What to Know Before Choosing a Career in Music

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If you love music and know you want to make it your job, the hardest part might not be committing to going for it but choosing your perfect music career. There are tons of different ways you can get involved in music and lots of different music jobs you can do.

This guide should help you narrow down your list a little and figure out which part of the music business suits you best. Below you'll find some common music careers and the pros and cons for each that you should consider before making the leap. You'll also find links to more information about each career.

The Pros of Running a Record Label

  • Running a record label, you never have to work with music you don't love or a band that drives you crazy.
  • You can get a hand in every step of the process, from choosing the releases, picking a release date, planning the promotion, working on tours, and so on.

The Cons of Running a Record Label

  • Requires an upfront investment. Someone has to pay for that first release.
  • It can be a very long time before you make any money - just as you get to have a hand in every part of a release, you often have to pay for most of those part, so juggling cash flow is a challenge.
  • Requires good organizational skill, and you must be able to self-motivate.

The Pros of Working for a Label

  • Learning the ropes of record labels without taking any of the financial risks yourself.
  • A chance to sample different aspects of the music industry, to help you figure out where your strengths are.
  • The pay may not always be great, depending on the size of the label, but it's still better than footing the bill yourself.

The Cons of Working for a Label

  • You don't get to pick the music, so you may not love every album you're working on.
  • At larger record labels, you could essentially end up doing office work instead of working closely with music.

The Pros of Being a Music Manager

  • As a music manager, you get to have involvement in every aspect of a band's career, and thus, you get a hand in many different parts of the music business.
  • You get to work with music you love.

The Cons of Being a Music Manager

  • If you work independently for up and coming bands, payday can be a long way off - and you may have to spend some money up front.
  • Band/manager relationships can get dicey.
  • Can be very stressful - managers shoulder a lot of responsibility, and when things go wrong (and they will), you're in the crosshairs.
  • Requires organization, self-motivation, and you have to be willing to speak up and ask for the things you want.

The Pros of Being a Music Promoter

  • Being a music promoter is the perfect job if you love live music
  • Pulling off a great show is thrilling
  • You get to work with bands you love.
  • Can pay well, depending on what kinds of shows you're doing.

The Cons of Being a Music Promoter

  • If you work independently, in small venues and with smaller bands, can cost you a fortune - breaking even can be a good night.
  • Tons of responsibility - show day can be very stressful.
  • Can be one of the most thankless jobs in music. To some bands - if the show is good: yay us! If the show is bad: boo you!
  • Promo is hard work, and it could all be for now - you can't MAKE anyone write about the show or come to the gig.

The Pros of Being a Music Agent

  • Another good job for people who love live music.
  • Gives you the chance to work with managers, bands, promoters, and labels.
  • Let's you have a hand in putting shows together without being on the "front lines" like promoters.

The Cons of Being a Music Agent

  • Can be hard to break into - it can take a long time to get established as an agent.
  • Unless you get lucky and get a job at an agency right off the bat, you may have to work for little to no money while you're building a name for yourself.
  • Requires good organizational skills - there are lots of moving parts when you're booking a tour.
  • When a band is on tour, you're on call.

The Pros of Being a Music Distributor

  • Get to hear all of the new releases before anyone else and are always the first to know when new albums are coming out.
  • Get to work closely with record labels and record stores.
  • Can be a reliable paycheck.

The Cons of Being a Music Distributor

  • Often have to sell releases that you don't like
  • Some jobs at distribution companies can go far from the music - packing up boxes, dealing with freight companies, etc.
  • Unless you have deep pockets, not a job for someone who wants to run their own music-related business.
  • Can be stressful - labels miss release dates, stores don't pay on time, and so on.

The Pros of Being a Sound Engineer

  • Get to take part in the excitement of live shows
  • May get to go on tour with bands
  • Great for people who like the technical side of music

The Cons of Being a Sound Engineer

  • Pay can vary greatly, depending on what kind of shows you are doing
  • You'll need to roll with the punches of working on the best sound desks to the worst and still make it sound good
  • Like promotion can be a bit thankless. If the band sounds great, they'll congratulate themselves. If the band sounds bad, they like to blame the sound engineer. (Well, not EVERY band, of course, but it happens often.)

The Pros of Being in Music PR

  • Get to closely with the media
  • You get to see the payoff for your work quickly when something you're promoting gets reviewed or played on the radio.
  • Can pay well.

The Cons of Being in Music PR

  • Very hard work - just getting people to answer your phone calls is a job in itself, and it can take a long time to build up media contacts
  • Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you can't generate any buzz for a record, which puts you in the crosshairs of the band/label
  • Lots of repetitive work - calling X, Y, and Z for the 100th time, re-sending promos you've already sent, and so on.