29 Ways to Make Money in the Music Industry

As an Assistant Professor of Recording Arts & Technology, one of the first thing I’m asked by parents of prospective students is whether or not it’s possible to make a living in the music industry. Obviously, this is a difficult question. I can’t promise anyone that they’ll be able to make a living working in the music industry because they all have different interests and skill-sets. However, what I can provide is a list of what my former students are doing. So, here’s a list of 29 ways my former students make money in the music industry.

Performer – Obviously, this is the one that everyone thinks of. Everyone wants to be a rock star at some point in their life. And everyone assumes they’re the ones making all of the money, which isn’t always the case. But that’s a topic for another day.

Live Sound Engineer – This audio professional is responsible for making each live performance sound as good as possible.

Recording Engineer – This audio professional is responsible for the first part of the recording process know as tracking. This is where all of the individual parts are recorded.

Mixing Engineer – Once all of the parts have been recorded, they are handed over to the mixing engineer. The mixing engineer adjusts the levels of each part to create the final mix.

Mastering Engineer – The mastering engineer is the last person involved in the recording process. They concentrate on making sure that all of the songs on the CD work well together, as a whole. Often times they have to adjust the level of one song as compared to another so that it isn’t jarring to the listener.

Pro Tools Operator – This is a specialised type of recording engineer that only runs Pro Tools software. You can actually go to school for this to become a Certified Pro Tools operator, and if you do you might have me as your professor.

Intern – This is how many people start out in the music industry. Sometimes interns get paid, sometimes they don’t. Either way, it’s still often the best way to get your “foot in the door”. Just be ready to clean a lot of toilets and take a lot of coffee and food orders.

Teacher – There are music teachers at all levels of the music business from the guitar teacher at the neighborhood music store, to the band teacher at the high school, to the vocal coach of the stars.

Manager – The manager is responsible for overseeing the artist’s or band’s career. They are like a head coach in that they advise the performer as they assemble their professional team of agents, business managers and lawyers.

Booking Agent – This is the member of the artist’s team that is responsible for booking performances. Many people get the jobs of the manager and the agent confused. In certain states it’s actually illegal for managers to book performances for artists.

Publicist – This member of the artist’s team is responsible for generating publicity, usually in the form of newspaper, magazine and TV coverage.

Club Owner – This one is easy to understand. Basically, this includes anyone that owns a live music venue whether it be a club, bar or coffee house.

Recording Studio Owner – Sometimes this is the same person as the recording, mixing or mastering engineer, other times it’s simply a business person.

Graphic Designer – This visual artist is responsible for designing whatever artwork the artist needs ranging from CD covers to posters.

Web Designer – It’s the job of the web designer to build and maintain the artist’s website. They may incorporate portions of the graphic designer’s work in the design of the website.

Producer – The producer is responsible for overseeing the entire recording process. Traditionally, they chose the songs for the artist and hired the recording engineers and studio musicians. Nowadays, it’s quite common for the producer to also be a songwriter, performer and recording engineer as well.

Songwriter – Some artists write their own songs. Those that don’t need new material every time they record a new CD. That’s where the songwriter comes in.

Film Composer – Another one that’s pretty obvious. Film composers write all of the music necessary for a movie.

Jingle Writer – This is a very specialized songwriter who writes music for radio and TV commercials.

Publisher – The job of the publisher is to represent composers and songwriters and get their music used in movies and on TV.

Merchandiser – The merchandiser is responsible for putting the artist’s likeness on an endless variety of products. Everyone that owns at least one concert t-shirt has a merchandiser to thank.

Journalist – In the past, this job was limited to a few magazines and newspapers but now, with the internet, there are literally thousands of sites discussing every genre of music imaginable.

Equipment Designer/Manufacturer – Someone needs to make all of the cool gear that the artists use on stage and in the studio.

Equipment Retailer – I know from first-hand experience that you can make a really good living working for one of the larger equipment retailers like Sweetwater Sound, Musician’s Friend or Guitar Center.

TV/Film Music Supervisor – This is the person that finds the perfect songs and music for each TV show and movie. They usually work very closely with the director as well music publishers.

Record Label Owner – Nowadays, these are either multi-national companies (the major labels), or music lovers (the smaller independent labels).

Entertainment Lawyer – The music industry is full of all different types of contracts. You need an attorney that is familiar with these specialized documents.

Business Manager – Works closely with the artist to ensure that their bills are paid and that their money is well cared for.

Rehearsal Space Owner – This may be one that many people don’t think of but there are rehearsal studios in just about every medium to large city.

So there we have it, 29 ways to make money working in the music industry. In no way is this list complete. This is just an example of the type of work my former students do. I’m sure there are many, many other jobs in the music industry that I didn’t mention here. Feel free to comment below and let me know what I left off of the list. I really appreciate reading your comments and feedback.

Make it in the Music Industry in the Digital Age

It is no secret that the music industry is struggling to survive. The advent of digital piracy has severely dented the profits of major record labels, and as such they are less likely to invest in new music. With the elusive ‘record deal’ now seemingly even further away from the grasp of most musicians, just how can today’s artists make it in the modern music industry?

It is the ultimate dream of many musicians to one day sign a major record deal. It is the Holy Grail of many bands, yet unfortunately many talented musicians will never get that opportunity. The record deal, while always being an extremely difficult thing to achieve, has actually become even harder to attain, and here’s why. Record labels are running out of money.

All businesses require money to survive, and the music business is no exception. Digital piracy is robbing the music industry of it’s cash flow, and a business without cash flow cannot survive for very long. Without cash flow, the major record labels will be tightening their purse strings and holding back from investing in new talent for two reasons. One is that new talent is always a risk.

There is no guarantee that any band will be a success, but at least with a healthy bank balance a record label can afford to take the risk. The second is that even if new talent proves itself to be a very desirable investment on paper, the major labels know that a high proportion of music distribution will occur illegally. They will not earn a single penny from the pirates.

So where does that leave talented musicians who would give their granny’s right arm for a record deal?

It actually leaves them in a very strong position, and here’s why.

For many, many years the music industry was a highly guarded, almost mystical business. Just how did somebody go from being an average Joe to being the planets most revered pop-star? With shows like Pop Idol and the X-Factor the ‘fame’ process has become more mainstream. Most people nowadays can understand, albeit on a very basic level, how someone makes that kind of transformation. Just look at the Susan Boyle story.

When the internet came along, no one in the music industry really paid much attention to it. It was an interesting technological development but hardly worth getting too excited about. After all, the only way of accessing what little online content there was was via a painfully slow dial-up connection.

When the MP3 file format was created, again the music business did not rush out and embrace it as a potential game changer. They assumed people would be very happy to continue paying over the odds for a piece of plastic and a pretty cover because it was something they could hold in their hands.

Back then the major labels had no idea that these two independent, completely unrelated technologies would join forces to take over the only thing which gave them any real power. This ‘thing’ happened to be the global distribution of music.

The day the web became robust enough to handle large file downloads, and move MP3’s from a PC sitting on a desk in London to a PC sitting on a desk in Australia, the single most important control the major labels had over the music industry was gone forever.

This redistribution of power is what now gives a four piece garage band in Ohio the same marketing potential as the highest paid artists on Sony’s roster. Using the internet, there is no reason whatsoever why bands all over the world cannot get their music to the ears of music lovers in any country. The barriers to entry of the music business no longer exist.

There is no longer any need for bands to plough hundreds of dollars into producing a CD album. It is much more affordable to produce an MP3 single. There is no longer any need to beg and plead for distribution into major record stores. You can now distribute your music globally via MySpace or your own band website. You can even get your song onto iTunes via Tunecore for around ten dollars if you would like to capture the iPod/iPhone market.