How To Break into a Career in the Music Industry

careers in musicWhat You’ll Do

Do you want to discover new artists and pick which tracks end up on their albums? Or are you more interested in developing merchandise for different bands? As long as you have a passion for music and are an ace at networking, options abound for a career in the music industry.

Depending on where your interests lie, at any major label there are opportunities in the following departments: marketing, radio, publicity, artists’ development, artists and repertoire (A&R), international, merchandising, and sales.

Your day-to-day in the music industry will largely depend on which of the artists in your charge are active. For example, you may be focused on collaborating with the creative, production, and touring teams as well as the band’s management if you are assembling a new product line for an artist about to launch a tour.

Each day is different and working in a junior role may mean a lot of overtime to complete projects and make the most out of a small paycheck. Depending on the department you are in, you may have to be on call 24/7 to respond to the demands of your customers, some of which can be high maintenance.

On the other hand, a major perk includes the opportunity to attend shows in order to support the artists and maintain your relationships with them. Even if you are talking business at the show, you get to know talent personally and have some fun nights out!

How to Get the Job

Knowing someone in the industry and having work experience, even from internships, helps a lot when looking for a career in the music industry. Find an internship at an independent label or do some work for a local promoter to gain experience before exploring the career pages of companies.

As it’s important to continuously build and groom your network, do what you do best: go to concerts and become familiar with the big players. If you can demonstrate your passion for music, a hardworking nature, and intelligence, potential employers will be likely to give you a chance.

Target a company you want to work for and find a way in, even if you start by shadowing people in their jobs and helping out with any tasks until an actual job opens up. You have to be okay with starting at the bottom, like as an assistant, and working your way up.


Brace yourself to start at a low salary and to put forth all of your energy to work hard in order to advance. Assistants usually start at $28,000 per year. After being an assistant, roles can pay around $45,000 with raises each year. In order to earn six figures, you must attain a director-level position which could take five or more years.

Where You’ll Be in 5 Years

Skills you gain in the music industry, like in merchandising for example, can be applied to many other industries. Though your particular skillset will be determined by the department in which you work, one thing is certain: your interpersonal skills and ability to navigate discussions with a variety of people—including artists, stakeholders, and manufacturers—will improve dramatically.

Whether you stay in the same company or switch to another, if you thrive in competitive environments and can handle being the liaison between numerous departments and people, there are opportunities to progress vertically up the ladder. If you like managing people, one path would be to advance from a Director of Artist Services to the Head Product Manager for a specific geographic region.

To learn more, check out this guide to careers in the music industry, written by someone who has been there, done that!

By Helena Karchere
Helena Karchere Career Services Marketing and Events Manager