As much as we’d all love for our bands or personal songwriting to support us full-time, the reality is that very few achieve this goal, at least in a short time frame. Of course, being a musician isn’t about finding mainstream success, it’s about expression, so financial security is rarely a major part of what makes us tick. That said, there are ways outside of mainstream music that can leverage musical talents into a full-time career. For both supporting yourself and building experience within the professional market, these paths can be well worth consideration.
Before going out and finding a job, the obvious first question is where you could look. Depending on where you live, there might be opportunities available in your local area, but most people aren’t so lucky. Instead, the best bet can be to utilize online options to find something that’s right for you. Online jobs can come with some unique challenges, but they also offer a variety that will seldom exist within a local sphere.
As for the exact website, a few choices have been well established as effective and safe. Freelancer is one of the best-regarded in this environment, ever since its inception in 2009. Now with 50 million users, Freelancer jobs run the gambit from short one-offs to major projects which can last months or even years. Other services worthy of mention include Upwork, SimplyHired, Guru, and Dribble.
Before starting an online job search, it’s important to ensure that you’ve created the appropriate workspace environment. If you’re a musician, chances are that you already have equipment lying around, but translating this music onto a computer on a professional level can require an up-front investment in gear.
Once you have the gear, the next step is getting used to using it efficiently. Luckily, most major online jobs involving music will center on an understanding of just a few key pieces of software. Audacity is one of the premier systems in this regard, though there will be other programs that are better suited to individual instruments also worthy of investigation.
Finally, the last thing to keep in mind is the challenges that can come from online interpersonal working relationships. While not related to music directly, communication skills are a must in online work, especially given differing time zones and the different levels of understanding between musicians and laymen. Though there’s not a whole lot that can be done to physically prepare for this aspect, understanding that this will be an issue can help you prepare mentally. These skills can also be translated into PR experience, which is important for every successful musician.
When looking for jobs online, it can be best to work backward. Browse the web, pay attention to wherever you see music being used in regular operation and consider if that type of work is right for you. It’s easy to overlook the breadth of opportunities available owing to how accustomed we’ve become to online media, but take a closer look, and you might be surprised at how often online music jobs could be relevant.
Just remember that getting started in this world can mean taking a few more casual jobs first to build a resume. While it can be a good idea to set a high-level goal, swinging for the fences straight away can be a non-starter. Like in any other creative endeavor, you’ll want to build a portfolio first, and use that to continually climb the musical ladder.
A great starting place in terms of raw creative output can be found in leveraging the now-enormous YouTube and Twitch platforms. There are hundreds of new people trying to start careers on these services every day, and often they rely on stock music for intros or backing tracks. Many of these people would be quite happy to put some money down for a custom-made intro, especially if you can tailor a short clip that accurately reflects the mood of a channel. If the channel ever gets popular then more people will hear your music, if not, you’ll still gain the practice and another entry on your resume, and experience you could use on your own channel.
Another possible route could be found by turning to professional software developers. Online casinos, for example, rely on third-party software for games like live roulette. While the music in them is relegated to the background, it’s also one of the most valued tools in the repertoire of the various titles like Sapphire and American roulette. For a more direct route, musicians could also consider indie video games, like those on Kongregate, which themselves have a constant need for original tracks. Tracks for this form of software are more overt, and can even create immense fan followings if well implemented. Demand is always high for tracks on this software, and opportunities can even extend to sound effects if that’s something you might be interested in.
Finally, musicians should also consider the potential of teaching online. This can involve more challenges than direct teaching due to the distance, but musicians with a talented ear could excel here nonetheless. This path might not be for everyone, but it is one of the most widely applicable, and the experience is easily transferable back into the local teaching scene.
Few great acts will arrive overnight and the same is true for any other form of musical career. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and this needs to be understood from the get-go. Just remember, every setback still gives an opportunity to learn, and even the smallest jobs when added together can lead to something great. Don’t give up, and you might be surprised at what you can find.