Making music your career: Options for instrumental and vocal music majors

by Ed Ventura | Mar 23, 2018

Edited by Susan Sullivan | March 23, 2018 

Instrumental and Vocal Music Careers 

When you think about earning a bachelor’s degree in music, do you (or your parents) wonder about the availability, stability, and pay for careers that require musical training and knowledge?

Luckily, there are tons of career opportunities for music majors. Marian University’s music program will provide you with practical training in both music performance and music education.

Most musicians have multiple income streams. Many have full-time "day jobs" in teaching or arts administration but they perform professionally during evening and weekend gigs. They also give private lessons and work as short-term session musicians for projects ranging from advertising to videos and CDs.

Here are a few full-time career opportunities for music majors to consider. 

Arts administrator

Music schools, museums and cultural institutions, nonprofit organizations, theatres, and a variety of performance venues are led by teams of administrators, managers, directors, and chief executives, many of whom majored in music or another creative art.

For a career in arts administration, consider adding a minor in business to your studies. This will give you a good mix of creative skills that are balanced with practical, applied knowledge. It’s a mix that will help you understand best practices for management and operations while maximizing profitability in arts-related organizations.

According to payscale.com, the average median salary for a museum director in Indianapolis 2018 with five years of experience is $46,000 and the high is $71,000. In a larger metropolitan area like New York City, however, the median 2018 salary for those with five years of experience is $68,000 with a high of $111,000.

Promoter, agent, manager, or producer

Want an exciting, fast-paced career working as a concert promoter, talent and booking agent, business manager for individual or groups of performers, or a producer of live or recorded performances?

In these roles, you’ll enjoy a variety of responsibilities. You might plan and manage world-wide tour logistics for a band or group of performers. You could oversee promotions, advertising, sponsorships, and marketing for single performances as well as a series of appearances. Or you might coordinate all financial, travel, technical, and business arrangements for individual musicians who would rather focus on honing their writing and performing skills.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, classifies concert promoters as "advertising, promotions and marketing managers." The BLS reports that jobs for these professionals will increase 10 percent through 2026, with a median salary of $127,560 in 2016. The average 2016 wage for talent agents and managers was $86,560.

Music directors and composers

Music directors (also known as conductors) lead live and recorded performances. In comparison, composers create and arrange original musical compositions of all types and styles.

Many music directors work in churches, religious organizations, and high school and college settings. They oversee performances of all types—from half-time entertainment during athletic events to musical theatre productions, concerts, and other forms of entertainment for students and the general public. Music directors are also responsible for managing practices, rehearsals, and performances for large and small musical and vocal groups, including marching bands, instrumental ensembles, orchestras, choirs, and vocalists.

Composers are the novelists of the musical world. As a composer, it is their job to write compelling music compositions for artistic and commercial means. They use their skills of harmonic, melodic, tonal and rhythmic structure as well as their knowledge of vocal and instrumental capabilities to develop their musical ideas.

While the core skill is to create original work, many composers also work on transcriptions and interpretations of existing music 

Composers can be found working from their homes, in recording studios, and offices. Most are self-employed.

Both need to understand and have the ability to manage efficient and effective operations and balance budgets to ensure there are funds for uniforms, instruments, supplies, and travel expenses associated with local, regional, national, and international performances or competitions.

According to the BLS, growth in this field through 2026 is projected to be about six percent. The average salary for music directors and composers was $50,110 in 2016.

Music teacher

Similar to other teachers, music teachers run the gamut in terms of skill level and subject matter. You’ll find music teachers working in K-12 schools with large and small groups of student-musicians in elementary, middle, and high school musical programs. You’ll also find them in colleges and universities. In both settings, they plan lessons, teach music theory, and plan, manage, and direct practices, dress rehearsals, and live concerts and performances.

In comparison, private music teachers work with individual students, from young children through mature adults. Some work from their homes while others travel to student homes or work from a studio. Usually, private teachers specialize in one instrument or vocal technique. They provide custom plans of study for students based on their age levels and abilities.

In addition to state licensure, a bachelor’s degree in music or music education is necessary to teach in K-12 settings; a master’s degree or higher is typically required to teach music at the college level. According to the Bureau Labor of Statistics, the average annual salary for a post-secondary music teacher is $81,050.

Broadcast and sound engineers

These technicians use audio systems and tools to mix and produce live and recorded music for a variety of uses, like film scores, live concerts, and theatrical performances. They also produce music and sound tracks for cable, network, and streaming service television programs, broadcast advertising, and radio stations.

Audio engineers typically work in radio, TV, movie, and recording studios, although many work in large hotels and convention centers, arenas, corporate headquarters, and schools.

The best broadcast and sound engineers are well-versed in music history, audio technologies and tools, and technical equipment capable of capturing or enhancing high-quality audio and sounds of all types, from music to the spoken word and more. The average annual salary of a broadcast and sound engineer was $42,550 in 2016.

Music industry publicist or public relations manager

Public relations experts are responsible for developing and maintaining the desired image for individuals or organizations. While the job does require a lot of hard skills and knowledge such as public communications, social media, event management and design, you also need a range of soft-skills such as networking.

According to BLS, public relations specialists earn an average salary of $ 58,020 annually in 2016 with public relations managers earning an average of more than $107,000.

The music industry is as much a business as it is a creative enterprise. Marian University’s music degree will give you deep, diverse musical knowledge and experience. And by adding a minor in business, you’ll also gain the skills and experience necessary to have a fulfilling career on the business-side of the music industry.

Want to learn more about how Marian University’s Department of Music can prepare you for a harmonious career? Contact the Office of Undergraduate Admission at (317) 955-6300, (800) 772-7264, or admissions@marian.edu.

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