A question I am often asked at clinics, during lessons and via email is “How do you break into the Music Industry?” Here are some real-life options.
When I am asked this question, my answer is often in the form of a question such as, “what is it that you’d like to do?”
The reason for this is that there are a vast range of jobs beyond the oft coveted positions of Rock and Pop star, Metal God, Nashville session player etc. The Music Industry is just that – ’an industry’ and is therefore supported at all levels by a variety of personnel working in retail, marketing, PR, design and IT. Pretty much all the traditionally defined skill sets have their place so, when considering a career in the Music Industry, it is worth having a wider understanding of some of the jobs that people, all over the world, are doing right now whilst you’re reading this.
In the following list I have tried to offer a range of jobs that have a foot in both the traditional day job and the side that most people think of when they consider Music Industry careers. So we’re not talking “data inputter” (although they exist) and conversely I haven’t listed “Rock star” either…although they obviously exist too (in their own way!). Having spoken to a lot of people about their route into the Industry it would seem that the retail side of the Music Industry is the most common trodden path. It is therefore a great route into understanding the industry, making contacts and picking up on otherwise unseen opportunities.
So we’ll start there…
Music Store work
If you’re a school/college leaver don’t overlook working in a local music store. The experience in sales, people and the structure of the Industry will be invaluable to you regardless of where you plan to head in the future. Just finished Uni or looking for a career change? Try thinking about how your current skills could be transferred into direct retail sales or the supporting elements such as marketing, PR, e-commerce for instance.
In addition to meeting the wonderful public who attend the store (and who knows who you’ll meet) there are many Industry contacts that also visit stores. Product sales representatives for instance, getting to know these people means you have a real life contact within that company, whether it’s Gibson, Fender, Roland. How you use those contacts is up to you but you may hear of jobs or even be recommended by them for a position. There are obviously career routes within the sales/retail environment too, you could become a sales rep, store manager.
Working in a Music store/retail environment means you have broken into the Music Industry, congratulations!
Professional Product demonstrator
I use the term professional to differentiate between the person who reviews their own gear on YouTube and those who are paid by companies to make such videos or do traditional product demonstration. The life of a product demonstrator can vary depending on how they operate. Some are freelance, others are on a paid monthly salary for a particular brand/product/company. Pay can therefore vary greatly. The traditional product demonstrator role consisted of travelling to locations to perform and demonstrate the musical gear. So if you were considering this path you will obviously need to be able to drive and be prepared to travel long distances, alone. Other demonstrators have utilised new media to conduct their business, developing video/audio production skills to produce products for companies.
Some of the core skills of successful demonstrators are. Excellent communication skills whether interpersonal, addressing a large audience or on camera. A greater than average ability on their instrument, often across a number of genres of music is also expected from employers…so you’ll need to put in some hours in the woodshed!
Experience, level of expertise, reputation and of course attitude all impact upon the salary level that can be demanded. I’ll be explaining how to break into this particular bit of the Industry in greater detail in a future Blog post so stay tuned.
Those who can, teach.
I am not referring to a traditional Music teacher at school here, I am referring to the many self employed private tutors who make their living teaching music.
We all know that there are huge differences in the quality of tuition being offered in this way but there are many, extremely professional, fully vetted tutors working out of reputable premises who have waiting lists for students. A check of the latest suggested Musicians Union rates show’s a very comfortable hourly rate. Knowing your instrument, patience, organisation skills and of course interpersonal skills are a must. Find yourself a great tutor, learn from them and if you think its right for you, you could take the plunge into a very rewarding career as a tutor too.
Not sold on those career types? You could try these creative ways of making money from your music.
Lee is the Dawsons in-house Guitar presenter for all guitar related videos. He is also the UK demonstrator for Roland & BOSS, performing all over the UK.