shows

• Music author. Music biographies, music histories, music reference books and music instruction books are just some of the types of books that music authors write

• Music book editor. Acquire and edit music books for book publishers

• Music historian. Research and write about various facets of music from the past

• Piano tuner. Tune and repair pianos everywhere from private homes to venues, recording studios and concert halls

• Music librarian. Work in a public library or college music library and help students, professors, scholars and others with their music needs and questions

• Music licensing library. Work for a music or production library that licenses music for movies, TV shows and commercials

• Deejay. Spin records at clubs, weddings, parties and other events to get people hopping on the dance floor

• Musical instrument manufacturer sales rep. Sell instruments to stores; it’s not exactly The Music Man but you’re getting instruments out there

• Merchandise entrepreneur. Make or sell band t-shirts, hoodies, hats, glasses and much more

• Trade organization staff employee. NAMM, MBA, RIAA, NMPA are just some of the many music trade associations around; some sponsor special events and educational programs that are their hallmarks and which can make employment there even more special

• Musicologist. As a scholar in music your expertise may be used in many ways such as providing testimony in copyright infringement cases or for comparing musical compositions for TV and movie producers and commercial sponsors for possible copyright infringement

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