Many musicians long to “quit their day job” and work full time in the industry. You might see this as an impossible dream, but if you’re creative and hard working, it’s definitely possible to make a full-time career as a musician. Here are ten ways a musician can earn a living in the music industry while promoting their own material.
If you’re a solid and versatile musician, you could make decent money being a session or studio musician. Session musicians work with soloists - or bands whose drummers had a tantrum and left halfway through recording - to record additional instruments on a studio album. You’re not a member of the band, so you won’t get royalties or any of the limelight, but you do get paid for your time, as well as experience playing a variety of different styles.
Session work has another upside – it puts you in contact with a wide range of bands, artists, sound engineers and music professionals. If you do a good job and are friendly and helpful, they’ll remember you when your own album comes out.
Music publishers and many commercial companies hire songwriters to compose commercial jingles, movie scores, and pieces for established artists to play. You’ll need a good background in music theory to be a songwriter, but it can be a lucrative, continuous source of work.
The bands and artists at the top wouldn’t be there without the words of music critics, writers and bloggers. Every genre of music has glossy magazines (as well as instrument-specific magazines) or - given the trouble print is currently in - websites that need regular columnists, interviewers and reviewers.
When bands tour or festivals come to town, they need a huge crew to handle the setup, tuning, care and sound-check of a host of different instruments. If you’ve had a lot of experience with a specific instrument (anyone working retail in a music shop, this is for you) you could get a position as an instrument tech on a show. Most techs travel with a tour, so you’ll need a flexible schedule and a body that can function on a few hours’ sleep.
There’s a saying that “those who can’t do, teach.” But I say – why not do both? Teaching can be one of the most enjoyable things you’ll ever do, and having students in your own home means never having to get a job at an office. You could teach community classes, become a lecturer at your university, or coach up-and-coming talent.
Musicians need album covers, posters, and merchandise – not to mention tattoo designs to perfect their badass image. If you’ve got artistic talent and know your way around Photoshop, you could quickly become the go-to designer for bands in your area. Graphic design skills can be a great way in with music magazines and labels – many are sorely lacking in decent designers.
If you’ve got a spare shed that’s home only to a growing population of spiders, you could rent it out to bands as a rehearsal space (after you evict the spiders, of course!) Many bands struggle to find spaces in densely populated areas [in Brooklyn, you can apparently make a killing], so if you’ve got the rooms to spare, why not help out some local talent and get a bit of extra cash while you’re at it?