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A&R Music Jobs and Other Careers in Music

Whether you’re a frontman at heart, a creative introvert or you’re interested in A&R music jobs and the vast array of behind-the-scenes roles, there’s room in the music business for every personality type.

If you’ve got the enthusiasm, the drive, and a strong work ethic, it’s not an impossible dream to stake a claim for yourself and start building your ideal career.

If you’re interested in entry-level music industry jobs, NYC is one of the prime locations to get started. Your only barrier is your imagination.

However, with such a variety of roles out there, it can be challenging to decide which piece of the music industry pie is for you. So, here’s a brief rundown of a few different aspects.

A&R Coordinator:

You may have heard the term A&R coordinator discussed in conjunction with the music industry, but what exactly is it?

A&R stands for “artist & repertoire.” A&R music jobs involve finding new artists and talent, getting them signed up to a record label and overseeing the project. As an A&R Representative, you will be the liaison, ensuring good communication between the record label and the artist or band, and aiding the development of a successful and lucrative business relationship between the two.

The upsides of this job are numerous. If your heart is in music, you are submerged in a circle of vibrant, creative people, scouting for new talent and discovering new acts before anybody else. It can be an incredibly exhilarating, rewarding and lucrative career.

However, with pros, there must also be cons; this is not a job for the light-hearted or the wall-flower. It can be extremely fast-paced, requiring a high degree of initiative, self-motivation and continuous hard work to get your career up and running. It involves long hours, late nights, knocking on doors and very few “off days.”

A&R music jobs rarely only involve one person; there are usually several people and a chain-of-command associated with getting any new artist or act signed up. As much as we’d all like to start at the top, the reality is that the most common entry point for this career path is taking unpaid work as an intern. A tough skin, initiative, and self-motivation will bring you a long way in this type of business, and your career progression will help you grow from intern to A&R Rep, to Manager, and eventually to Director of A&R, if you’ve got what it takes.

Education is valued in the industry and will undoubtedly give you an edge over your competitors in the jobs market. A music business program, such as that at Berklee, is an excellent foundation in the basic skills and knowledge you’ll need to acquire. While it may be difficult to justify something like the Berklee College of Music tuition, you must remind yourself that it is worth it for your resume and career potential. However, a degree is just the beginning of your education; the real learning curve will start on the job, with specific attributes such as diplomacy, communication, and intermediary skills going a long way towards finding success in A&R music jobs.

Performing & Writing Careers:

It’s not all about stage performances and record deals. Music is present in all areas of life, and you’ll find original and contemporary pieces everywhere. From advertising, film & TV and software development to public events and even the production of children’s toys, music is an integral part of our world! If you don’t have the head for the stage lights, your creativity can cut you out a very successful and rewarding career through freelance composer jobs.

Like many strands of the music industry, it can be a tough job to break into, and it takes time to build up both your reputation and your contacts. Personal drive, self-advertising and an immense amount of networking are an absolute must, in addition to a broad range of music skills and a strong focus on contemporary composition.

While there are no official education requirements for freelance composer jobs, a high level of training, a foundation knowledge of licensing and copywriter laws, editing and production skills and of course proficiency in a variety of musical styles and theory will form the backbone of a successful career. 

Another performance career that doesn’t involve being in the spotlight includes the role of a session musician. A session musician is a crucial element to any successful stage act and is an incredibly rewarding career. It is a great way to break into the performance side of the music industry with the added benefit of being able to work with and learn from a variety of successful artists, trying your hand at a range of styles. 

A session musician’s job is generally to play what they’re asked to play. However, with some acts, there may be some capacity for improvisation, within certain parameters as dictated by the leading artist. For this reason, it’s an excellent way for musicians to familiarize themselves with venues of different sizes and set-ups and become immersed in the experience.

Occasionally, a session musician might be employed directly by the label. Often, however, they’re freelance contractors, relying mainly on word of mouth to keep their books full. While the freedom to play as you choose can be a fulfilling way of life, there can be a lack of job security and, because word of mouth is your primary advertising tool, its vital to maintain your reputation, both as a skilled musician and as an amicable and reliable contractor.

Recording Careers:

Aside from the artist, or band, themselves, there is a whole host of professionals involved with the production of any one record. The science of knowledge and the art of creativity combine in the recording studio to ensure the smooth transition of a raw sound into a polished track.

Recording engineers and mixing artists are responsible for working together to ensure the finished track satisfies both the artist and the record label. 

Record Industry Careers:

Record company executive job descriptions vary depending on the company’s size and values, and of course on the individual. A record company executive’s role can range from legal, financial or global strategy to artist discovery, or even answering the phones at a small up-and-coming record label. There is no “one-size-fits-all.” However, attributes that all successful record company executives will have in common are great diplomacy and communication skills across the board, strategized thinking and the ability to strike the perfect harmony between the business end of the music and the music end of the business.

Another key role in the record industry is the producer, directly involved with recording projects, coaching the artist on material choice, mixing and arranging in the recording studio.

Film & TV Music Careers:

Outside of live performances and record sales, the music industry extends across all areas of media; music is an integral part of all films, television, advertising, and game production. The choice of music can have a huge impact on the success of a scene or campaign. A music supervisor’s role is to select and license songs or recordings for this purpose, which is an art and a science. A skilled music supervisor will have excellent intuition and creative sense to choose the right piece for the job. Also, plenty of experience with music synchronization and a high level of communication skills are an integral part of being able to work well with others in a high-pressure environment.

Advertising Music Careers:

Music advertising is an entire industry itself, with the relatively modern developments of social media introducing a whole new strand to promotional strategies. Social media managers, publicists, and merchandisers are just some of the roles that you can discover in music advertising.

A social media manager combines writing, content curation, and speedy customer service skills to increase their client’s social media reach. A publicist can work closely with a social media manager to generate attention in the public eye, manage public relations and keep all media attention flowing in a positive direction as much as possible. 

A music merchandiser’s role has changed over the years with the development of music streaming platforms and the subsequent decline in record sales. Their purpose is now more critical than ever to encourage the production, shipping, and sales of merchandising products, from baseball caps to coffee mugs. A good music merchandiser will combine graphic design skills, manufacturing know-how and sales savvy to produce, ship and sell products relating to their client. Staying up-to-date with trends and producing high-quality designs and innovative ideas will give you the edge.

Radio Music Careers:

The first thing that springs to mind for radio music careers is probably the front of house DJ. However, DJs are just the tip of the iceberg with regards to radio production; a multitude of jobs can be forged in the radio industry. A radio music director is involved with the development of the station’s playlist and liaising between radio promoters, musical artists, and listeners to ensure a satisfying experience across the board. Modern advancements in Google Play and Spotify have added another strand to this aspect of the music industry, with the development of new algorithms and the monitoring of listener habits becoming standard practice.

As you can see, this is a multi-faceted industry with a vast array of career opportunities, from composing and live performances to production, A&R music jobs, music journalism, and advertising. If you want to break into the music industry and you’re prepared to work your way to the top, there’s a place for you. This is just a tiny taste of your options. If you’re unsure where to start, consider checking out Berklee college of music jobs as a next step. 

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