After working in music for approximately seven years, one of the questions I get most often is either “what should I go to school for if I want to work in music?” or “what job would I be good at?” So today, I’d like to talk about the skills that you probably already have on your resume and which music industry job they make you best suited for.
If you’d prefer to watch this information instead of reading it, you can watch the YouTube version of this below!
I think it’s often assumed that you need a special skillset in order to work in music, but half of it is just regular degular office jobs with some cool perks. There are so many things you’re already listing on your resume that would make you a valuable asset to any music company.
Some skills will be helpful no matter where you end up residing within the industry. I think the main one is having no fear of rejection. Is that a skill? I think it’s a skill. Being able to present ideas and put yourself out there without holding back because you’re afraid of the results. This industry is unfortunately going to hand you more rejections than successes most of the time, due to competition and saturation within the market. So many people are going for the same opportunities as you and there are so many things our of your control when it comes to who will be selected. But if you can stick it out long enough, it’ll be worth it.
Another important set of skills involves your work ethic: being highly motivated, being self-disciplined in keeping yourself on track with your goals, and having good time management skills. A lot of people working in music have multiple jobs, whether they’re juggling more than one industry job or working something else in order to make money so they can focus on their passions. It involves a lot of balancing to make sure that nothing slips while you’re trying to do everything.
Now into some more specialized skills.
If you’re a strong writer, whether it’s creative writing, copywriting, or another specialty, you could have a future in publicity. You have to craft press releases that are able to convey all of the information the reader needs to know while simultaneously becoming interested enough to want to give this artist their time and attention. Most people receiving press releases get tons of them every day, so they need a little something extra to stand out.
Another great fit could be music writing. Many artists need someone to write a professional biography for them that tells a story in a more interesting way than just listing their accomplishments and upcoming projects. There’s also opportunities to write freelance/full-time for music outlets or to start your own music site. Not all of these opportunities are always highly paid, but it could lead to something greater in the future. I used to write about my theories when it came to pop concept albums, and someone at Billboard reached out after seeing one. I’ve been writing freelance for them ever since! I wrote these articles on my website for $0 but it turned into something more substantial.
If you’re highly organized — like “my day planner is colour coded” organized, like “I use Asana just for fun” organized — there are many places for you within this industry. Again, publicity could be your calling. When you’re reaching out to endless lists of journalists, blogs, magazines, websites, etc. for artist coverage, you need to keep track of when you contacted them, if they responded, what coverage they’ve promised, when it’s set to go live… if you’re not organized, that’s going to get out of control super quickly.
Another job you might thrive in is frontline marketing. At record labels, the marketing manager for a project is like the hub for that artist. They’re the one that collects all of the information and shares it back out with whoever needs it. They request updates from all other departments on what they’re doing, communicate with the artist’s team, manage budgets, book advertising, confirming that all versions of the album are linked in Soundscan so they can chart properly on Billboard… essentially, most things are routed through marketing. If you’re at the artist’s domestic label, the international labels will be coming to you for more information. If you’re one of the international labels, you’ll be the one keeping track of what the domestic label is doing so you can properly follow their lead. It’s a lot of people to stay on top of, and a lot to keep under control. Did reading this stress you out? If not, marketing might be for you.
Artist management is also . I’ve always been told that being a manager is like being a glorified babysitter, and I can confirm that’s 100% true (but I love it). Artists are amazing at writing music, creating this whole world, and then turning it into something they can share with the public. Sometimes it helps to have a manager who can keep track of the behind-the-scenes aspects of the job so they can put their focus into the art. The manager can handle whatever they’re able to, and then they can delegate out whatever tasks they’re not able to take on. It’s good to be able to juggle a dozen tasks at the same time without getting overwhelmed.
If you can talk to a total stranger and make them feel like they’ve known you their entire life, if you can work with people with different personality types without clashing, and uh… if you don’t mind often having a ton of downtime sitting in a room waiting for something to happen… live music might be your calling.
These jobs involve spending a lot of time in close quarters with the same people, whether it’s for one night in a local venue or on the road sharing a van for months at a time. You need to be able to work with different personality types without clashing, it can make or break a tour. There’s a fine line between traveling the world with friends and enjoying seeing new places… and living in a nightmare where you sleep in a van every night and never get a real shower and focusing on the negatives. And the thing that usually flips that switch is the people you’re surrounded by.
Some live music jobs include:
- merch management
- front of house
- live audio engineer
When I worked in marketing, it was just a desk job. I didn’t have to interact with a huge variety of people in person, unless we had a show/event to attend, but live music is an entirely different game.
Did we all learn html through coding our Neopets user pages and MySpace profiles? There’s such a wide variety of digital & creative skills that can be massively useful in music. Whether you excel at crafting logos or merch designs, portrait photography, web design, app design, animation… there is a ton of space for you to make a name for yourself in music. I think this will require its own article/video so we’ll come back to this one in more detail in the future (I’ll add the link here when it’s done).
Do you know how many times I’ve gone to a show and seen someone’s friend working their merch table? And I have attempted to give them $40 for a $25 item and gotten back a questionable number of bills? It’s probably similar to the number of times I’ve gotten to the merch table and found someone giving off big “please do not talk to me I am just here to watch the show” vibes. Often, bands are relying on merch sales to get from city to city on tour, so they need to be selling every night. Having experience with customer service, selling, handling money… god, it would be a life changer in the DIY scene. But there’s also a huge opportunity to move up to working merch in larger venues or festivals where the high paced environment requires the skills you hone in working retail. I think often this career path is overlooked by people thinking it’s ~easy~ but… it’s truly not.
There’s also D2C (Direct To Consumer) departments at record labels, working out merch lines, setting up merch stores, fulfilling orders, etc. that could be a great fit if you’re looking to do something more office based!
Good ear for music
I know we all want to work in A&R (or at least I do), but it’s a hard door to get your foot into. You can’t really be taught how to know what music is promising; it’s just a skill you have to already possess. There are parts of the job you can learn, like the process to courting and signing an artist or how to grow their career from a business standpoint, but being able to pick out talent is just engrained in some people. However, there are definitely ways you can prove your skills in this sector to help get a job in the future.
I’ve found it helpful to have my own website where I can write about what I’m listening to and which artists I’m excited about. It makes it easy for others to reference back to when I first discovered someone vs. when they started to really pop off. It’s almost like having a resume of your history as a pretentious music hipster, but hopefully a little less insufferable. Proving you’re ahead of the curve could make you an asset to companies that are always looking to sign the next big thing.
These skills could also be used in artist management. Instead of trying to find and sign artists to record deals, you could get in a step ahead and help grow an artist to a point where they’re getting signed. Really helping them to set up their career, make good music, and fostering them to a point where A&Rs will be discovering them… then you start to build a name for yourself as someone who manages emerging artists and your whole roster can benefit from the cred you bring.
These are just a handful of the skills you may already have on your resume that would make you a huge asset to the music industry. I know this industry is treated like it’s on an unreachable pedestal, but it’s really not. It’s a job like any other, but it just has some cool perks sometimes. Getting your foot in the door isn’t always easy, but I’m here to help however I can. If you have specific questions about your skills or career path, you can leave them on this video, or you can email me!