A Guide to Business in the Music Industry

A career in the music industry can appeal to musicians or anyone who loves music. Even if you aren’t a gifted musician, you might still succeed in the music industry if you pursue a career on the business side, possibly as a manager or a producer. The music industry as a whole includes a wide variety of roles, some creative and others more business-oriented. Although considered a high-risk business, engaging in the creation, performance, management, or support of music or those producing it can be a satisfying career.

College Degrees

Pursuing a college degree is an effective way to prepare for a career in the music industry. While a college degree might not be a requirement for a career as a performer, it can be helpful. Many colleges offer Bachelor of Music or Bachelor of Arts degrees in general music performance or more specialized sectors such as contemporary or jazz music. Those wishing to pursue business careers might look for programs in music production, songwriting, music composition, or music direction. Professionals such as attorneys and accountants might also specialize in advising and working with musicians and others in the music business.

Careers in the Business Side of the Music Industry

Careers in the music business include managers who represent artists and bands and handle all aspects of their careers. A booking agent is a professional who focuses on negotiating deals and planning tours for artists. Someone working as a concert promoter specializes in securing venues and marketing music events. A licensing representative pitches music for use in video games, television, films, and commercials. A music business accountant is a specialized accountant who works with musicians and other professionals in the music industry. And an entertainment attorney is a lawyer who specializes in handling legal matters for musicians.

Legal Aspects of the Industry

Legal aspects of the music industry can be confusing. Copyright law applies to every piece of music. This law protects a “musical work,” or musical arrangement, the combination of notes, chords, harmonies, rhythms, and lyrics. Copyright law also protects a specific recording of the musical composition, known as the “sound recording” or the “master.” The music copyright is created immediately upon creation as long as the work is original and it’s created in a tangible medium, such as being written on paper or recorded. Sometimes a musician might own copyrights for both the musical work and the sound recording, but at other times, the two copyrights might be owned by different people or entities. Often, music publishers own the musical work copyright, while record companies own the sound recording copyright.

Music Industry Terms

As is common for many different industries, the music industry has its own vocabulary that can be confusing to those outside of the industry. For example, a demo is a basic recording used to highlight an artist’s talent or style. A cover is a song performed by an artist who did not originally write the song. Distribution is the process of selling recorded material. A copyright owner is the only one with exclusive rights to a copyrighted work. And when recording music for commercial distribution, mastering is the final preparation process. A number of glossaries have been written to help people understand common music industry terms.