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Nowadays being employed in the music industry can be quite complicated and not as lucrative as one would expect. There are a fair number of musicians employed by orchestras, ensembles and bands of various genres. There are also musicians who hold positions in schools, college and universities.  Does the musical profession provide a sustainable lifestyle for those who pursue it?

The answer is complicated. First, there are not enough positions for everybody and secondly ‘higher paid’ positions that can provide a decent income are few and far between. One of the reasons is because the music industry is constantly changing, which does not allow for permanent employment to appear. Also, there are a lot of highly skilled musicians that are trying to make it out there now – and the competition is higher than it was ever before.

Securing a steady income, especially at the first stages of one’s employment, lead most people to combine several jobs to become financially established. Sometimes these income streams might be from a different sector or a combination of two sectors. Here is a list of some income streams that musicians today use to build their careers:

  1. Orchestra / Ensemble: This can be a contract position or a per service position but still one of the highest paying steady jobs that performers are actively seeking.  
  2. Chamber Music: Smaller ensembles can perform at different functions that provide an additional income stream that is very important for freelance musicians. You must be very careful when it comes to performing smaller ensembles because you are getting judged not only by your performance but also by your social skills and character.  
  3. Teaching: Is both rewarding and financially consistent as there are always families that wish to have their children learn music throughout their formative years of education. 
  4. Recording: Is becoming more popular these days. Recordings can take place at studios for commercial albums, advertisements, or soundtracks etc. Recordings can also consist of homemade videos for vlogs, social media, or other online media. Establishing an online presence creates an opportunity to further expand audiences on an international level. 
  5. Technical Support: This is an income stream that can be very rewarding but requires training and constant development. Technical support teams (stage and studio crew), instrument and equipment designers/workers, and instrument repair technicians are some of the categories in this stream. Recently, musicians have started learning how to repair instruments. Being a skillful and experienced repair technician will not only guarantee a steady income, but also establish relationships with other musicians.
  6. Administration: Concerts, festivals, and organizations etc., require a strong administration team to function properly. It is proven that musicians with a strong sense of management can be more beneficial to music organizations rather than employees of other disciplines. 

Being a musician today is much more complicated than before. While the use of technology has provided us with more possibilities, it has also made it increasingly more competitive. You can get information about how the industry has developed and see all pros and cons from current industry professionals. Today, we have access to millions of soundtracks, and you can directly speak to the artists about their work or companies about their products.  In my opinion, being flexible and not being afraid to go out of your safety zone could lead you to more stability and financial security until you can manage to secure a position that you want in your career.