I came across an article on Music Think Tank that addressed 20 ways to have a lasting career in music. The list includes the various methods of forming a sustainable career without necessarily striking it rich as the next hip-hop phenom or pop star, a goal that many musicians aspire to (and often times rightfully so). However, just like it is difficult to get a business off the ground, becoming a successful musician does not happen overnight. In music, every overnight success was more than likely a 10+ year process of learning and struggling to hone one’s craft.
Here are some examples from the article and why I think they are suitable alternatives or complements to your ultimate pursuits as an artist:
1) Music Teacher:
As the article I mentioned points out, many music teachers need a degree to have a well-paid career for teaching private lessons or teaching at the high school or college level. For those just trying to make a buck while pursuing other music goals, picking up some lessons on how to teach music properly can help you prepare to instruct students. With the right tools, you can teach many students per week and still make a decent pay. Even Joe Satriani, the world-renowned guitarist and shredder, taught Kirk Hammett (lead guitarist of Metallica) and fellow guitar virtuoso Steve Vai at one point. Teaching an instrument will in most cases help you become a better player of your own instrument as well.
2) Music Producer:
Many successful musicians tour for the better part of the year but often have some downtime where they can return home to their studio and produce other artists’ music. Adam D. of metal band Killswitch Engage is well-known in the hard rock and metal community as a producer for many of his close peers and recorded artists such as All That Remains, Unearth, From Autumn to Ashes, Underoath, Every Time I Die and many more. Hip-hop artist and producer Timbaland is as well-known for his career as a studio producer and collaborator as he is for his own work. For the deejays and rock musicians who have mastered their skills in the studio, they might want to lend a hand to the less experienced artists who do not have the resources or skills to record a finely polished album. They can also help the pros who want another set of ears outside of their own helping with the recording process. Producing music can help pay the bills in between your live performances and can help you gain exposure for yourself as an artist. You will at some point want to have an extensive network of artists who you collaborate or converse with so you have more opportunities in the future no matter what the end goal.
3) Film/Video Game Scoring
A lot of the money artists used to rely on to make a living is gone due to poor music sales and the collapsing music industry. Although the situation is grim, there are still avenues for music composers to still make a living creating art. Whether you are an electronic artist, rock musician, or in any other genre, there are possibilities for making music for movies, television, or video games that enable you to still enjoy music while making money. You might find the constraints of working for someone else to be anything but liberating, but you could at least be making money creating something that will provide value for the end user (i.e. film/TV viewers or gamers).
Some other alternative career possibilities listed in the article include licensing music, live performance, band manager, studio/session musician, pit band for off-Broadway productions, instrument repair technician, gig booker, house band, page turner, music transcriber, ghost songwriter, and freelance music journalist.