Careers in music

Jemma Smith, Editor
November, 2018

In an increasingly popular field there are music careers to fit all aspirations, in creative, business and technical areas. Discover how to break into this field

If you think the music industry is confined to singers and musicians you'd be wrong. As part of this diverse, fast-moving sector you could carve out a career in performing, songwriting, composing, live music entertainment, music education, music production, artist management, marketing and PR or music journalism, to name just a few options.

The UK music industry offers an array of job opportunities for those with passion, talent, tenacity and drive. Year-on-year the sector continues to grow - the latest music industry figures suggest it employed around 142,208 people and generated £4.4billion for the UK economy. If you want a career in music there's never been a better time to turn your dream into reality.

You don't need the vocal talent of Adele or the business brain of Simon Cowell to make it big. There are many different ways into the industry - social media has opened up a route that wasn't available ten years ago. Singers and musicians are now being signed after being spotted on YouTube and music journalists are securing jobs off the back of blogging. However, you will need qualifications and experience. Here we explore what music degrees, internships and apprenticeships are on offer.

Music degrees

Those aiming for creative roles such as singers, songwriters and musicians may be able to enter the industry solely with their talent and experience, while those interested in business, educational or technical roles will likely need a degree.

However, in this competitive industry, no matter your end goal, studying for a music degree can be beneficial in more ways than one. Courses give you in-depth practical and theoretical knowledge and the chance to develop transferrable skills, make industry contacts and find industry work placements.

There's a range of undergraduate courses on offer at universities across the UK. For example, you can study for a Bachelor of Music (BMus) at the University of Bristol, University of York and the Royal Academy of Music to name just a selection of institutions. Undergraduate-level music degrees can also be studied in:

  • composition
  • digital music
  • live events production
  • popular music performance
  • media and communication (music industries)
  • music business
  • music journalism
  • music management
  • music production
  • music technology
  • musical theatre
  • songwriting
  • sound engineering
  • sound technology
  • stage management.

Discover what you can do with a music degree.

When it comes to choosing where to study it's useful to know which music colleges and universities regularly feature in university rankings and subject league tables. Popular institutions for studying music include:

  • Durham University
  • Guildhall School of Music and Drama
  • Royal Academy of Music
  • Teeside University
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Surrey.

Typically you'll need good passes at GCSE and the required amount of UCAS points. Many courses ask for an A-level in music, or alternatively Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) Grade 5 in Music Theory and Grade 8 in Performance. Depending on the course you may also need to demonstrate performance skills. However, entry requirements differ depending on the programme and institution so you'll need to do your research before applying.

Music graduates also have a variety of postgraduate options to choose from, both taught and research based. For example, you can study for a Masters in:

  • composition
  • composition of music for film and television
  • community music
  • electronic and computer music
  • history of art and history of music
  • music
  • music education
  • music for the moving image
  • music production
  • music psychology
  • music and sonic media
  • musical theatre
  • performance.

Search for postgraduate courses in music.

Music jobs

There is so much more to the music industry than you might think, careers span an array of roles and call for people with a variety of talents. While music jobs are undoubtedly competitive, they're by no means out of reach for those with the right qualifications and experience.

Here are some of the music jobs you can do.

A&R manager - You'll be responsible for finding fresh talent, signing them up to record labels and overseeing the completion of recordings. You'll help new artists develop and grow and to do this you'll need a solid understanding of the music scene and strong business skills.

Concert promoter - You'll need a love of live music and excellent communication skills to make it as a concert promoter. It's your job to spread the word about live music events and ensure that this results in strong ticket sales. You'll liaise with agents/artist managers, recording artists and club/concert venues. You'll book shows, publicise events to local/national media and set up advertising and email campaigns.

Music journalist - Exceptional writing skills and an interest in all things music is a must for a career as a music journalist. You'll report on music industry news, interview artists and musicians, review albums and concerts and provide critique for a variety of print and digital media.

Music producer - Producers write, arrange, produce and record songs for artists or for their own personal projects. Hours can be long and you'll spend the majority of your time in a studio setting. You'll collaborate with recording artists, recording/sound engineers, session musicians and singers, as well as A&R managers and record company executives.

You could also become a:

Portfolio careers are common in the music business. Jobs are competitive and the industry is fast moving so you need to be adaptable to make a living. Session musicians could also make money as music teachers and with the right knowledge and experience DJs and recording engineers can move into music production. Concert promoters can move into marketing and PR roles.

Industry internships

To stand out from the crowd and to demonstrate your passion and dedication to employers work experience and internships are essential.

Try where possible to gain relevant experience, for example in recording studios if you're an aspiring music producer or recording engineer, or at a record label if you're aiming to get into A&R, artist management or marketing and PR. However, keep in mind that any music-related experience will be useful.

A number of organisations provide music internships, but beware of unpaid opportunities. Internships should pay at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

Sony Music, Universal Music Group and Warner Music all offer industry placements or internships in a variety of functions such as administration, marketing, promotions, digital, communication and artist relations and commercial sales. also provides a 6 to 12-month internship programme, which aims to show what it's really like to work in the music industry.

Look for internship opportunities at music magazines, blogs and websites if you have your sights set on a career as a music journalist, or at your local radio station if you'd like to become a radio producer or DJ.

Voluntary experience can be incredibly beneficial and there are lots of opportunities to get involved. If you'd like to get into teaching, volunteer at a school or youth club and teach young people how to play an instrument. If you dream of becoming a DJ, create your own set and volunteer at local club nights. For more general experience look into volunteering at music festivals, get a part-time job in a record shop or start your own music blog. Do your research to find out if there are any music-related events happening in your community at which you could lend a hand.

Internships and voluntary work are an excellent way to develop your knowledge and skills, learn about the industry and make useful contacts. Being able to include such experience on your CV shows employers that you're passionate, resourceful, committed and able to use your initiative.

Music apprenticeships

The apprenticeship route is a great alternative to university study. Working towards an apprenticeship enables you to gain industry qualifications while actually doing the job and earning a wage. To find out more about what they involve, see what is an apprenticeship?

Music apprenticeships are becoming more widespread but you'll still need to do your research to uncover opportunities. Record companies such as Universal Music UK, Domino Records and Ninja Tune, talent agencies and PR agencies all offer apprenticeship schemes in the music business. You can work in international promotions, communications, music publishing, marketing and business administration. You can also work as a music assistant or digital media apprentice.

The BRITs Apprentice Scheme, created by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and funded by the BRIT Awards, gives ten people from England and Wales the unique opportunity to work at a top independent record label or music company. Apprentices receive specialist training in either business administration or digital marketing and will also get to work at the BRIT Awards. The scheme is open to those aged 18 or over and lasts for 14 months.

To search for music apprenticeships see:

Discover how to apply for an apprenticeship.

Find out more

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