20 Careers in Music to Pursue Your Passion

Updated December 9, 2021
flute player orchestra musician

While not everyone who loves music can be a best-selling recording artist who performs in packed arenas, there are quite a few ways to turn your affinity for music into a career. Discover 20 ways to pursue your passion for music in your professional life.

Orchestra Musician

Performing with an orchestra can be a good way for talented musicians to earn a living. This typically involves auditioning for a spot in a symphony or other performance group and performing in a variety of live shows and educational programs, as well as playing on recordings. Pay varies widely based on the size of the market in which the symphony is located. The average pay for a professional orchestra musician is around $47,000 per year.

Orchestra Conductor

Every orchestra has a conductor. They are responsible for leading the orchestra, both during performances and behind the scenes. They are responsible for selecting orchestra members via auditions, choosing performance pieces, overseeing rehearsals, and inspiring musicians to perform their best. They also often have fundraising responsibilities. The average pay for orchestra conductors is around $50,000 per year.

Church Music Director

If you love worship music, you may enjoy working as the music director for a church. These jobs typically involve all aspects of music ministry, including leading and performing with the choir and other musicians, as well as selecting musical pieces for church services and special events. The average pay for music ministry jobs is around $32,000 per year, though it can be significantly higher at large churches with a multi-person music team.

Music Composer

Most music composers are usually self-employed individuals who enter into contracts to write music for clients or projects. Composers often enter into contractual agreements to create music for movies, TV shows, plays, and commercials, or for individual performers who are seeking compositions to record. Music composers are typically paid per piece or project. On average, professional music composers earn around $50,000 per year.

Songwriter

Like music composers, songwriters tend to be self-employed individuals. Many songwriters hope to sell songs they have created to big-name recording artists or movie/TV producers via deals that include an upfront payment and ongoing royalties. Others enter into agreements to create work made for hire, which means they are paid a flat fee, and transfer all rights to the client who commissioned it. The average pay for working songwriters is around $50,000 per year.

Independent Musician

People who work independently as professional musicians typically make a living by booking performance gigs. They sometimes perform at weddings, funerals, or other special events. They may also do studio work or provide instrumental support for vocalists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly rate of pay for musicians and singers is just over $41 per hour.

Independent Singer

singer in a small nightclub gig

As with musicians, those with vocal talent may work as independent singers who perform work for clients on a gig basis. They often sing at weddings, funerals, and other special events. Some work as backup singers for solo artists or established bands, while others may record vocals for advertising jingles. BLS groups musicians and singers together, so the median pay for this type of work is the same as for musicians (just above $41 per hour).

Bar/Cover Band Member

Pay varies greatly for people who play in cover bands that perform in bars or at dances, weddings, class reunions, or other special events. Bands set their rates based on a variety of factors, such as demand for their services, the local going rate, and the number of musicians in the band. In some clubs, bands are paid only a percentage of the door or bar. For private gigs, pay for a band can vary from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, with the take divided among individual members.

Sound Technician

Not all jobs for music lovers involve performing or writing music. If you love both music and technology, you may want to combine your interest in these two fields to work as a sound technician. This type of work involves setting up and operating sound-focused electronic equipment for performances and recordings. Sound technicians work in places like theaters, where live shows are performed, event venues, recording studios, and more. The median annual pay for sound technicians is $50,000.

Music Producer

Working as a music producer is another interesting option for music lovers who are interested in the technical aspects of the field. Music producers oversee recording sessions and post-production. They work closely with artists and sound technicians. They also handle negotiating contracts, overseeing budgets, creating production timelines, and keeping things on track via overall project management duties. The average pay for music producers is around $50,000 per year.

Director (Stage or Screen)

Working as a director for musical theater productions, movies, or other performances is an interesting career path for music lovers to pursue. This type of work generally requires significant professional performance or production experience. Directors are responsible for casting shows, leading rehearsals, and inspiring performers to do great work on stage. The median pay for directors is around $76,000 per year.

Radio Broadcaster

Radio broadcasters, also known as disc jockeys (DJs), introduce, comment on, and play recorded music over the airwaves. They also engage in banter with listeners, do live spots for advertisers, and announce or promote events of interest to the audience. Some radio DJs work for local market stations, while others work on programs that are produced for syndication and played in multiple markets or via satellite radio. The average pay for radio broadcasters is around $38,000 per year.

Club/Event DJs

Not all DJs work for radio stations. Some work in nightclubs or provide DJ services for parties, weddings, and other special events. Many DJs are self-employed, though some nightclubs do employ DJs as staff members. The mean rate of pay for DJs in bars and lounges is $17.75 per hour. Self-employed DJs set their own rate for gigs, which often range from $50 - $100 per hour or a comparable flat rate for a multi-hour gig.

Music Booking Agent

Bands and independent musicians typically contract with a booking agent, who is responsible for helping them secure gigs. Rather than being paid a salary, booking agents usually earn a percentage of each gig they secure for their clients. Some are self-employed, while others work for talent agencies. The average pay for music booking agents is around $41,000 per year, though those who work with clients who command high dollars for their performances can earn significantly more.

Music Publicist

Recording artists, orchestras, theater companies, and others who offer musical entertainment to the public need the services of public relations professionals who know how to promote what they have to offer to prospective listeners and attendees. If you love music and are interested in marketing, working as a music publicist might be the perfect career choice for you. The average compensation for music publicists is around $62,000 per year.

Entertainment Attorney

Professional musicians and music industry companies need the advice of legal experts who are knowledgeable about the music business. That's where the practice of law intersects with careers in music. Entertainment attorneys who focus on the music industry primarily deal with legal matters associated with contracts, copyrights, royalty payments, and intellectual property rights. The average pay for music lawyers is around $67,000 per year.

K-12 Music Teacher

grade school music teacher

Music teachers who work in school systems must be certified teachers. Many have an undergraduate degree in music education, while some have a bachelor's degree in a different field with a master's degree in music education. They teach music classes as well as direct music-related programs in the schools where they work, such as the marching band or chorale. The average pay for K-12 music teachers is around $53,000 per year.

Music Professor

A Ph.D. in music is generally required to work as a full-time music professor at a college or university. Working as a music professor involves teaching a variety of classes, including music theory and performance topics, as well as engaging in research and other academic enhancement endeavors. It may also involve overseeing performance groups and organizing recitals and shows. The average pay for music professors is around $94,000 per year.

Adjunct Music Instructor

Working as an adjunct music instructor at an institution of higher learning can be a good part-time opportunity for those who have a master's degree or Ph.D. in music. Musicians who have other kinds of jobs often teach a few classes each semester as an adjunct at a community college or four-year school for supplemental income. This kind of work is paid per credit hour taught. The average adjunct instructor pay for a 3-credit hour course is around $2,700.

Private Music Teacher

Entrepreneurial musicians sometimes start their own businesses as private music teachers. Individuals who do this type of work offer music lessons. Some go to students' homes to teach them individually, while others have a studio where students can go for individual or group lessons. There is not a specific educational requirement for this type of work. Private music teachers generally charge an hourly rate. The median hourly pay for private music teachers is $27 per hour.

Which Career Path Is Music to Your Ears?

People are often surprised to learn that there are quite a few in-demand careers in the arts. As you can see from the list above, there are many ways to make a living in the music industry. From performing and creating music or providing support to those who do, to teaching the next generation of musicians, there are a lot of great options to consider.

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20 Careers in Music to Pursue Your Passion