Read books about the music business. Go on the Internet and visit music business websites such as the Berklee College of Music career page. No book can unlock all of the secrets of finding a career in music, but the better publications do give an idea of the standards of professional qualifications and behavior in the field. Magazines exist to cover virtually every area of music and are especially useful in keeping up with month-to-month developments and innovations.
Decide on a career focus that follows one’s interests and aptitudes as closely as possible, whether in performing, studio recording and production, legal and contract work, promotion, artist management, record companies, radio, teaching or other disciplines. While one’s future path may depart from expectations in unforeseeable ways, it is important to develop a plan for moving forward.
Talk to musical professionals. Contact people working in the specific area of interest to ask for guidance. This may be done via e-mail, phone, letter or in-person encounter — for instance, choosing the right moment to approach a musician who is packing up after a performance. There is nothing wrong with appearing confident and ambitious as long as one is also polite and respectful. Most professionals, if approached in the correct way, are happy to share their experience, knowledge or contacts with a sincerely interested person.
Learn the skills and qualifications needed for success. For music education, music history, music therapy or classical music performance, a formal education at a university music department or conservatory is essential. Other jobs, such as becoming a music promoter, are best approached through personal contacts, internships, or unpaid apprenticeships. It is vital to read the trade publications in one’s area.
Develop a broad skill set. For instance, a music producer needs to have a working knowledge of instruments, notation, recording technology, music writing software, arranging, scheduling, contracting, budgeting and marketing. To make ends meet, a freelance performer may need to learn related skills such as instrument building and repair, private teaching, conducting or public speaking. Versatility is all-important.