Making a comfortable living as a performing musician - can it be done? Sometimes the worry and doubt drive people out of this field, even when they are talented. Some parents worry that their child might not make a living at all if they pursue music, and in some extreme cases, will not allow a child with a natural love and ability of music to continue. Now, most parents don’t take this so far, at least in my personal experience. But that doesn’t mean the uncertainty isn’t there. “How am I going to pay the bills?” is definitely a concern many music majors and post-grads have. What many people don’t consider, though, is that music is such a wide field. You don’t have to pursue performance, or be a starving musician out on the street because no one will hire your band. There are plenty of other stable careers in the world of music beyond just being a performer and we’re going to take you through several of them!
1. Music Education
Let’s start with the most obvious one. If you’re interested in music, chances are you’ve already had run ins or more with music teachers. Teaching is a profession that will always be necessary - there are always new kids that need teaching after all! So it’s entirely possible that if you enjoy music but also enjoy helping others, explaining things, or teaching others, you might pursue a career in music education. Whether that interest in education manifests itself in a public or private school or through a privately run studio, as long as your interest in teaching others is strong, you’ll make a successful and engaging living out of it. The process for becoming involved in Music Education is actually quite in depth though, and we’ll be writing about it in the coming weeks.
2. Music Technology (Production)
The field of music technology refers to the studio side of music production. For every great musician who releases an album of their work, there is someone on the other side of the soundproof glass in the studio running the soundboard and recording them. After the recording session, they then mix and master the album using all sorts of fanciful new technology available to the modern studio technician. They are able to clean up small mistakes in the music, balance the levels between the different musicians on the tracks, apply effects or otherwise manipulate the sound if it’s appropriate, as well as numerous other options at their disposal. Music Technology is one of the most fascinating fields in the music world and anyone who loves music has the potential to love having a hand in its production as well. Not to mention the fact that a successful studio technician can be in very high demand by many musicians once they’ve established themselves. If you love music and doing very technical things, working with computers, or have a great ear for mastering music, this might be for you!
3. Music Industry
The Music Industry: the business side of music that you never really see. Jobs in the music industry that don’t revolve around performance usually feel more business-like by nature. You might coordinate producing music videos or albums for an artist, booking live concert spaces and planning tours, managing and representing musicians that contract under your record label, or licensing songs, to name a few. Some of these don’t deal directly with music, but you definitely need a love of music and an interest in it for these jobs to appeal to you. If you’re business savvy and want to work with and help musicians do their thing, this could be the field for you!
The role of the composer is the one that requires the most direct musical knowledge. In fact, the possibilities for composers are quite numerous.
A composer might create intricate concertos for the London Philharmonic Orchestra. They might arrange songs for different uses (Broadway to movies, background tracks, for big bands, schools, etc.), or write crazy jazz symphonies. But on the flip side of that coin, maybe they compose the music for Disney’s next big hit, or perhaps they score the next Avengers movie from Marvel. John Williams and Hans Zimmer, two of the most prolific movie composers out there, are constantly scoring movies for titanic studios. Some composers even write video game music, a field that it rapidly growing and becoming much more recognized as a deep artistic venture. All of these fields present their own unique challenges and opportunities for composers, but there is a lot of reward to be gained from any of these pursuits. Especially if creating music is of high appeal to you!
5. Music Therapy
I’ve known many people in my life that swapped from a focus on music performance or education to a focus on Music Therapy. Some people, as they get older, discover a penchant for helping others that drives them towards specific fields where they can make a difference in an individual’s life. This is one of those fields. Music Therapy is a kind of treatment that can tackle many different issues, like mental, emotional, or behavioral problems. It can be used for basic stress relief as well as combating the likes of depression and anxiety, while even proving effective at helping elderly clients deal with memory loss. There is much more to explore in the world of Music Therapy as well; many in the field argue that the study is still very young and has a plethora of untapped potential. You may just be the one who discovers a unique use for music that no one else has ever thought of before!
Finally, for the academically inclined, Musicology is the scholarly study of music. Musicologists analyze and research many aspects of music, from general history, to cultural studies, and even how music affects scientific focuses, such as psychology and physiology. If you have an intricate and analytical mind, then Musicology might appeal to you somewhere down the line. Many involved in music might argue that the field is dry and boring, but to those who love that line of work, they are constantly challenged and mentally stimulated. And though Musicology may not appeal to everyone, if you develop a love of it, then there will definitely be support for it at the University level and beyond.