The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Pros and Cons of the Music Industry
When it comes to opportunities, the music industry is one of the most varied and dynamic out there. From sales and marketing to coding and teaching, there are plenty of skill-sets you can transfer to the sector. And there’s also the added pull of being somehow connected to artists who might well have changed your life.
For anyone considering a career shift, take a look at the pros and cons of the music industry and arm yourself with some insights before you embark on finding your dream role.
The good: pros of working in the music industry
· Work with like-minded people
· Doing something you love
· No two days are the same
The bad: cons of working in the music industry
· It can feel like a job
The downright ugly
· Difficult artists
· Poor work/life balance
The Good: Pros of Working in the Music Industry
Whether we’re discussing the good, the bad, or the ugly, it’s important to remember that there’s a vast range of roles available within the music industry. A quick scour through today’s jobs has brought up marketing, teaching and producing roles, to name but three.
The relative pros and cons of the music industry can of course differ from one position to the next, so we’ll focus on the main issues that everyone considering the sector should be aware of.
Work with like-minded people
Although not every employee with a music career has a genuine passion for the end product, many have. So if you’re a huge fan of guitars, collect vinyl LPs and find yourself whistling Bohemian Rhapsody in the shower most mornings, you’ll likely make some genuine friendships.
Friendships may not pay the bills of course, but toiling alongside people with similar interests to your own can inspire anyone to get out of bed on those cold wintry mornings, as opposed to feeling despair every time your alarm clock goes off.
Doing something you love
Few people manage to snare a job they genuinely enjoy and would do regardless of the money. Finding a role that feels more like a vocation than a salary-giver can make all the difference between a happy life and a sad one. And if you happen to be a budding artist alongside working in a more sobering industry role, you may learn a few shortcuts on how to get your own work out there, purely from seeing how things work ‘on the inside’.
No two days are the same
‘Variety is the spice of life,’ according to poet William Cowper, and most of us would trade a repetitive career for one that throws up surprises on a regular basis. Who forecast the shift away from physical CDs to streaming services? And who saw the resurgence of vinyl coming? Furthermore, if you’re working with artists, no two promotional campaigns are ever the same, and today’s trends could be old hat by tomorrow. Few working in the industry can ever complain of boredom!
The Bad: Cons of Working in the Music Industry
Even an artist that’s living the dream and raking in millions has their bad days – there’s simply no position in the world that’s a total joy, 24/7. Let’s take a look at the most popular complaints we hear about and that every budding industry employee should bear in mind.
There’s sometimes a commodity-led attitude within the industry, making it one of the most competitive in the world. If an artist is dropped by their record label, that could mean the end for their entire operation, from marketers and artist managers to caterers and engineers – all through no fault of their own.
Moreover, at the top of the tree, there’s a lot of money floating around, and an awful lot of people who’ll do literally anything for a slice of the pie. Anyone weighing up the pros and cons of the music industry needs to realize the immense levels of competition out there – though it can of course, be more than worth the effort.
It can feel like a job
To the average fan, having a music career may sound like a dream come true, even if you’re not the one in front of the cameras. However, certain roles can quickly resemble ‘the average job,’ or one that you’d consider purely as a means of paying the rent. You may be subjected to working long hours for no extra reward, and many job roles will have very little access to music itself. What began as sounding like a creative opportunity may turn into a slog in no time at all.
The notion of having a ‘job for life’ is pretty outdated these days, regardless of the sector you’re working in. But the music industry has always had an unpredictable nature about it. In many roles, job security is flimsy, and there are often no second chances. Despite the potential rewards on offer – both cerebral and financial – there are more stable industries out there in which to prove your worth. For more information, see our post on the beginner’s guide to working in music.
The downright ugly
The music industry’s ugly side is unique, although those working for royalty, politicians or children may disagree! Seriously though, there are few challenges that compare to trying to keep an artist’s mouth closed, as we’ll see below.
How would you feel about representing someone who has praised Hitler in interviews (Kanye West), called for Elton John’s head to be served on a plate (Morrissey) or demanded all traces of their DNA to be removed from a dressing room (Madonna)?
It’s easy to laugh at such hissy-fits from a distance, but having to deal with such first world problems is a huge trial for those in the background. Many have gone into the music industry with a real passion for the product, only to find themselves working in a faux kindergarten with the children replaced by grown-ups.
We’ve all heard those legendary stories of artists who, ahem, enjoyed a little hedonism. Booze and hard drugs seem to follow many musicians around, and there are examples in every genre of artists with well-documented substance problems.
There are plenty of roles to be found within the industry that are disconnected to artists and thus see little of the temptations on display. But those working closer to the source may feel pressured into situations they otherwise would’ve avoided.
The Rolling Stones’ guitar genius Keith Richards once described how the long hours and constant travelling made touring impossible, until a more experienced musician let him in on a secret – a little dab of this or a smoke on that. And in such situations, a musician’s wider party is subject to the same demands and thus the same temptations – purely to keep the show on the road.
Poor work/life balance
There are countless opportunities available in the music industry, and you might find something akin to a ‘regular’ job, with 9-5 hours and a full weekend. But, given the nature of the beast, many have erratic, deadline-led schedules, with an open calendar, 24/7.
Working closely with musicians will usually involve weekend and evening work, not to mention launching initiatives throughout the likes of Thanksgiving or Christmas. It’s a challenge for many to keep a positive work/life balance, and truly enjoy a life away from work.
Finding happiness in a music industry career is down to several factors. Firstly, being aware of the challenges. Secondly, being determined enough to succeed, regardless of the challenges the industry throws up. And furthermore, finding a role that matches your skill-set and fits in with your expectations. With all that in mind, working in the music industry can be one of the most rewarding vocations out there, so what are you waiting for?
Check out our comprehensive list of opportunities today, and the very best of luck with your search!