Pop/Rock Musicians


Exploring this Job

Talk to your music teachers at school about opportunities in music. Try to attend as many musical performances as possible; they don't all have to be in the pop/rock genre. Many clubs and other concert facilities offer all-ages shows where you can see musical artists perform firsthand. Depending on the size of the venue, you may have a chance to approach a musician after the show to ask a few questions about the field. You can learn more about the field by visiting the Web sites of the musicians you enjoy and admire most.

The best way to get firsthand experience is to learn to play an instrument or take voice lessons. Once you've mastered the basics, you can get together with friends or classmates and experiment with different musical styles. Don't forget the writing aspect of pop/rock music. Keep a journal of your thoughts and ideas. Read the lyrics of your favorite songs and try to figure out what makes them so appealing. Try to create the lyrics to a song of your own by combining this knowledge with your journal entries or other creative writing.

The Job

The lives and lifestyles of pop and rock stars—complete with limousines, groupies, and multimillion-dollar record deals—are popular subjects for magazines, TV entertainment shows, and even movies. Though most pop and rock musicians do long for this kind of success, many, in reality, have careers that are far less glamorous and far less financially rewarding. Nevertheless, for those who are devoted to their music, this work can be extremely fulfilling. Pop and rock musicians don't need to live in a major city, have international tours, or record top-selling CDs in order to enjoy this career. Opportunities for this work exist across the country at audio production studios. These studios cater to the many rock musicians writing songs, performing them, and promoting their music to regional and national audiences. Typically, rock and pop musicians have an interest in music while they are still young. They may learn to play an instrument, to sing, or to write music, and they begin to perform publicly, even if it's just for the neighborhood block party. Over time, with increasing skills and contacts in the field, they develop lives that involve performing music on a regular basis.

In order to be truly successful, rock and pop musicians need original material to perform. Some regional bands, however, do make careers for themselves by playing the music of famous bands, performing at local clubs, dances, wedding receptions, and private parties. They may specialize in a specific period of music, such as music of the 1980s or Motown hits of the 1960s. But A&R (artist and repertoire) coordinators for record companies, managers, producers, and other professionals in the recording industry are looking for musicians who write and perform their own music.

Pop and rock musicians must spend much time practicing their skills away from the stage. They work on writing music and lyrics, practicing their instruments, and practicing together as a band. Rehearsal time and commitment to the band are extremely important to these musicians. In order for the band to sound as good as it possibly can, all the instrumentalists and vocalists must develop a sense of each other's talents and styles. In order to promote their band, the members put together a recording (called a "demo" ) demonstrating their work and talent, which they then submit to club managers and music producers. When making a demo, or recording a CD for a record company, bands record in studios and work with recording professionals. Audio engineers, producers, and mixing engineers help to enhance the band's performance in order to make their music sound as good as it possibly can.

Many musicians are now also creating their own recordings using music mixing and editing software and marketing their work on the Internet at social networking sites and through other venues.

When booked by a club, the club's promotional staff may advertise a band's upcoming appearance. For the most part, however, bands that are not well known must do their own advertising. Many promote themselves through social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, posting information about shows and venues on their Web sites, and e-mailing announcements about, and invites to, upcoming shows to people on their mailing lists. They capture names and contact information for their mailing lists from people who have attended previous performances and expressed interest in hearing about future gigs. Musicians may also distribute flyers and e-mail and snail mail press releases to area newspapers and arts weeklies. Very successful pop and rock musicians have an established fan base, and their record company or promoter handles all the advertising.

On the day of the performance, pop and rock groups arrive early to prepare the stage for their show. This involves setting up instruments and sound systems, checking for sound quality, and becoming familiar with the stage and facility. Together, the band goes over the list of songs to be performed.

The size, mood, and age of the audience will likely affect a group's performance. If they are playing to a small crowd in a club, the experiences will most likely be more personal (as they see individual audience members and gauge their reactions to songs) than when playing to an auditorium full of hundreds of people. If the audience is enthusiastic about the music, instead of simply waiting for the next band scheduled to appear, the musicians are likely to have a positive experience and perform well. Age of audience members is also a factor, because older crowds may have the opportunity to drink alcohol, which may make them less inhibited about being loud and showing their pleasure or displeasure over a performance. Regardless of the audience, however, professional musicians play each song to the best of their abilities, with the intention of entertaining and enlightening listeners and developing a strong base of devoted fans.