Music as a career in the 21st century

There is an impossible amount of information anyone can learn about music — theory, history, composing, performing, sight-reading, playing by ear, learning repertoire, teaching, feeling — it’s a challenge to decide what’s important to focus on if you want to make music your career. I’ve learnt so much about music as a general topic, but have never challenged myself to try to make a living as a musician. Which leads me to think about my role as a music teacher. Most of my students will only have music as a hobby in their lives, but there are a handful who will want to be a musician full-time. The question is, how can I help a student to make music a career instead of just a hobby?

I think about the cliche statement “It’s not the same as when I was growing up” and think through the ways music careers have changed over time…

  • – constant new technology for recording music
  • – new marketing tools for getting a recording out there.

That’s all there is to it. Being a musician really hasn’t changed, which gives me hope that any music teacher can teach a student some of the skills necessary to make a living as a musician.

These are the gifts or skills I believe a working musician needs-

  1.  – a good set of ears
  2.  – the ability to reach an audience through their instrument or composition
  3.  – the know-how to book a gig (or to find an agent)
  4.  – (An interesting personality/ that special something)

The first two skills can be learnt in a classroom setting, but the second two skills come down to drive and personality. (Of course earning extra money on the side to pay the bills can be helpful, but if you’re lucky, and can book enough paying gigs, you won’t need it.)

I encourage you to disagree with me in the comment section.

I wonder how my life would have been different if I had had the drive to try and make a career out of singing or composing…

About Alison Armstrong

Alison Armstrong BMus./BEd. (Queensland University of Technology), Dip. ABRSM (Performance- Singing) I have trained to teach Music (Elementary, Middle and High School) and Drama (Middle and High School). This is my 7th year as a teacher.
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One Response to Music as a career in the 21st century

  1. I hope that you’ll notice that I didn’t put ‘understanding music theory’ or ‘understanding the history of music’ or ‘being fluent on their instrument’ as essential skills. I really believe that to make a career as a musician you just need to find an audience who are willing to listen, and a pair of ears to critique and adjust your own music to meet the audience’s expectations.

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