If you’re a junior or senior in high school, you’re probably thinking about what you want to “be” when you grow up. Whether you’re in a marching band, orchestra, or just enjoy playing music, getting a degree in music may be in your horizon. Although performing and teaching are the two most common careers in music, those careers don’t even begin to cover what those with a music degree can pursue once they graduate. In Part One of this series we dove into careers ranging from Arts Administrator to Director of Publicity. Here, we’ll introduce you to even more ways you can make money with a music degree that go beyond performing and teaching.
If you love what goes on behind-the-scenes in the music industry, perhaps you should consider a career in music production. Music producers write, arrange produce, and record songs–sometimes their own, but usually the songs of other groups and artists. A typical “day in the life” of a music producer is anything but routine. Sometimes they prep the studio and check for gear functionality, while other times they’ll spend the entire day working with clients in the studio. It’s not uncommon to work 10-12 hour days, but most producers enjoy the hustle. Production is an extremely competitive field, so a good education is a must. Whether you head to a trade school, a university, or a music school with production programs, being open minded and learning how to use new gear and software is a must.
A career as a background singer is a great choice for those who have a great voice, but don’t enjoy being in the spotlight all the time. As a background singer, you can select whether you provide backup to other singers and musicians in session recordings, commercial jingles, or live performances. Background singers can be employed by a group or an agency, or they can work on a freelance basis. We should point out, though, that freelance background singers must build up a strong reputation as a great singer who is flexible and available when needed before they can expect much success as a freelancer. In many cases, background singers work for an agency first, where they can network and make connections before trying their hand at freelance.
Do you enjoy sharing the therapeutic effects of music with others? If so, a career as a music therapist may be your calling. Music therapists work with everyone from children to the elderly, as well as those with substance abuse problems, physical disabilities, and mental health problems. As a music therapist, you can apply for positions in a variety of settings, ranging from rehab centers to adult schools and special education programs. Advancement in the field typically occurs through a combination of experience and further education, so going to graduate school and focusing on research and clinical practice can help you advance professionally. Since music therapists tend to work in medical settings, you’ll need to take courses in biology, psychology, and social and behavioral sciences, in addition to the music courses required for a music degree. Plus, all music therapists must pass a certification exam from the Certification Board for Music Therapists, and continue to pass the exam every five years.
Ideal for those who enjoy music and writing, music journalists report on music news, interview musicians, and review albums and live concerts. In general, music journalists spend a lot of time behind a computer screen researching and writing stories. They can be employed by print, online, and broadcast media outlets, although much of the music journalism industry has shifted online. Although college isn’t required for this career, it’s still strongly recommended. If you want to impress your future boss with your education, major in journalism and minor in music theory or music business– this way you’ll show them that you represent the best of both worlds. A music journalist should be driven, self-motivated, and have thick skin. But, most of all, you should have a passion for music!
Since the duties of a manager depend heavily on who you’re managing, there is no one-size-fits-all job description. In general, though, your day-to-day will involve strategizing and creating marketing plans for tours, managing social media, and keeping merchandise in stock. Managers also help their clients with the direction of their career, artist representation, tour management, and obtaining corporate sponsorships. Although the most useful experience for a manager is actually managing a band, having an education in music can help. Sometimes your days will be slow and relaxed, and other times you’ll be on-the-go for what seems like months on end. Just keep in mind that it’s rare for managers to make a regular salary. In general, the industry standard is that managers make 10-20 percent of gross, depending on the client. If you want a steady, reliable paycheck, look elsewhere on this list.
For even more ideas, check out Part 1 of this series and keep your eyes peeled for Part 3!
photo via John Watson, CC