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Earning A Living As A Musician!

Suprising as it may seem, not all musicians learn their art with the aim of becoming 'pop/rock stars!'  In fact only about 1% become famous whilst the majority of signed artists still require a second job to suppliment their income, even when signed to a record company!!

In this section we aim to provide a basic introduction to earning a living as a musician including music careers, music industry jobs and what being self employed really means.  We hope it helps you to embark on a super career with a little more understanding of what is involved.

Do you have an unusual or lesser known job in the music industry or perhaps you've had a funny, interesting or scary experience in your music job?   We'd love to hear from you, send the details for inclusion on these pages.

Earning a Living as a Musician

So how can you make a living as a musician?  Like most careers, it takes time and effort but there are many options available and whilst the wages may not be as regular as a 9 - 5 job, lets face it NO career is safe for life anymore.

The majority of working musicians are 'Self Employed' and provide a service for which they charge.  This can be anything from working as a solo artist, becoming a band member, songwriting or hiring their services out to studios and companies as a session musician.

There are a variety of Music Careers, some of these are regular jobs that give you a monthly wage packet and are advertised in national newspapers and music trade papers like The Stage Newspaper, Variety and other Music Magazines.

Before embarking on a music career it is important to take time to assess your strengths and weaknesses to evaluate whether you are capable of the stresses of self employment and to ascertain which path would best be suited to your talents.  For instance, a good musician or songwriter may find writing for television or film as a freelancer rewarding but lack the expertise to keep their own accounts, therefore either a book-keeping and small business course would be essential or applying for a regular paid job within the industry would be more suitable.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not essential to have music qualifications to achieve a career in music, many of the most famous musicians have no educational qualifications, are self taught and have learnt by experience, perseverance and determination.  If you have the opportunity and finances to join a Music Course, Singers Teachers & Music Workshops or go to College/University there is a much better chance of making a successful career in the music business, otherwise be prepared to start small and work your way up through the business by getting a job in a studio, record company, local radio station and get as much 'hands on' practice as you can whilst watching the experts at work.

Currently in the UK the Government are supplying funds for unemployed people to learn music, become a dj, radio presenter, composer, songwriter or sound engineer without losing any of their job seekers allowance or other benefits called 'New Deal for Musicians'.

Those who are comfortable with the thought of becoming self-employed should make a check list of all the areas in which their talent can be used then produce a resume.  As you become more established these areas can be expanded on and you can diversify.  Do not make the mistake of sitting on your laurels once the work starts coming in as the music industry is a fickle business and to maintain a steady stream of regular work you must be prepared to remind people who you are and what you do by self-marketing and promotion.  This can be as simple as handing out your business cards, regular courtesy calls to potential and previous employers, your own website, advertising in the media up to professional marketing and promotion depending on the type of music work chosen.

Read more in Self Employed Means...

Self Employed Means....

Doing everything yourself!!

The majority of musicians are self employed and work as freelancers providing their services to whomsoever will employ them on a contractual basis. These can be for 1 hour up to several years depending on the terms of the contract or joint agreements made.

Independance from a 'regular employer' means that you (as a Sole Trader) will be required to administrate your own business including maintaining records, keeping receipts, book-keeping, pay your own National Insurance and Income Tax plus advertise your services to potential clients.

The hours can be long and there will be times when the work is slack so ongoing promotion and an eye on the finances is essential.

Starting up a new business is relatively easy. The initial stages entail no more than ensuring you are rehearsed or otherwise prepared, initial jobs are agreed and you have a supply of stationary, business cards and other promotional material.

Receipts should be retained for ANYTHING you buy or use for business purposes, including stamps, stationary, sheet music, musical equipment and office materials (desk/computer etc). Records of all incoming and outgoing monies must be kept and some book-keeping knowledge is essential.

Networking, Advertising & Promoting your services is always 'ongoing' - you cannot rely on a contractor retaining your services exclusively, or hiring you on a regular basis as their needs change and companies go out of business.  The only way to ensure as much work as possible is to let people know 'who you are' and 'what you do'.

Most work is gained through recommendation or via a specialist employment agency. Success in any business is attained by being proficient, reliable and competant at what you do, rectifying any mistakes swiftly and keeping the contractor informed (where applicable!).

Tips -- Learning Where Money Comes From (part 2) If your goal is to be successful in the music business, you have to pay as much attention to the business as you do to the music. By Jason Blume.

The Artist Management section at Vocalist contains advice and articles on managers and self management, performers deductable expenses checklist, gross & net examples, sample management contracts, relevant books and contact addresses for management companies and music business solicitors.

Recommended Books

Music Education Directory
BPI Music Careers Guide both available from:
British Phonographic Industry

Detailed careers information available from:
The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)

Music Education Yearbook - The Guide for Parents, Teachers, Students and Musicians.

The Art of Conducting - A guide to essential skills.

book coverPeterson's Scholarships and Loans for Adult Students - The Only Guide to College Financing for Students 25 and over (Scholarships and Loans for Adult)

Musician's Resource - The Watson-Guptill Guide to Workshops, Conferences, Residential Programs, Academic Programs, Festivals, Masterclasses

Guide to Summer Schools - The annual guide to summer schools and music courses.

Guide to Scholarships - Essential reading for those seeking music scholarships.

book coverBritish & International Music Yearbook - Over 18,000 entries covering every aspect of the classical music industry both in Britain and in major centres around the world.

British Performing Arts Yearbook - A comprehensive directory of the performing arts in Britain. The book provides information on companies and solo performers, orchestras, arts festivals, suppliers and services, colleges offering courses for performers and technicians, and venues.

Music Industry Careers listing with brief descriptions and links to websites and resources specialising in music careers.

Business Advice Links

Search for Government grants for your business, community or voluntary group.

An interactive course on managing your money with sections covering everything from basic budgeting to buying a house, stocks and bonds, insurance, savings, pensions and building college funds.  American site but the information is relevant to anyone who needs help with finance management.

Better Business Magazine
Ideas and support for small businesses.

Inland Revenue - UK Free Tax & Business Start Up Advice

Small Firms Service
Providing registered office services, company formation and related products for small businesses

UK Government Business Information - UK Business Information from the government.

Key Contacts

Performing Rights Society
Gets income from the control of broadcasting rights and collects royalties on behalf of composers and publishers.

Phonographic Performance Ltd
Non-profit group that issues licences to all types of venues and radio/TV broadcasters. Administers public performances and broadcasting rights of recordings.

Independent Publishers Association
Helps independent, smaller publishing companies.

British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors
Offers a wide range of advice to members who are usually popular songwriters.

The Musicians' Union
Protects its members rights and can establish pay agreements for all types of musicians employment.

Find Work

There are several publications and online resources where musicians can find music industry job advertisements or advertise their services - (Radio & Tv job sites are listed in the relevant sections).