Think Outside The Box: 5 Unconventional Music Jobs

by Ayanna Jacobs-El

As musicians, our career trajectory isn’t one of the clearest. There is no set way of achieving our career goals or a definitive job title we will have once we begin working. Because of this, much of how we approach work is from an entrepreneurial standpoint. We have to possess many skill sets and wear a variety of hats in order to be successful in our respective areas. This January, I attended the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship’s (BerkleeICE) 2nd annual Silicon Valley Trip to learn more about opportunities in combining music with emerging technology and about alternative music careers. This trip was an eye-opening and informative way to think outside the box of what a career for a musician can look like in the 21st century. To help give you more insight of just how broad the possibilities are, take a look at this list of 5 unconventional music jobs!

1. Freelance Music Journalist

If you have a knack for writing, you may want to consider working as a freelance music journalist as a part-time job. Some music journalists and bloggers do not have a strong music background, which often results in their writing focusing only on emotions or superficial details because they can’t appreciate the music they are writing about at the same level as an actual musician. As a musician, you can incorporate your vast music knowledge and experience into what you are either reviewing or writing about, but make sure you don’t get too technical because you don’t want to lose the interest of your non-musician readers. If you think you would be suited to work in this area the Berklee Groove is currently looking for a staff writer and we also accept submissions for contributing writers!

2. Composer and Sound Designer for Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality is a fascinating emerging technology that is constantly being improved upon and gaining prominence in today’s world.  Many of the games and simulations for Virtual Reality need music and sound design to help add realism and achieve the desired atmosphere. Berklee offers a number of opportunities that could lead to a career in this area such as: the joint Berklee and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) course, Developing Technologies: Music + VRMinor in Video Game Scoring, and the Minor in Audio Design for Video Games. The Sound Design Network (SDN) club at Berklee is also a great place to network and learn Sound Design techniques. Berklee also recently installed a Virtual Reality Cube on campus in the Media Center if you would like to experience this unique technology firsthand.

3. Jingle Writer

Some of the most lucrative writing opportunities can be found in advertising. A single commercial could bring in a payday of anywhere from $500 to $15,000+. As a jingle writer, you must be able to support a product with your music and make the product more appealing to the viewer. You also need to have top-notch songwriting and production skills, because at the end of the day, a jingle in basically just a condensed version of a song.

4. YouTube Artist

YouTube has changed the entertainment industry and created a new breed of stars. YouTube artists have the ability to share their music with massive audiences without ever leaving their bedrooms. Some musicians have been so successful on YouTube that they have made it their primary and only source of income. To successfully make a career as a YouTube Artist you need to know the ins and outs of social media, post content frequently, cultivate a loyal fanbase, learn how to effectively run crowdfunding campaigns, have interesting and eye-catching videos, have strong marketing and business management skills, and most importantly make great music!

5. Music Transcriber

If you were great in Ear Training, Theory, and Harmony class and are either a Finale or Sibelius master, then this job might be for you! Usually, a transcriber comes into play when a band or artist that either has limited knowledge of music theory or is in a time crunch and needs someone else to create scores, parts, and lead sheets for them quickly. Work can be plentiful and lucrative in this type of work if you make your services known to the right musicians and companies.




About the Author

Ayanna Jacobs-El
Ayanna Jacobs-El is a composer, producer, songwriter, singer, alto and baritone saxophonist, and DJ dual majoring in Contemporary Writing and Production and Professional Music with a minor in Writing for TV and New Media. You can learn more about Ayanna and hear her music by visiting