Are music majors determined to have successful careers in music deluding themselves? Here are 3 myths about careers in music with some facts to help dispel them.
by Dr. Michelle Stanley
Myth #1: Music majors are destined for a life of struggle and financial instability.
A musician’s career is one of diverse and multiple income streams. Rarely do musicians earn their income from a single source. From performance to teaching, composing to recording, a successful musician’s financial stability is the result of seeking and creating options for generating income.
Looking beyond traditional jobs gives a bigger picture of viable career options for musicians. Many businesses, for instance, are discovering that musicians make incredible employees due to their communication skills, organizational ideas, discipline, and focus. Music can also be a contributor to the success of a business. Witness, for instance, Chipotle and the DJ who puts playlists together for all 1400 of their restaurants.
The music industry simply isn’t the same as it used to be. It is now driven by technology, innovation, value, and entrepreneurship. Musicians who adapt and change easily, and who are creative and entrepreneurial, are more likely to be successful.
Myth #2: The only jobs in music are in music education
Music educators are essential for training the next generation of musicians. They also ensure that there will continue to be successful engineers, doctors, project managers, software designers, and others who learned how to work as part of a team as a result of playing in school orchestras and bands and by singing in school choirs.
But teaching is only one of many career options for music majors. From composing to performing to arts management to music therapy, the possibilities for music majors continue to expand. Though the landscape for earning a living as a musician is constantly changing, jobs for those with a musical background are not going away, especially in the technology sphere where Silicon Valley giants like Apple, with their acquisition of Beats, and Google, are trying to fundamentally change the way we consume music.
See “What Can You Do with a Music Degree?” to get a sense of the breadth of available careers. Notice from this career list that many career options are tied to technological fields where music is a valued asset.
Myth #3: The American orchestra is dead (and so are orchestra jobs)
American orchestras are learning to shift their business models in order to survive. They’re discovering new performance venues and exploring collaborative opportunities to broaden their appeal, especially to younger audiences. For instance, the Utah Symphony is presenting concerts in the National Parks while the Metropolitan Opera is offering wildly popular, sold-out simulcasts of their productions in movie theatres across the country. Small chamber groups are growing into the symphony model (eg., Alarm Will Sound, Eighth Blackbird), with concert tours and subscription concerts. Even the New York Philharmonic is teaming with music ensembles like Bang on a Can to create a new sound for the new millennium.
Though it may be unreasonable to count on a job as principal chair in an orchestra, it is not unreasonable to consider teaming with an orchestra in a way that is fresh and unusual.