Explore a career in Music Business

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Music Business:

  • What's the deal?
  • Is it for you?
  • What can I be?
What's the deal?
  • The music industry is a vibrant and exciting place to work. All of us have a passion for some type of music and the music industry is there to bring that music to the consumer, whether that is via a digital download, a video or a live gig.
  • The UK music industry contributes £3.5 billion annually to the UK economy. This is made up of: £1.6bn from musicians, composers and songwriters; £634m from recorded music; £662m from live music; £402m from music publishing; £151m from music representatives, and £80m from music producers and recording studios.
  • The main sectors in the UK are live events, followed by the recording industry and these are the areas where there are the most jobs. Events, in particular, have fared well as it is impossible to recreate the full experience of a gig or festival digitally. The recording industry is still coming to terms with the realities of digital streaming and downloads, but traditional formats, like vinyl, are making a recovery.
  • Music publishing is an important component of the industry, but most jobs here are desk-based dealing with calculating and distributing royalties for recorded works.
  • There are a number of large and smaller businesses within the music industry, from record labels through to events companies, who offer opportunities for paid employment. However, a lot of the industry is made up of small traders and those in self-employment. Being self employed means you will need to manage your business affairs and deal with aspects of marketing and promotion. Incomes can vary significantly, depending on your role. Junior positions tend to be very low paid, while executive roles can command salaries of over £50,000.
  • Many people earn a living by having what is called a portfolio career. This is where you work and gain income from a number of areas. For example you might be someone who manages several artists, who also has a small label and who promotes regular gigs at selected venues.
Is it for you?
  • You will need to love music and have a passion to use music to realise business ideas. Successful entrepreneurs are creative people. You will need to anticipate future trends and find innovative business solutions to exploit these.
  • Most jobs in the music industry are not 9am-5pm desk jobs, although a few of these do exist in London and other big cities. A lot of roles, for example, in the events industry, will require you to work late into the evening and over weekends. Artist management and A&R will also need you to work unsociable hours. Is this something which will suit you and your family/relationships?
  • You may want to set up your own business and become self-employed. Being self employed means you will need to deal with business matters. Is this something which would suit you?
  • Salaries can vary enormously from low paid starter jobs and self-employment through to top jobs at large record labels like Universal and Sony.
  • In most roles teamwork skills are essential. It is also important that you are able to communicate effectively with everyone from artists and managers to promoters and publishers.
  • The industry is very fast moving with constant technology developments, especially in relation to how people consume and experience music. You need to be a quick learner and enjoy learning new skills.
What can I be?

Event Promoter/Manager
You are the person who is responsible for organising and managing a music event, from a pub gig or club night up to a festival. You may be working on your own, or for larger events you will be working as part of a team. Excellent organisation and communication skills are essential, together with the ability to manage multiple tasks, from funding, licensing and health and safety through to booking acts, ticketing and marketing and promotion. Events is an exciting area, but one which can involve long hours with regular evening and weekend shifts. A lot of event promoters are self-employed, but there are paid jobs working for larger companies, organisations and local authorities.

Venue/Studio/Rehearsal Manager
You are the person responsible for running a premises where music is the main business. This could be small or large venue, a recording studio or a rehearsal facility. You will need to be able to manage all aspects of the operation from estates and licensing through to marketing and promotion and dealing with clients and artists. You will need great organisation and communication skills and be prepared to work evenings and weekends.

Record Label Manager/Employee
You are responsible for running a record label or for working within the offices of a larger label. The recording industry has changed significantly in the last ten years and the move to digital has meant that it is easier to set up small independent labels which can showcase new talent. Labels don’t need the high levels of investment they once relied on, as artists are generally expected to have already developed commercial product and there is no need for expensive pressing and distribution. You will need to be passionate about music with a good head for business.

Artist Manager
You are responsible for managing one or more artists, organising all aspects of their professional career. This may include brokering and managing record deals, arranging tours, dealing with promoters and making sure all earnings are paid. You will need to have excellent organisation and communication skills, together with the ability to manage multiple tasks. You may also need a lot of patience, depending on how temperamental your artists are!

Tour Manager
You are responsible for organising all the logistics on national and international tours. This may include liaising with artists, promoters and venues, organising transport, accommodation and catering and managing all the support staff, such as sound crews, wardrobe and make-up. Again, you will need to have excellent organisation and communication skills, together with the ability to manage multiple tasks. Work may be sporadic and will involve unsociable hours and a lot of travel away from home.

Music Publisher
You are the person who licenses original music and then collects royalty income from that music. Music is consumed in many ways from direct purchases and streaming, through to the use of music in adverts, apps, games and films. All of these uses generate royalty income for the songwriter. The publisher is there to promote the use of its licensed music and to ensure all monies are collected. It’s largely a desk-based job and most music publishers are based in London.

Music Retailer
You are selling musical products, whether that is musical instruments or vinyl and CDs. Your business may be located in a physical shop, but it will also need an online store where you can sell across the internet. Retail is a very competitive business and large retailers can often undercut on price. However, there is room for independent retailers who can offer something a bit different. Think about how you can offer customer service and unique features.

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