You don’t need the voice of Florence or the guitar mastery of Hendrix to build your music career. There’s a plethora of opportunities in the industry. With plenty of passion and the motivation to gain skills and experience, you should be able to find a job that – instead of making you Morrissey-style ‘miserable now’ – will allow you to feel like you’ve found your niche.
Choose your music career
Make a start by thinking about where your skills lie and the type of work you want to do. If you’re a patient person who’s trained in a musical instrument, for instance, then tutoring might suit you. If you’ve got an eye and an ear for the next big band, you might want to look into A&R. Below are some of the ways you could turn your passion for music into a career.
Music job 1: A&R coordinator
The role of an A&R (Artist and Repertoire) rep is to be the point of contact between the artist and the record label and to support the continued relationship between them, as well as the development and promotion of the artist and their material. The most common career path is to begin as an A&R scout, often as an unpaid intern. In this role, your job is to find new talent – by going to gigs, listening to demos and talking to your contacts – and to pass these on to the A&R manager. From here, you might be promoted to the paid role of A&R rep, before working your way up to the position of manager, then head of A&R. Any relevant work experience and plenty of knowledge about the music industry (gained through qualifications or experience) will help you secure a position as an A&R scout.
Music job 2: record producer
Hired by the A&R departments of recording companies – or, at times, by unsigned artists – the job of a record producer is to assist musicians, bands and sound engineers in producing tracks and/or albums that will become a commercial success. They will be heavily involved with the recording process, with responsibilities such as deciding the tracks to record, suggesting changes to lyrics and, if needed, directing the approach of the sound engineer. A record producer will also work on scheduling and organising: they might choose a studio, plan the order in which to record tracks or work out budgets.
Most people work their way up through other positions based in a studio, such as studio assistants or assistant engineers. A college course or related degree will improve your chances of getting a position in a studio.
Music job 3: studio sound engineer
As a studio sound engineer, you’ll work with record producers and music artists, focusing on producing the best – and most popular – sound. This will involve setting up and operating recording equipment, adding effects, recording instruments and vocals onto tracks and mixing tracks to produce a ‘master’ track. Starting as a studio assistant and working your way up from there is the route that many people take. A related degree or college course is likely to help you to progress in this field.
Music job 4: live sound engineer
A live sound engineer in the music industry will work at concerts, making sure the highest quality sound reaches the audience. In this role, you’ll use a mixing desk to balance the sound coming from each instrument and add any effects. Other responsibilities might include monitoring the sound that band members hear by sending individual mixes to them (through in-ear or on-stage monitors) and setting up equipment.
Gaining formal training – through an apprenticeship, college course or university degree – will improve your chances of getting a position, and you’re likely to be expected to have some related work experience.
Music job 5: booking agent
Working for a booking agency, a booking agent’s role is to secure concerts for music artists and to negotiate contracts for them. They will often coordinate with the concert promoter to make sure the venue provides what the musicians ask for. They may provide help with the organisational side of things, too – for instance, by planning the route to gigs. Gaining relevant work experience, particularly through an internship, will bolster your chances of securing a job as a booking agent.
Music job 6: concert promoter
A concert promoter works with bands, artists and booking agents, helping to coordinate their relationship with venues. They book bands and organise shows – including the financial aspects and making sure the bands are catered for. They will also often work at the gigs, managing people and making sure everything runs smoothly.
Adam Lavender has worked as a concert promoter for Kerrang! Radio DJ Emma Scott and Wolverhampton Civic Halls, and used to run his own promotions company. He suggests that networking is really important as a large part of being successful in the business side of music comes down to who you know. It’s a good idea to start by carrying out any form of work at a local venue, getting to know bands and their promoters, and making yourself available to help out in any music-related jobs. Emailing local promotions companies about opportunities to gain work experience is another good way to gain skills.
Music job 7: tour manager
Having also worked as a tour manager, Adam Lavender suggests that there’s a lot of overlap between the roles of concert promoter and a tour manager: ‘The only difference really is that instead of working in one venue, you’re in multiple’. Organisation is key for both roles: Adam made sure he had a detailed tour itinerary (including information such as venue location and ticket costs) for every day, which he went through with the band members on the bus each morning.
Music job 8: music tutor
A music tutor will often be self-employed, offering one-to-one or group tuition in a musical instrument or singing. Alternatively, they may work for schools, colleges, music centres or local authorities. In this role, you could prepare pupils for examinations, performances and auditions, or work purely to maintain their interest while growing their skills.
While there are no qualifications needed to be a self-employed music tutor, prospective pupils and parents will want to see evidence of your ability, and music-related qualifications will help with this. For most positions in a school, you’ll need a PGCE. However, this is not always the case: Sam George, singer-songwriter and guitar player for the band Giant and the Georges, didn’t need a PGCE to secure his role as a band musicianship tutor at a secondary school.