Do you dream of doing music stuff all day? You might want to look into being a professional musician.
However, this career path isn’t for everyone, even some amazing musicians may want to find other work. So consider the pros and cons before you jump into the music industry.
Why Become a Professional Musician
If you’ve played music for a while, you may wonder if you should pursue it as a career. Going pro isn’t for everyone, which is totally okay.
However, it helps to know some of the benefits before you pursue music as a career or not. Here are some of my favorite advantages of being a professional in the music industry.
Love What You Do
Of course, you have to make enough money to support yourself. However, a lot of musicians go into the field because they love it.
In other fields, you may enter the work only for the money. Or it might be something that’s expected of you. Either way, you may not actually enjoy other career paths.
If you enjoy music as a student, there’s a chance you’ll love it as a pro. That’s not the case for everyone, but doing what you love can be very rewarding.
Like other artistic fields, music lets you be creative. You can decide how to interpret certain pieces of music when you perform.
If you go into teaching, you get to choose new methods to help your students succeed. And composers get to literally come up with music from scratch.
I’m primarily a blogger and content creator with music as my niche. In my case, I get to be creative about the posts I write and content I share. It’s a lot more fun to have that control over my work.
Do Different Things
Your music career can look very different from mine or another musician’s. We all get to choose what we do and how we spend our time.
As I mentioned, I primarily write articles and create content. But I also arrange music and occasionally compose original works.
Other musicians teach private lessons or teach at a university. Some teach in K12 schools, and others can perform as their main income source. It’s amazing just how much you can do as a professional musician.
When choosing how you make your money, you can choose a schedule that’s very flexible. My blogging schedule can change every day or every week. I love that I don’t have to worry about needing time off for a sick day.
You get to take on the gigs you want. If you teach, you can choose when and were you teach and which students you accept into your studio.
As a composer, you get to choose what type of music to write. And you can choose what commissions you take on. You won’t get as much flexibility in some fields.
Freelance and Traditional Options
Another advantage of a music career is that you have access to freelance and traditional work. A lot of musicians are freelancers, including myself.
But you can find a traditional job in education, arts admin, and even performance. Now, those traditional jobs are often more competitive, so you’ll have to search for a while to find something.
Still, it can be worth going through that job search. Then, you’ll get the type of work you want in the industry you love.
Why Not Become a Professional Musician
For as many benefits of being a professional musician, there are just as many drawbacks. Before you go into this field, you should look at the cons.
If you can get over the cons, there’s a good chance you can find a place in the music world. And if the cons outweigh the pros, don’t feel bad about keeping music as a hobby.
Starving Artist Stereotype
You can make good money with music, depending on your gigs. As a freelancer, you can control how much you get paid. So you could only take on high-paying gigs.
But it can be hard to get over the starving artist stereotype at first. When you start off, you won’t have any students. You also won’t have much access to paying performance gigs or other income streams.
It takes time to make a name for yourself and get clients or sales. So if you want to start making good money right away, you might want to choose another career path.
Another downside of being a professional musician is the competition. Unless you play a less common instrument, you might struggle to get gigs. If you go the audition route, you could have to go through multiple auditions and still not land a job.
You can do things to set yourself apart, such as playing piccolo if your main instrument is flute. But even then, a lot of people play both instruments.
A lot of fields have some amount of competition. Now, some music jobs might not be as competitive. For example, you might not have trouble getting a music teaching job in a small town. But it’s good to know about the potential competition.
You don’t have to be a professional musician to experience inconsistent income. Any freelancer in any industry will tell you about the ups and downs. On the other hand, some traditional jobs have consistent pay.
If you want to work for yourself or do freelance work, you’ll have to get used to earning more in some months. This is particularly true of December since holidays come with a lot of gigs.
You should learn how to budget your money equally across the year. That way, you don’t have to go into debt if you make less one month.
If you want to go the academic route, you have to worry about getting tenure. I remember some of my professors talking about how stressful it can be.
You have to be active at the university and outside of it. And you have to compile all of your work into a portfolio. Then, you have to show the tenure committee that you deserve tenure.
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to deal with that. It would be too stressful.
There are traditional music jobs that come with benefits. However, a lot of musicians will end up as freelancers. While that comes with advantages, like flexibility, it doesn’t come with health insurance or retirement savings.
This is my first calendar year not on my mom’s health insurance. I have to pay a lot each month for so-so coverage. Of course, you don’t have to worry about this in a lot of places outside of the US.
But if you’re in the states, you need to think about that. I don’t think it’s worth going without health insurance. If you don’t make much, look into subsidies. Some coverage is better than none.
Should You Become a Professional Musician If You Have Other Interests?
A common piece of advice you may see is that you should only be a professional musician if it’s your only interest. While I understand the sentiment, I don’t agree.
If you love music enough to want to do it professionally, give it a try. You can always have a backup plan outside of music.
How Much Does a Professional Musician Make?
A professional musician could make $0 in a year. But they could also make millions of dollars.
It all depends on your income streams, how much work you have, and how much you can charge.
Should You Become a Freelance Musician?
Consider if you want flexibility and control. If so, becoming a freelance musician might be the path for you.
However, you’ll be in charge of getting gigs, getting paid, and organizing your own benefits. All of that takes time and money.
What Are Some Music Jobs Outside of Performance?
Some music jobs outside of performance include teaching, composing or arranging, arts admin, and music journalism.
As I mentioned, you can also get into content creation. Music technology is another sub-field that’s gaining popularity.
Will You Become a Professional Musician?
Being a professional musician isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. But if you’re considering this path, you should know if it’s for you.
And if you do want to be a pro musician, check out The Freelance Solution. It shows you how to get over the drawbacks of being a freelance musician.