The Best Day Jobs for Musicians
There are countless rap songs about how you gotta hustle if you wanna get paid for a reason; in the music industry, nearly everyone starts out at the bottom, juggling a day job (or three) while trying to make it doing what you really love. This isn’t true just for musicians. It can apply to newly-minted Sound Techs, independent Record Label Owners, and first-time Concert Promoters — really anyone who’s struggling to pay their bills till their business starts showing a profit, they get their big break, or they land their first job in the music industry post-college.
Keeping your head above water financially doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You don’t have to give up your dream of singing for a dreary office job that gives you a 401K, dental insurance and paid vacation just because you’re currently only making $30 a night performing at half-empty bars on Wednesday nights. We’ve compiled a list of the best day jobs for musicians and aspiring music industry entrepreneurs that offer flexibility and give some sense of autonomy. Some of these jobs make use of your passion and knowledge about music, while others take advantage of outside skills and interests you might have. Read on for our take on why these different jobs can fit into your music industry career goals, and start building the financial security you need to pursue your dreams.
Music Related Jobs
What You’ll Do: This one seems pretty obvious. As a Music Teacher, you’ll give private lessons to people of all ages who want to learn an instrument. You can teach out of your home, visit students in their homes, or work out of a music school.
Why It Works for Music Types: You’re sharing your passion for music by helping others learn, all while making what many people earn in an hour during the course of a half hour lesson. Lessons take place during the day, and to a degree you can make your own schedule, leaving evenings free for band practice and playing shows or mornings free for conducting business for your record label. You’re largely self-employed, so if you need to be gone on tour for a week, no one’s on your back about it. However, if you’re gone frequently or for long periods of time on the road, you do run the risk of losing some of your students.
Requirements: Most music schools will require at least a bachelor’s degree in Music, Performance, or Music Education with some teaching experience. Of course, this depends on the school’s individual requirements, so don’t discount yourself if you didn’t go to college or if you majored in Political Science.
What You’ll Do: Basically you’re a piano mechanic. You’ll be using your aural skills and instrument knowledge to keep pianos in tune and perform repairs.
Why It Works for Music Types: Many Piano Tuner-Technicians are in business for themselves, so they can set their own hours and leave on tour for as long as they want, whenever they want. If you love playing the piano and are fascinated by how the instrument works, this career will be even more fulfilling.
Requirements: Piano Tuner-Technicians are highly trained, having devoted years of their life to apprenticeships or college piano technology courses.
Live Sound Tech
What You’ll Do: Manage the soundboard at local clubs and concert venues, making sure the performers can hear themselves and the audience can hear the performers. This can mean some equipment repairs and troubleshooting.
Why It Works for Music Types: If you land a job at a club in your hometown, chances are they’ll have several Sound Techs on staff to cover the schedule, which can provide some flexibility if you want to hit the road with a band — whether you’re playing or touring as their Tech. There’s more freedom for Live Sound Techs who make their income touring with the crew for other bands; you can accept touring engagements to fit within your band’s touring schedule.
Requirements: There’s a huge educational investment to becoming a Live Sound Tech. You either need to attend a program at a production school or find a working Tech who’ll let you shadow/apprentice with him or her.
The belief that you can have a meaningful career is the first step to finding one.” – Sean Aiken, Author
Recording Studio Owner
What You’ll Do: Provide recording and production services for bands, voiceover actors, and so on.
Why It Works for Music Types: Owning a recording studio is, on its own, a huge balancing act in terms of money and time. If you’re also a musician, throwing the need to tour into the equation can be an added stressor for your bottom line, but there is a huge amount of independence in being able to take on clients according to your own schedule. It may sound impossible, but it does work for some people.
Requirements: A massive financial investment, depending on the size of your studio and your equipment. Depending on the services you provide and the level of artists who make up your clientele, you can get away with a smaller studio and (sometimes) a more barebones approach. You’ll also have to know studio equipment like the back of your hand, which means either graduating from a production/recording program or spending a significant amount of time apprenticing with a Recording Engineer or Record Producer.
Record Store Clerk or Music Store Salesperson
What You’ll Do: Sling records or sell musical instruments and gear.
Why It Works for Music Types: You’re using your musical knowledge to sell albums (as a Record Store Clerk) or equipment (as a Music Store Salesperson) to your fellow music lovers. The people on staff are probably pretty cool, and management is usually open to giving you time off to tour. More than likely you won’t be making a ton of money, but (depending on where you work) your schedule should be somewhat flexible and you’ll be part of a supportive community that will let you duck out early to DJ or play a show. You can even request shifts later in the day so you can handle record label biz before you come in.
Requirements: You must be extremely well-versed in at least one genre of music or instrument family. A college degree is not a requirement, and the entry-level nature of many of these positions means younger people will still be taken seriously as applicants.
Non-Music Related Jobs
What You’ll Do: Most temp jobs are in the clerical/administrative vein, so you’ll probably be filing documents, entering data, answering phones, scheduling, and handling other secretarial type duties.
Why It Works for Music Types: Your office stints have a predetermined begin and end date, so you’ll be able to schedule tour accordingly. You can pass on assignments you’re not interested in or which conflict with your schedule and the varying lengths of assignments mean you won’t get bored (or if you’re bored it won’t be for too long.) Some temp agencies also offer insurance to their workers.
Requirements: You need to already have a work history with some office experience before you apply, as your rep at the agency will show your resume to companies before they make an offer of temporary employment. A surprising amount of applicants to temp agencies have less than stellar computer skills, so you can set yourself apart from the pack by having a killer WPM typing rate, plus Powerpoint, Excel and Word knowledge.
What You’ll Do: Create eye-catching visuals for ads, publications, social media, and corporate reports.
Why It Works for Music Types: Whether you’re freelance or employed by an outside company, graphic design work can be done from home — or even on the road. This is a career where you’ll be making use of another set of creative skills you may possess, especially if you’re the type who enjoys creating band posters, album art, or logos. Fun fact: The National’s Scott Devendorf still runs his own graphic design firm.
Requirements: Graphic design training, which in most cases means college courses and/or a specific degree. You’ll also need software such as Photoshop, InDesign and other artistic tools (depending on how you prefer to work.)
What You’ll Do: Serve, bartend, bus tables or cook.
Why It Works for Music Types: Everyone knows serving and bartending gigs are synonymous with aspiring actors and musicians. The ability to switch shifts means you can play last minutes gigs or get your tour schedule covered, and working nights means your days are free for business, whether you run a small label or are trying to put together your first gigs as an independent Concert Promoter.
Requirements: Patience, good shoes, a knowledge of the restaurant menu and/or the ability to mix drinks. The majority of restaurants and bars require some serving or bartending experience, which can create a bit of a catch-22 when you’re just starting out.
“If you have to support yourself, you had bloody well better find some way that is going to be interesting.” – Katherine Hepburn, Actor
Dog Walker/Pet Sitter
What You’ll Do: Hang out with dogs and cats! Take clients’ dogs on walks or check up on them while they’re out of town.
Why It Works for Music Types: Admittedly, until you’ve established a regular client base, it can be difficult to earn enough to pay your bills while working as a pet caretaker. However, there are a lot of ways to make this fun, rewarding job work for you. If you’re employed by an agency, you can accept assignments based on your availability, and if you start your own business with a couple of friends, it’s simple to get your shifts covered when you’re on the road.
Requirements: A rapport with animals, a client network, and a fundamental knowledge of animal care (i.e. you understand dogs need to be taken on walks, and litter boxes need to be changed every day.)
Uber or Lyft Driver
What You’ll Do: Pick up people when they use the Uber or Lyft app to call a ride and drive them to the airport/work/a bar/basically anywhere.
Why It Works for Music Types: You make your own schedule. Tired from a gig the night before? You don’t have to get up early and punch the clock. You work when you want to work, for as long as you want. You’re basically your own boss and don’t have to tell anyone when you’re leaving for tour, need to take a night off to DJ or pay bands at a show you organized. The money can be nice, too, if you drive during surge hours.
Requirements: A fairly new and clean automobile, good insurance, and the ability to pass a background check. You must also take part in the company’s training program.
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