Want a Career in Music?

by SaskMusic

August 4, 2009 in Getting Started

An entrepreneurial spirit is mandatory for a successful career in music. The industry demands trained, qualified and experienced workers who can apply this entrepreneurial spirit and carve out a niche for themselves. For the most part, these are individuals who are willing to work at their careers "from the bottom up" with an understanding that it may take many years of perseverance to reach their goals.

The ability to diversify is also very important if you wish to sustain yourself until your primary career goal is established.

However, there are many rewards to working in the cultural industries, including creative freedom, an exciting and constantly changing environment, opportunities to travel and meet new people, and often, the ability to determine your own work schedule.


Those working in the music industry are primarily freelance employees.

Each works on a contract basis. This means that when one contract is completed, freelance workers must seek out work again. Often they are able to gain employment because someone they know wants their services. Therefore, your ability and skill in networking is directly related to your success level. This is true whether you are a performer, a technician, or in administration.

Attitude Counts

Industry professionals pay particular attention to your personality and to your teamwork skills.

Most people in this industry started "at the bottom" for a probationary period of time. This is because potential employers are more interested in your people skills, your communication skills and your personal values than they are in your specific training or qualifications. You must possess the interpersonal relationship skills required by this industry.

Women and Music

Female performers are taking their rightful places on the musical stage and the demand for women in management positions has grown significantly.

Although gender biases and stereotyping can be found in some areas - particularly in the technical areas - attitudes are changing. Today, you will find successful women in all facets of the music industry where their talent, creativity and administrative skills have gained a great deal of notoriety and respect.

Is a Career in Music for You?

Do You:
  • have a passion for music in general?
  • have a creative streak?
  • have strong communication/"people" skills?
  • exhibit a positive attitude?
  • work easily with others in a variety of circumstances?
  • accept criticism and rejection?
  • have high standards and value personal integrity?
Are You:
  • flexible?
  • patient?
  • willing to seek out sources of work?
  • willing to travel?
  • able to work long hours for extended periods of time?
  • able to accept supervision; and to supervise others?
  • willing to learn; fast, efficient and accurate?
  • self-motivated and determined?
  • a problem solver and a critical thinker?
  • reliable and trustworthy?
  • able to multi-task?
Careers in the music industry include:
  • Administrative - Consultant, Reception, etc.
  • Audio Engineer
  • Audio Producer
  • Booking Agent
  • Broadcasting - Radio/Television
  • CD/Tape Duplication Service Provider
  • Distributor
  • Equipment Manufacturer
  • Equipment Tech
  • Event Coordinator
  • Graphic Artist
  • Lighting Tech
  • Live Music Venue Owner
  • Loader/Stage Crew
  • Manager
  • Merchandiser
  • Music Accountant
  • Music Lawyer
  • Music Publisher
  • Music Video Producer
  • Musician/Vocalist
  • New Media Developer
  • Photographer
  • Promotor
  • Publicist
  • Retail Sales/Rentals
  • Security
  • Songwriter
  • Sound Tech
  • Transportation Coordinator
Of course, there are many sub-jobs within each area...for example, a professional musician may
  • work as a performing/touring musician
  • work as a studio performer
  • teach music lessons privately or instruct a college class
  • compose for film and video.
Starting Points

If you have a passion for music, the key to obtaining a career in the music industry is to gain as much practical, hands-on experience as possible.

Volunteer. Most industry professionals began by...
  • playing in a band, or working with friends who were in a band;
  • volunteering at a recording studio, live-band nightclub, a lighting, sound, or equipment services company; a professional theatre company; or with local non-profit and festival hosting organizations;
  • working with amateur theatre music productions/production companies.
As a volunteer, you may be asked to perform tasks that you feel have little relevance to your job goals. Be patient. If you demonstrate that you can handle the stresses of the industry (as well as the occasional mundane duties associated with it), your work WILL be noticed.

Volunteerism is an excellent way to meet the professionals in your industry and create networks.

Research. Volunteer in a variety of areas and develop your abilities.
Learn as much as you can about music and the music industry. Take classes, read books, surf the Net, and talk with professionals and mentors.

Get the training. Complete any required training within your specific area of interest. This may mean vocal lessons, business administration courses, or songwriting seminars.

Where technical training is available, be sure to include business training, computer skills, communications and multi-media programs in your educational repertoire.

Although recognized university courses are not specifically available for many music industry careers - for example, Management - training can be obtained by taking related courses. For example, a manager will require knowledge in business administration, accounting, public relations, and contract negotiation.

By Lorena Kelly for SaskMusic.

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