4 Music Careers for Non-Musicians

Published: Oct 13, 2020

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When you think about careers in music, you likely think about musicians. However, there are many music careers that don’t require mastery of a musical instrument. So, if you love music and want to build a career in or around it, here are some of the top professions to consider.

1. Music producer

Music producers play a huge part in the music industry. Music producers oversee almost every aspect of creating a song or album. During recording sessions, producers typically choose the instruments, musicians, and vocalists to use. Producers do everything they can to increase the quality of a song as it’s being recorded. Typically, music producers are responsible for a song's final edit.

Since renting studio time to record music can be costly, music producers need to make quick decisions. They also need to quickly put their imagination and vision into the final product. 

Educational requirements

There’s no particular degree needed to become a full-fledged music producer. But there are relevant courses that colleges offer (for undergrads and continuing ed students). These include recording principles, audio workstations, audio engineering techniques, and electronic music.

How to get started

The good news is you don’t need to buy expensive instruments. To start, if you don’t have it, a basic knowledge of music theory can help. One way to get it is to learn how to play an instrument. Note that you don’t need to become a great musician; learning an instrument is just a way to help you understand music theory. Instruments you can learn relatively easily and quickly to understand music theory include the organ, piano, and acoustic guitar. These instruments are also commonly used in music production.

Then, you’ll want to set up your DAW (digital audio workstation). Select a platform and start experimenting with it. Take slow and careful steps. Make your first song. Then learn to mix it and master it. This will help you grow the fundamental skills you need to become a music producer. Eventually, down the line in your career, you might want to specialize in producing a certain genre of music.

2. Recording engineer

Recording engineers mix the sound of songs and records. They also make sure the recording studio is ready for recording. In the studio, they operate the mixing console and handle all studio equipment. In most cases, all the instruments are recorded separately. Recording engineers will mix all of them up separately, manipulating each recorded piece. Engineers manipulate tempo, intensity, and sound effects. 

Educational requirements

Becoming a recording engineer requires some skills. These skills can be learned in vocational schools, community colleges, or universities—there are even four-year programs dedicated to sound engineering. Undergraduate majors for sound engineers typically include audio technology and music production.

How to get started

Since recording engineering is a very technical job, start out by watching other sound engineers work. You can do that by going to your local recording studio (when it reopens for business). Ask if you can watch engineers work. If they say yes, pay attention to how they work. Ask them questions about procedures and concepts (first ask if they’re open to fielding questions). After you’ve watched for a while and asked questions, ask if you can be an engineer’s apprentice. Succeeding in the music industry depends on making connections. Take any possible opportunity you can get.

Eventually, you’ll need specific skills to advance your career. These skills include mastering music software, editing, and mixing. You’ll also need a very flexible personality, as your work will involve working with many different people.

3. Music journalist

Music journalists connect audiences with music through articles, videos, and podcasts. Working as a music journalist is exciting, fun, and challenging. Music journalists primarily conduct research, interact with publicists, listen to new releases, and create reports and articles. Music journalists report on music news and trends, new songs and albums, and concerts. They also interview musicians and other professionals in the music industry. Often, the work can involve travel—going to music festivals and live shows.

Educational requirements

Getting a job as a music journalist doesn’t require a degree, but some level of education can help. A bachelor’s degree is preferred. Majoring in journalism at a four-year college program is a good idea. Or you could get a master's in journalism. According to the Society of Professional Journalists, courses like economics and psychology can be helpful for a music journalist career. To work as a music journalist, it's more important to understand journalism than music.

How to get started

A music journalist can work in a variety of mediums, including newspapers and websites. If you choose to work for a local newspaper, your work will likely include stories about local musicians. National magazines focus on in-depth interviews with prominent artists. Working for websites can open up a lot of opportunities, as you’ll be able to create and publish video and audio content. Review journalists write reviews on new music and live performances.

No matter which medium they work in, music journalists must have strong writing skills, reporting skills, and interviewing skills. A good knowledge of the music industry also helps.

4. Music publicist

The music industry is filled with talented artists. To be recognized, artists needs tremendous talent and dedication. They also need something else: a good marketing strategy. Without that, even the most talented musical artists remain unknown and can’t find an audience. This is where music publicists help. Music publicists spread information about their artists to the masses, using various platforms to share stories about their clients. Music publicists commonly work with media outlets to get publicity for their artists, ensuring that their clients’ new releases, live shows, and other events get media coverage.

Educational requirements

Most music publicists have a certain level of education. In most cases, they have undergraduate degrees. Future publicists typically study English, mass communication, advertising, public relations, or marketing.

As for skill requirements, good music publicists must have strong writing and verbal skills. That means you should have a strong grasp of grammar and be a good public speaker. You also have to be a very patient person, as you’ll be representing your clients and dealing with many of their needs and desires.

How to get started

If you have an undergraduate degree and want to be a music publicist, a good place to start is learning about the responsibilities of the position. Get an understanding of how PR (public relations) works. Then, try to understand what types of artists you’re looking for. Once you identify the type, you’ll begin to look for clients. To find clients, you need to build a broad range of contacts in the industry. One way to do that is by reaching out to your network via social channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

A final note

There aren’t many industries as exciting and rewarding as the music industry. And if you’re not inclined to enter the industry as a musical director, session musician, composer, music teacher, or other type of musician, then you’ll want to research the above professions to see if one might be right for you. Note that all of these professions can be good fits for recent grads as well as career changers.

Leo Nguyen is an entrepreneur and marketing director for tech startups in South East Asia. He is also the founder of SixStringTips, a music website providing trustful and useful information to help people choose and learn how to play musical instruments, including guitar, violin, ukulele, and drums.