Everyone loves some form of music. For most of us that means listening, lip-sync and strumming the occasional air guitar. But if you want to give music a more central place in your life, this is the right time in history to give it a shot!
Music is a $15-billion global industry (Global Music Report, International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI), April 2017) including digital and download sales, paid streaming subscriptions, performance rights, music concerts, stage performances and synchronisation in advertising and television. We all contribute to this industry as customers, but here are some options for you as a professional:
Music composers and song-writers create music using instruments, software and language. And you don’t have to top the Billboard charts or produce a Bollywood hit to be a viable professional here. Composers and song-writers may write music for films, plays, stage performances and even for video games! Jingle writers specialise in writing music for YouTube, radio and television commercials. Many work freelance on projects and with the multitude of video games, YouTube channels, short films and ads out there, the volume of work is growing steadily.
Singers and performers perform for recordings or live shows. Indian classical musicians often perform on-stage or in private gatherings for parties. Western instrumentalists play at concerts or perform live for musical theatre shows. Popular musicians play or sing live at award functions, talent shows, musical events, college performances, rock shows, clubs, restaurants, large gatherings and parties. Performers also record theme or background music for film, television, ads and YouTube jingles. Work is usually project-based and beginners often teach music to create some continuity in earnings.
Music producers envision and produce the final recording or performance of a band or artist. They book the studio, hand-pick musicians and engineers, oversee the production of the recorded music and control the recording budget. They may work with artists, recording studios, music labels or on their own. Often ex-performers, sound engineers, and music producers may take on several projects for little or no money to build their reputation before they can demand big bucks for their work.
Music jockeys choose and play music for radio, television, parties and concerts, occasionally adding original sounds, overlays and mixes to the music. Jockeys mostly perform live and need to be highly “tuned in” to play music in line with the audience’s expectations. Radio or video jockeys often act as music journalists, sharing insights about a piece of music or artist. These are people with a wide-ranging repertoire of knowledge about music — tough to pick up through a crash course!
Music managers have more than an ear for music — they have a head for the business of music. They manage the careers of artists, bands and musical groups, meeting with radio and television producers, getting airtime, negotiating with recording companies and programme sponsors, booking and promoting gigs for their artist(s). They work on salary or occasionally, on a revenue sharing basis with the artist(s) they manage. Or, they may work with music producers and recording companies to promote musicians, plan promotions and sell music through events, online promotions and various channels — iTunes, Gaana, Saavn, Pandora, Spotify — managing legal aspects, music sales, event planning and digital marketing.
Music teachers may be performers, singers, composers or producers who love the art and teach to enjoy it as well as to keep the moolah flowing! With every child and many adults dabbling in music at some stage or the other in their lives, opportunities to teach music full-time in schools and music academies abound. Music teachers would also manage music performance for their students and often for annual shows by the school or music academy.
Sound engineers record, edit and finalise live music and studio sound for concerts, playback performances, jingles, dubbing of films and ads. Audio engineers operate mixing consoles, microphones, signal processors, digital audio workstations, sequencing software and other futuristic thingamajigs. An ear for music and some basic knowledge of handling gadgets is a great starting point to build a career here!
Often, music buffs set up or work at sound recording studios which allows them to stay in touch with the music and the industry while building their own careers as music producers, DJs or even as performers. As Nikhil D’Souza, playback singer, songwriter and guitarist, says, “Being a musician is very different from doing a day job since there is no predictability when it comes to when and where your next pay-check will come from. It’s the ones who stick around and make opportunities for themselves, get out of bed and learn that tune or write a song, who will ultimately ‘make it’.”
Prominent institutions for Indian music education:
Kalakshetra, Tamil Nadu
Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, Delhi
Suro Bharati Sangeet Kala Kendra, West Bengal
Reputable Indian universities for courses in music:
University of Calcutta
University of Delhi
University of Rajasthan
University of Mumbai
Leading institutes outside of India:
The Juilliard School, New York City
Berklee College of Music, Massachusetts
Royal College of Music, London
University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna, Austria
Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden