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Career Options for Playing a Musical Instrument

Tong Keat has an M.A. in Violin Performance from MTSU, TN. He is the founder of Just Violin—a free resources site for violinists.


A Career as a Musician

Most people agree that learning to play a musical instrument has many benefits. It is proven that music learning can bring positive impacts to our lives in many ways. Parents are willing to send their child for music lessons, putting in time and money into what they believe to be worthy as their child's personal development. They are very confident in the benefits that their child can get in music learning, even if they do not pursue a career in music in the future, or put their musical skills into practical use.

However, deciding to pursue a career in music is another story. Most people would doubt it as a good option. It is not too difficult to visualize the scene of jobless musicians and starving artists. Unless you are among the elites of the industry (the top one percent), it is hard to imagine how one can thrive in playing a musical instrument for a living.

Contrary to what many believe, the truth is that there are plenty of opportunities for any musician to be as successful as they wish. Let us explore some of the career options here.

Music Teacher

Music continues to exist today because the knowledge and skills of music-making were passed down to the younger generations. Education is the key that allows us to discover, preserve, and disseminate all these information.

Being a music teacher can be a very rewarding career. In fact, some of the best musicians in the world run their own teaching studios. It is also common to see great musicians holding a teaching position in universities or conservatories.

Most music teachers we see today usually teach at schools, from their private studios, or travel to teach at their student's place. The demand for music teachers is good in most parts of the world.

Music teachers tend to do well when the economic climate is good, as most people regard music playing as a leisure activity. People are more likely to pick up their hobby when their financial situation is comfortable. It is common for music teachers to encounter students who are learning it for the long term and also students who are just looking for activities to spend their leisure time.

Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach.

— Aristotle

Music Performer

There is a common misconception that if you are an average musician, you have no business being a performer. The truth, however, is that there are plenty of opportunities out there for you. For a start, if you play an orchestra instrument, check out the local orchestras for job vacancies. If you play the piano, find jobs at local churches, restaurants, or hotels. You can also look for instrumentalists and vocalists who need piano accompaniment for their recitals or exams.

If you have a band or an ensemble, start looking to play for weddings, parties, corporate functions, or even funerals. Playing for gigs pays well, but it can be very competitive at the same time. If you do not have a strong network, consider looking for an event management company and come up with a deal with them. They may help you to find gigs and then take a commission from your pay.

It is also possible to organize your own concert. Undoubtedly, it takes effort to convince people to buy tickets. Nonetheless, it is possible to make money out of it. While it may be challenging to make a living just by doing concerts, having a public performance once in a while helps to boost your reputation as a musician, which in turn increases the chance of people hiring you to play for gigs.

Some other performance opportunities include playing for theater productions, recording for demos, commercials, or movie soundtracks, and street busking.


Everything Else

Having a career in playing a musical instrument does not limit you to only teaching and performing. With your knowledge of music, you can choose to write on it, either by publishing articles or books. You may also offer to present seminars or workshops at schools or music festivals.

If you are digitally savvy, you can start a blog or video channel. There are plenty of opportunities by taking advantage of the digital network. As long as you can produce good content, be it for education or entertainment, there are many platforms available for you to monetize these contents. People have been publishing videos on Youtube to generate advertising revenue, writing articles on JustViolin.org, teaching courses on Udemy, and offering services on Fiverr.

There are also related career paths where your knowledge in musical instruments may come in handy, such as concert tour manager, booking agent, recording engineer, music therapist, music critic, instrument making/repair, and others.

Music is essentially an art form that requires creativity, and you should use the same creativity to create job opportunities for yourself. Musicians need to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit, and collectively we can work to make the music industry more vibrant.

Creative thinking inspires ideas. Ideas inspire change.

— Barbara Januszkiewicz

© 2018 Goh Tong Keat


Goh Tong Keat (author) from Malaysia on June 08, 2019:

You can still be a musician regardless of your full-time job.

Alina on April 25, 2019:

Always wanted to be musician but now I am manager. Something went wrong

Goh Tong Keat (author) from Malaysia on March 19, 2019:

Learning to play a musical instrument takes a lot of time and effort, the cost can be quite high depends on how you see it.

Arjun mondal on March 19, 2019:

Is it takea much mpney to be a musician?