Careers In Culture

Music and Sound Recording - What You Need to Do

Career Routes

On this page:

The long and winding road

You've chosen a career path that usually has as many twists and turns as a country lane... and more than a few bumps. Most people in music and sound recording move from department to department within a company, move from company to company, or move in and out of various freelance jobs as work becomes available.

You're interested in a career in music and sound recording. Perhaps you'd like to be a rap singer. Or maybe you want to be a composer. Perhaps you want to work in an orchestra or jazz ensemble. Maybe you love computers and want to get into sound synthesis or develop a podcast. Read on to learn more about how to achieve your career goals.

People come to music and sound recording with a variety of educational backgrounds, and their career routes are often unique depending on the type of work they do and the opportunities they find. Anyone considering a job in this field should know about the five musts: education, communication skills, computer skills, networking and experience.

Make the Grade

While your high school diploma is a good start toward your career in music and sound recording, it won’t be enough to find work. Without a good education, what are your chances of surviving and thriving in the music business? Most employers are looking for people with college/cégep diplomas and university degrees, especially in administration, business and technical work. Even if you're on the creative or interpretive side of the business, a diploma or degree will certainly help, particularly if you add marketing, computer and business subjects.

Make a Statement

Whether you're a performer playing a live concert or discussing your ideas with a music journalist, a music teacher explaining a concept to a student or a sound engineer describing a particular sound to a session player, this business is all about communication. Verbal and written communication skills are essential to anyone considering a career in music and sound recording. Do you speak other languages? Can you do website design? With the rapid globalization of music, you could be valuable to a company that is expanding into new markets. Can you write a solid business plan and develop a persuasive grant application? These skills will be valued in any sound recording position and will open doors for you.

Hone Computer Skills

No matter what kind of career in music you are interested in, computers have become an essential tool. Musicians benefit from computerized accounting skills to track their earnings and expenses. Labels and concert promoters rely on the Internet – for example, e-mail, browsing, web design and e-commerce – to market and promote their events and products. Independent artists and labels use sophisticated electronic tools to sell their works directly to consumers around the world. Improve your employability by increasing your computer skills whenever you have a chance.

Build Your Network

The statement “it's not just what you know but who you know” certainly applies to the music and sound recording industry. It's a “people” business where developing a network of contacts is essential. Go to trade shows, attend seminars and music festivals, and join local/provincial/national music associations. Time sitting at home waiting for a call could be used to “mix and mingle” at CD release parties, local jam sessions, and music events such as Canadian Music Week. Keep contact information on the people you meet and send a thank-you note when someone provides you with a useful lead.

Hands-on experience

Experience will always give you an edge in finding and getting work. Use the following exercise to see how you can expand your practical skills and gain valuable contacts.

Career Audiences

I'm a student, and I could...

  • Audition for and perform in the school/youth band, orchestra or choir.
  • Get a part-time job at a music store to learn about distribution, marketing and sales.
  • Get a co-op placement at a management company or booking agency. - Work at the college/cegep or university radio station.
  • Volunteer at the next school dance.
  • Volunteer to do sound mixing and recording with my community theatre group or at my local cable station.
  • Take part in amateur talent showcases in non-commercial settings.
  • Get on the student committee that books and promotes concerts and other entertainment activities.
  • Take music or singing lessons - because it's never too late to start!

If I'm an artist/worker in transition, I could...

  • Take some night courses in advertising, promotion, or other business-related subjects.
  • Volunteer at a music festival, radio station or recording studio.
  • Join a local musicians' or songwriters' association and attend lectures and workshops.
  • Learn computer skills, from basic e-mail and web browsing to web design and multimedia techniques.
  • Do more auditions.
  • Look for an internship with a performing arts company.


Your education can take you places

There are successful musicians, engineers and executives with limited education who went to the “school of hard knocks” and learned on the job. Chances are there was no formal training available when they were young. Today, if you want to succeed, you can choose from many college/cégep and university programs as well as specialized training through workshops and seminars. Your education will give you an edge. Here are some of the paths you might take to your music career:

Learning Paths


Your education + your talent
  • Composer
  • Lyricist
  • Musician
  • Producer
  • Singer
  • Songwriter
University degree in music + major in performance
  • Accompanist
  • Composer
  • Conductor
  • Orchestra/chamber musician
  • Soloist
University degree in music + business courses
  • Booking agent
  • Music publicist
  • Orchestra operations manager
  • Orchestra tour manager
  • Personal manager
University degree in arts administration (music major)
  • Artist manager
  • Festival organizer
  • Fund-raiser
  • Performing rights administrator
  • Record label manager
University degree in jazz and contemporary music
  • Composer / theorist
  • Copyist / arranger
  • Musicologist
  • Orchestrator
  • Stage manager
  • Studio musician
University degree in music specialized training
  • Film composer
  • Music therapist
University degree in music + teacher training
  • Public school music teacher
University degree in music + experience
  • Private music teacher
College / CEGEP diploma or university degree in business / management, marketing & public relations
  • Accountant
  • Concert promoter
  • Publicist / press agent
  • Record label manager
  • Record company marketing representative
  • Record company promotion representative
  • Record company sales representative
  • Record store manager
College / CEGEP diploma or university degree in journalism
  • Music columnist / critic
  • Music journalist
  • Publicist
University degree in law
  • Copyright / trademark lawyer
  • Entertainment lawyer
  • Record label manager
College / CEGEP diploma or university degree in music production and engineering
  • Instrument designer
  • Producer
  • Recording engineer
  • Resident sound technician
  • Sound reinforcement engineer
  • Technical sales person
College / CEGEP diploma or university degree in music + computer / new media training
  • Film sound designer
  • Video game composer
  • Web designer
  • Webmaster

Want to learn more about education programs and schools? Talk to:

  • Respected music professionals in your area.
  • The professional organizations listed on this website.
  • Arts organizations in your community.
  • A local librarian.