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Other Careers in Music (Aside from Musician)

I’ve recently had some students asking about other careers in music that don’t necessarily involve playing an instrument. You may love working in the business of music and around musicians, but may not be amazing on your instrument or want to continue playing it. Lucky for you, there are tons of jobs that involve working with and around music and musicians that are available to you that draw upon other skill sets. That is what this post is all about. I will touch upon some of the many possibilities that are out there today! This isn’t a list of the only positions available, but some of the more popular ones to help you decide which avenue you’d like to travel down.

Obviously, musician is the first one that comes to mind. That is anyone who plays an instrument or uses their voice (also an instrument) to create an emotion through sound. Maybe you like playing an instrument, but you don’t want to tour or be “in a band”. Some people make their living recording music solely in a studio. They can record from the luxury of their home (or their favorite studio) and still get to play music without the rigors of traveling (far), but still reap the rewards of making music. The next career choice that comes to mind would be lyricist or songwriter. You can work with other musicians and still create music. There are even specific types of songwriters known as top-line writers that focus specifically on the lyrics and melody to accompany the track or set of chords that someone else has composed.

Speaking of composing, there are several types of composers. Not just popular music, but any genre you can think of. Classical, Jazz, Children’s, New-Age and the list goes on. Not only different configurations and ensembles, but also different mediums. Musicals and plays need music as well as films, commercials, and TV shows. Some of these ensembles need the music conducted so there’s another job that doesn’t involve playing an instrument, but allows you to be in direct contact with musicians and help alter the outcome of the music performed.

There is the recorded side of things as well. Working in a recording studio provides several different jobs. There is the recording engineer, the mixing engineer and even the mastering engineer. Each with their own set of skills and requirements. Similar to a conductor who helps orchestrate a live performance, a producer can help shape a recorded one. The producer is responsible for making the smart decisions as to what is best for each situation working with the musicians and studio engineers.

Right in line with the positions I have already mentioned is the DJ (Disc Jockey). With this job you have to know music and can alter what is being heard, but you don’t have to play an instrument to do so. Being a DJ isn’t limited to playing weddings or huge arenas and clubs. Radio stations need DJs too (internet and terrestrial). There’s also being a podcaster. A podcaster is similar to a radio station DJ and can specialize their podcasts to dealing with musicians and different aspects of music.

Maybe you get joy from seeing other people learn their craft? Then music educator (or DJ instructor) could be up your alley. The challenge with that is figuring out which age group you want to teach. I have music educator friends that focus on K-12 and others that teach privately or on the college level. One of the things they all agree on is that it’s never too late to learn.

Moving a little farther away from being a musician are other professions like music supervisor or radio programmer. A music supervisor is responsible for the music that gets selected for film, TV, video games, advertising or any other visual or emerging media-platforms. The radio programmer is someone who schedules the content on a radio station or broadcast. This could also include podcasts as that is becoming a more popular platform involving music.

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Continuing along, there are multiple careers that can accompany a musical artist. Say this artist just recorded a new album (or release). Aside from some of the careers I have mentioned (musician, songwriter, producer, engineer, etc.) This musical artist will need a photographer for press, promo and album shots. They will need a graphic designer for logos, flyers, gig posters, and liner note layouts. This can also carry over to designing the merchandise to be sold on the road. They will need a web designer to create and/or maintain a website, and if necessary, help with the social media presence. They may even need a videographer to help document the process on video, or even aid in music video creation. If they do decide to do a music video, then a film director is something to consider. Choreographers and Dancers may be hired if the artist (or music) needs them.

If this artist gets bigger and decides to “take this show on the road”, then there is a whole host of other people that can suddenly become involved. There is the manager/tour manager who will help the artist make smart decisions with their career (and on the road). The booking agent will help the artist play more shows (while working with the manager as to what shows they should play). The PR firm and publicist(s) will help get the word out about the artist to the press and other forms of media (including reviews). They will need a lawyer to review important documents (and possibly help them get out of legal trouble), and an accountant to help keep their finances in line (and deal with taxes). If they are signed with a record label there is the A&R (artists and repertoire) as well as project managers, marketing, promotion and a ton of other positions at the label.

There is the crew who can range from a sound engineer, similar to recording engineer, but working with live sound can be a different animal entirely. The house engineer makes sure the sound to the audience is great and the monitor engineer makes sure the musicians on stage hear what they need to. Next to them is the lighting designer. This person is responsible for understanding the lighting and atmosphere for how it pertains to the music, choreography and set design. This could change depending on if the show is indoors or outdoors (time of day can come into play outside). Roadies help get the gear where it needs to go (unpacked or packed up), while techs help make sure everything is ready for use (tuned, set-up, or broken down and put away).

From the other side of things at any given venue, there is the talent buyer who books the entertainment in the venue. The promoter (and street team members) help get the market, manage and organize events. That could include getting the word out about the event with flyers and the internet. They help artists reach their target demographic, selling of the tickets, and even aid in communication between the venue and artist. There is the house production manager who helps the crew facilitate their tasks in an organized and timely fashion. They could be employed by the artist and travel with the artist’s crew or be employed by a venue and specific to a particular location.

If the artist gets big enough they might employ a stylist to make sure their look is consistent for events, awards shows, the band, etc. They might also employ a cosmetologist (make-up artist), barber, hairdresser for the road or for specific events. There is also a possibility of hiring a caterer for the team that travels with the artist (band, crew, etc), or for special dietary needs.

If writing is your thing, you could become a blogger or a music journalist. You could be responsible for reporting on what is going on in the world of music or helping to shape peoples opinions and perceptions as to what trends are happening or what to be on the lookout for. You are also responsible for alerting the (musical) public as to how the industry is evolving through new technology or otherwise.

There is also a whole world of musical gear that employs a bunch of fantastic people. From the people that make the instruments we use, to the R&D team (research and design) as well as the AR (artist relations) staff, these individuals work hand in hand with musicians to help create and maintain the best products possible. These instruments either go directly to the musicians or they go to a music store where they can be purchased. The people who own/run the music store have an obligation to know how the instruments work and how they will benefit (or not benefit) the musician interested in them.

Copyist work is still out there, but shifting because of technology. A musical copyist is someone who may help a writer notate their music in a score, or in a methods book. They can also be responsible for organizing a book of music charts for a particular band (possibly wedding/convention type) or even transcribing the music to be sold in a music store. Now-a-days, less music is being printed on paper, and being downloaded from the internet. So having skills in a music software writing program (i.e. Finale/Sibelius) is a must for this career path.

I hope this has expanded your mind greatly as to what other options you may have in the field of music. Again, these aren’t the only jobs available, but a lot of the more popular ones. Maybe something in this post will trigger another opportunity for you that wasn’t even mentioned!