5 Side Jobs For Musicians

It’s an unavoidable fact that making a living purely off of music is harder and harder to do these days. There are plenty of exceptions, but in a world turning to streaming, playlists, and music subscription services more and more, money is a constant concern for serious musicians. But if you’re fully intent on earning a living purely off of listening and performing music, there are options you may not have considered. Here are five examples:

Cover band

Okay, this one’s a bit obvious, but bear with me. Lots of musicians never consider the cover band option out of fear of not being taken seriously and because they’re not interested in playing another artist’s music, but the cover band route has sizable benefits. Depending on location, style and experience, some bands can earn up to thousands of dollars a month playing clubs, weddings and events. And while the very thought of playing in a cover band might make you ill with trepidation, it’s a great option for musicians set on making a living only off of performing.

Music therapist

This is a phenomenal option for musicians interested in doing tangible good with their talent. From pain management to special education to helping people cope and heal from trauma, music is proven to deliver massive benefits to those in need. It is not, however, something any musician can just walk up and do. There are rigorous exams, months of training, and a certification involved, but there might be no better way for active musicians to give back to their communities and pay the bills at the same time.

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Music teacher

From private lessons to structured music teaching positions in schools, teaching is one of the most reliable ways for a musician to make money. It should be noted, though, that it’s not for everyone. Many musicians will no doubt recall working from a burned out, jaded instructor at some point during their musical training. Students, especially kids, demand an incredible amount of attention and energy. Not all musicians can be teachers, and the patience you developed learning an instrument might not translate to a lesson setting. But if you’ve got time, energy and the right attitude, teaching is something that might just help put food on the table between performances.

Music critic/blogger

Having a knowledge and background in music gives you a couple of essential credentials needed to critique and write about music. Press outlets and blogs are often in search for music lovers who can write, and the flexibility often offered through this kind of work is ideal for musicians. But, like with all of our side-jobs, not every musician can hack being a critic or blogger. Even if you can write well, it doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy writing about music that’s not yours. The gig also requires you to listen to a bunch of music you probably won’t like or be interested in. But if you can get past the hurdles, music criticism is a challenging, flexible, and sometimes financially rewarding profession.

Music Curator

With listeners and businesses alike turning towards playlists, music curation is a job more musicians should consider. What are the qualifications? Knowing a ton about all styles of music and having impeccable taste. Now, before you leap out of your chair and dance around the room in excitement over your newfound plans of becoming a professional music curator, think about a few things here. First, simply loving music won’t make you successful in this job. You’ll need to show you that your taste in music involves a massive depth of diverse knowledge and appreciation. Secondly, to be taken seriously, you’ll need some sort of proven experience––playlists for different moods or events, for example.

Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.

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  • Jeanne E Meisenzahl - June 16, 2018 reply

    Thank you so very very much for your excellent instructions! I have been recording all of my music from my home because of limited fund’s! I use my t.v. for the kerokie speakers and I use 2 cell phones and a microphone!It is a wireless microphone!To be able to make professional and high quality music tracks has been a number one priority to me!U have been joining Cree Ingles IDIOL Search Biweekly Challenge and the judges don’t like the reverb on my microphone they say it’s turned up to high when it’s on low!This recent time when I created and composed my own song including the instrumental part I sang into my phone while recording and it seems to be the best music video that I have done so far !Thank you for all of your help and I wish you much happiness and success always,Your Friend Jeanne Meisenzahl

  • Kevin Carlson - June 20, 2018 reply

    Hell, I can think of tons like most giging old timers have been doing for the last 50 years.like washing dishes, mopping bathrooms, hacking cabs, carpenter/painters, on and on…
    Seriously though.. if your running a small studio and have a decent( and I don’t mean you own every piece of vintage gear out of Abbey Road, OK, so I do have a bit but that’s not the point) gear like a fewf tube compressors and preamps & stuff and a good DAW,( I use Pro Tools HD but there are tons of other great ones) a good tower with lots of storage & processing power, I’ve been making a more then decent side wage doing audio restoration. People send old tapes of Grandma speaking Swedish or someones wedding or graduation, whatever, clean it up with a high quality VST’s and send them back on CD or a stick. There is a lot of money in memories,, especially as those of us that actually remember the 60’s start to think about mortality.. Leaving things for the future generations like your grand kids and such. You won’t get rich but it pays the bills & property taxes and (Bonus!)your in your studio working so it’s a pretty cool side gig and honestly if your just using your gear to do home recordings because you can’t afford studio time the upgrade isn’t really all that much. Then put your gear to work making money for you until you’ve built a top flight recording situation and can produce yourself and others if that is something that interests you. . It’s not for everyone of course, Most musicians would rather be on the mic end of a console. But that’s just me and what has worked for me to where music on many levels is my full time job.

    Also consider sound tracks to video games if your a MIDI person..(which I’m not…. still an analog holdout, I use it but not for much. But I have a few associates that are making a darn good living at it) And. You don’t need a bagillion dollar studio for a great MIDI mix.I’ve heard some incredible sounding tracks made on pawnshop gear. There a many sites to submit music for video game sound tracks, just remember to time code and register your work before turning anything over to anyone Even your mother!. That one I cannot emphasize enough. Just ask any musician over 50 and they will probably be able to tell you at least one song that’s been popular they had a hand in some portion of the writing or production but forgot to claim it and got royally screwed.

  • Bukka - June 20, 2018 reply

    I had a musician ‘friend’ speak to me with disdain when I suggested I could get him a great cover band gig that paid as well as mine. He went on and on about how he would never lower himself. I let him cool off for a minute (drop his guard) before asking him casually “so what do you do during the day?” His response: “I’m a banker.” Oh, so while I’m expanding my musical skills and getting paid well for it, you’re sitting behind a counter doing what people tell you to? I stayed cool but I have to admit I quite enjoyed the silence after my comment 🙂

  • Eileen Douglas - June 20, 2018 reply

    You definitely need a college degree to be a music therapist and be certificated on top of that. You also didn’t mention you have to pay to cover music, so that’s a consideration. None of these were things a regular musician could just go out and do without a lot of preparation.

  • Rik van Boeckel - June 20, 2018 reply

    It’s really interesting to read this. I am a percussionist, writer and poet. I teach percussion and write about music. I do interviews with musicians, mostly in the world music scene ( African, latin, flamenco, fado, Capeverdian). I write also critics. I learn a lot by these interviews. I also work at an art centre with a music, dance, theatre and fine arts department. And I write my own songs (in Dutch, English and Spanish). Also I recite my poetry accompanying myself on percussion. Thru the combination of these I can make a living. I build this up thru the years.

  • Alexander Hudson - June 21, 2018 reply

    Good ideas ☺

  • Brenda Hébert - June 21, 2018 reply

    I guess I could say my current occupation is a combination of the first two. I entertain at Assisted Living, Memory Care and Rehabilitation Centers. It’s a solo act, and I sing to backing tracks, but I try to keep the songs upbeat and ones that they would recognize (or at least make them laugh). I also make sure to wiggle a lot (the men may be in their 70s & up, but they’re not dead).
    The audience night not fill a stadium, but the appreciation would fill a stadium ten times over!

    Brenda Hébert - June 21, 2018 reply

    Oh yeah, and I perform at least 15 shows per month!

  • James Carbonaro - June 21, 2018 reply

    Don’t know if it still happens; but in New York City, on Labor Day weekend, they use to put on a concert for the Best of the Tribute Bands. Don’t know what they got paid; but you could see Elvis followed by The Beatles followed Led Zeppelin followed by………..well, you et the point. As for being a Music Therapist; I am a Physical Therapist. So, I’ve been involved in health care since 1984. Only once do I recall ever meeting a Music Therapist. And she only had a part-time gig working in some child-psych unit. Depending on what instrument (or instruments) you play, I suppose you could make it as a music instructor. There is a couple in my town who have a music store. In addition to selling various instruments, they also are booked pretty solid with giving lessons.

  • James Carr - June 21, 2018 reply

    Really want to live money and music all day

  • Greg - June 21, 2018 reply

    Don’t forget instrument repair…..some musician’s can’t even change guitar strings! I do it on the side, I’ve even learned how to do an acoustic guitar neck re-set….off the Internet there are tons of tutorials. If you love the instrument you play, you probably know something about it….and the challenge of learning something new, solving a problem, is fun!

  • Ms Marci - June 21, 2018 reply

    I’m a singer/songwriter, bassist and I have found that modeling for artists at colleges works well for my songwriting. Seriously, all I can do while I’m modeling is sit there and think, lay there and think or stand there and think! At least half of the songs I’ve written or on a scrap of newsprint with a piece of charcoal someone dropped on the floor! I have also done CD reviews while sitting for a class and published them in a local rag.

  • betty angel - June 30, 2018 reply

    Cover band is most popular job today and easy to get views on youtube. Very informative article i like so much all points..

  • David Davol - July 11, 2018 reply

    To label playing in a cover band as a side job for a musician is not only ludicrous, it’s insulting. I’ve been performing covers professionally for just shy of 40 years, and have never, and I repeat NEVER, had a full time day job since I left college and started performing. I just turned 61, have performed as a soloist for literally hundreds of thousands of people, and entertained for decades playing other people’s music. Musician, by definition….

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