Career Options for Playing a Musical Instrument

Updated on March 21, 2019
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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

Learning to play a musical instrument benefits children. It has been proven that music learning can bring positive impacts to their lives in many aspects. Parents are willing to send their children for music lessons, putting in time and money into what they believe to be their children's lifelong education. Parents are convinced of the benefits of music learning, regardless of whether the child will pursue a career in music in the future, or put what has been learned into practical use.

However, when a child decides to pursue a career in playing a musical instrument, parents may have opposing views. Most people will doubt if it is even a good career choice, since it is not difficult to imagine a scenario of a jobless musician. Besides the elites who won international competitions and are performing around the world, it is hard to see 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 an average musician to be as successful as anyone else, and there are important jobs for musicians that a society cannot live without. Let us explore some of the career options.

Music Teacher

The one reason that music exist today is because it was preserved and passed down by the previous generations. For all human knowledge, education is the key that allows us to discover and disseminate information. Being a music teacher can be very rewarding. In fact, some of the best musicians in the world run their own teaching studios. It is also very common to see great musicians holding a teaching position in universities or conservatories.

Most music teachers we see today either hold a teaching position at schools, teach from their private studios, or travel to teach as home teachers . The demand for music teachers is healthy in most parts of the world, including developing countries.

Music teachers tend to do well when the economy climate is good, as music playing is very much seen 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 ways 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 not musicians who play in concerts and make recordings, you have no business being a performer. The truth, however, is that there are plenty of opportunities out there for the average musicians. 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 may need piano accompaniment.

If you have a band or an ensemble, start looking to play for events such as weddings, parties, funerals, or corporate functions. Playing for gig pays well but it can be very competitive. You can also consider looking for an event management company and come up with a deal with them. They may help you to get gigs and then take a cut from your pay.

It is also possible to organize your own concert. Undoubtedly, this requires good marketing skills, along with plenty of networking. Nonetheless, it is possible to make money out of it. It may be difficult to make a living just by doing concerts, but 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 commercials or movie soundtracks, or street busking.

Everything Else

Having a career in playing a musical instrument does not limit you to only teaching and performing. With your knowledge in 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 are able to produce good content, be it for education or entertainment, there are good platforms available for you to monetize these contents. People have been publishing videos on Youtube to generate advertising revenue, teaching courses on Udemy, and offering services on Fiverr.

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 entrepreneur mindset and work to make the music industry more vibrant.

Creative thinking inspires ideas. Ideas inspire change.

— Barbara Januszkiewicz

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Goh Tong Keat


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      • dumdummy profile imageAUTHOR

        Goh Tong Keat 

        5 weeks ago from Malaysia

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

      • Ally Mars profile image


        2 months ago

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

      • dumdummy profile imageAUTHOR

        Goh Tong Keat 

        3 months ago from Malaysia

        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.

      • profile image

        Arjun mondal 

        4 months ago

        Is it takea much mpney to be a musician?


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