When you think of a career in music, you might start with the performers who are center stage. But when you pull back the curtain, you’ll find people with an array of music business jobs and careers that help make performances possible. You have the people who coordinate and promote the music, the folks in the recording studios and on the soundboard who make the musical act sound topnotch, the writers who compose and arrange the music, and much more. 

There’s more to a career in music than just performance — it can involve one or many disciplines. The more versatile you are, the more opportunities you will have to work in the music business. 

Breaking into the music business is harder than other industries. Competition is high, but if you hone your craft, network with the right people, and put in the hard work, here are some music business careers to consider and what compensation you can expect out of them.*

* Salary information is from the 2016 Edition of Music Careers Dollars and Cents by the Career Development Center at Berklee College of Music

1. Music Producer

Want to be a jack of all trades? A producer understands both the creative and commercial side of the business and develops relationships with both musicians and the record label. A producer should create an environment that enables artists to create and express themselves. A producer also assists an artist’s recording project with many of the details, including choosing which material to record, interfacing with the recording engineer, adapting arrangements, balancing the recording budget, and influencing mixes.

What to Learn: If you’re looking to become a music producer, consider learning about foundational audio and music concepts, start studying various types of software, and dive into what makes a good sound. To be a truly great producer, you’ll need to acquire knowledge in engineering and mixing. Look at the credits of your favorite albums: who produced them? Who engineered them? Find out what other albums these people produced, and get even further acquainted with their style. Read interviews with these people about their techniques. There isn’t one path to success here, but you can forge your own way as you develop the necessary skill set. 

What’s the Money Like?
$25,000 – $1,000,000+

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2. Recording Engineer

An audio engineer is responsible for capturing sound and manipulating it in the studio. You’ll deal with both analog and digital audio, compressors, microphones, and signal flow—and typically combine both traditional and tech-savvy recording techniques to record music. You could also be responsible for organizing recording sessions and repairing any technical problems when they arise. And sometime you may catch the brunt of the producer or musicians if something goes wrong in recording that magic take!

What to Learn: Become well-versed in multiple recording technologies and develop file management skills. Some jobs in sound engineering may require additional training in mixing and editing. You’ll also need to know how to solve problems, run recording sessions and take initiative.

What’s the Money Like?
$25,000 – $150,000+

3. Musician for Hire/Session Musician

As a session musician, you back and perform on another musician’s album or perform with various acts onstage. This means you have the freedom to dabble in multiple styles, genres, and sounds. You’ll interact, meet, and form relationships with a heap of other musicians. You may be asked to contribute to a recording session or join a band on tour. If you’re extremely proficient at your instrument, the path to becoming a successful session musician can be rewarding and even lead to a solo career. Before their solo careers, Stevie Ray Vaughan was a session musician for David Bowie, Sheryl Crow was a back-up singer for Michael Jackson, and Jimmy Page played in countless recording sessions. And some recording studios even have their own house bands. (See Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Muscle Shoals, and Twenty Feet From Stardom. Really! See these movies!)

What to Learn: A successful session musician is a connoisseur of their instrument and has a solid reputation for their craft. You should be able to step into any musical arrangement to offer your skills and also be proficient and experienced at improvisation. Another necessity is to learn how to build a reliable network and solid relationships. You’ll want to have great communication skills and general industry knowledge.

What’s the Money Like?
Extremely wide range, $100 – $2,500 per day or up to $100,000+
The American Federation of Musicians (AFofM) specifies the minimum rate

4. Artist Manager

An artist manager exists to create opportunities, connect, and propel the musical act forward. You have to wholeheartedly believe in your artist and help them build a strong and sustainable career through planning, organization, directing, and negotiating. You may not get all of the credit and adoration that the artist gets, but you’ll have to do as much—if not more—work! See that photo above? You probably recognize at least 80 percent of the people, and know their names. But how about the man in the center? That’s Brian Epstein, the manager of the Beatles during their rise to fame. Without the influence of Brian Epstein, it’s likely you’d never know the names John, Paul, George, and Ringo, much less know any of the music they made.

What to Learn: Management and leadership skills are key here. Not only will you be streamlining and organizing multiple moving parts between musicians, publishers, and booking agents but you’ll also be making sales calls, negotiating contracts, and giving constructive criticism.

What’s the Money Like?
10 -50 percent of artist’s earnings
$30,000 – $200,000 for a developing artist
$2,000,000 – $10,000,000 for a mega successful artist

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5. Tour Manager
As a tour manager, you’ll be involved in every aspect of a band’s career on the road. You’re the behind-the-scenes mastermind who has hands in every piece of transportation, accommodation, scheduling, and finances of a tour. You’ll make things run smoothly for everyone involved. You’ll need to have self-motivation and be okay with shouldering the band’s responsibilities—especially the financial ones.

What to Learn: You’ll need to know the industry like the back of your hand. There are music business management programs you can study but you should also self-study tour logistics, accounting principles, and daily scheduling management. Get experience in different components of the live music industry and learn to anticipate and cater to needs while sticking to the schedule. To get a more thorough sense of what this job entails, read our profile on Berklee Online alum and Wilco tour manager Ashley ‘PK’ Mogayzel.

What’s the Money Like?
$2,500 – $10,000 per week for theater/arena-level touring

Breaking into the music business is harder than other industries. Competition is high, but if you hone your craft, network with the right people, and put in hard work, here are some careers to consider and what compensation you can expect.… Click To Tweet

6. Music Teacher
Teaching can take on a variety of forms. You could teach in a school, a small music shop, or teach independently. You could teach theory or a specific instrument. You’ll also have freedom to choose which age range you’d like to teach—each one comes with its own advantages and obstacles. If you like encouraging people, sharing knowledge, and practicing patients, a career teaching music could be right for you.

What to Learn: Your required education and background depends on which teaching path you’re most interested in. For example, teaching in a school will likely require more certifications than going down a self-employed route. You’ll certainly need to be proficient in the subject you’re teaching and feel confident giving lessons.

What’s the Money Like?
$30-$120 per hour for studio teacher/private instructor
NOTE: Lesson fee should reflect amount of teaching experience and the going rate in a region. Be aware that it may take some time to build up a profitable clientele. Travel to a private student’s home may require an additional fee.

$30,000-$71,181 for a public school music teacher (K-12)
NOTE: Requires state certification. Schools are supported largely by property taxes so schools in wealthier communities are typically able to pay more.

$43,140 -$67,360+ for an assistant professor (full-time on a tenure track)
NOTE: Salary depends on the size of the institution, budget, and reputation of the teacher. At least a master’s degree is required, more often a PhD.

7. Booking Agent

Your job here is to get the band onstage. Booking agents facilitate a lot of the logistics around live performances, including securing concert venues, negotiating deals, arranging technical equipment, and hospitality. You’ll work closely with management (of the artists and the venues) and event promoters and determine what an artist’s touring schedule will look like.

What to Learn: A degree in music management, marketing, or accounting would help you prepare you for a career as a booking agent.  You’ll want to learn about contract negotiation, copyright law, sales, marketing, and event planning. Begin working in event promotion and administrative roles to understand the foundational elements of booking shows. 

What’s the Money Like?
$20,000 – $3,000,000
Commissions range, typically 10-20 percent of the act’s gross income per show.
$50,000 for a developing artist
$500,000 – $3,000,000 for a star
$50,000 – $250,000/Booking Specialty Agent

8. Publicist

A music publicist works closely with media outlets, marketers, and venues. Publicists ensure that their musicians’ concerts, releases, and announcements are covered by the media in a way that feeds positively into their public perception while increasing awareness of the artist. The good news is that you’ll see your hard work pay off in a very tangible way—whether that’s a sold-out show or a spot on the radio. It can be tough to break through to journalists in a media landscape that is increasingly cutting staff and eliminating outlets that cover music. This role is more than just PR—it’s about selling a story, building a network, managing a reputation, and staying ahead of the game.

What to Learn: This is a communications and marketing-based role, so start there. Learn the basics of public relations strategy and develop your people skills. To become a publicist, you’ll have to network, be tenacious in your outreach efforts, and ask the right questions. Arm yourself with on-the-ground experience as well as writing, crisis communications, and publicity campaign development. 

What’s the Money Like?
$500-$10,000 per month

9. Composer

Composers aren’t just tied down to the classical music genre; they can write for film, TV, and video games. They can also write and arrange recorded or live music across genres. Regardless of which avenue you wish to pursue, you must have a masterful understanding of music theory, you must be able to really play one or many instruments, and have the technical capabilities to capture your compositions effectively, whether it be through music notation or recording.

What to Learn: Formal education and experience are keys to success here. Composers are proficient in one or many instruments and have a deep understanding of music theory and arrangement. Being a great composer means understanding the technicalities and mechanics of music on multiple levels. Start learning composition software and begin practicing. There are event elements of sound engineering that can come in handy, like notation software and recording programs.

What’s the Money Like?
Composers are usually paid on a per-project basis.

Television
$1,500-$7,500+ for a 30-minute episode
$2,000-$15,000+ for a 60-minute episode
$2,000-$55,000+ for a TV movie

Film Score Composer
$0-$10,000+ for a student film
$2,500-$500,000+ for an indie feature 
$35,000-$2mil+ for a studio feature 

Video Game Composer
$30,000-$75,000+ for Creative Fee deal – interactive game (30 min. of music)
$30,000-$60,000+ for Package Fee deal – interactive game (30 min. of music) – covers composing and all expenses
$300-$600 per minute of finished music for casual games (creative fee only)

10. Music Arranger
A music arranger is responsible for taking a piece of written music and reorganizing it to achieve a new sound or goal. You might have a client ask you to take a pop piece and add a Latin rhythm, shorten or lengthen a piece, or change the key. Arranging is a specialized skill and those who pursue it can work as a freelancer or for a band or music organization.

What to Learn: Music arrangement can be a single career or an added skill set as a writer and composer. An arranger, like a composer, also requires a deep understanding of music theory, different instrument groups and how they work with one another. Before learning about arranging, learn the fundamentals of music theory, composition, and the technical aspects involved.

What’s the Money Like?
$20,000-$43,000+