Live music is big business. The highest-grossing tours by major label artists can rake in hundreds of millions of dollars every year. The even more shocking aspect of this objective fact is that they are getting more lucrative all the time. Sure, people talk about the music industry being harder and harder to make money in, but that doesn’t have any real bearing on the live music sector, apparently, because it seems to be growing every day.
Suffice it to say there’s money to be made in live music. And unlike other parts of the music industry, you don’t have to be a touring artist to make a living performing live. Behind the performing acts are lots of other people making things happen. Crew hands, sound engineers, and lighting engineers. If you’re preparing for a career in audio engineering or the music business, there are plenty of possible careers in live music for you to consider.
Live Music Careers
- Live sound engineer. Midsize to large tours are always in need of skilled audio engineers (or team of engineers) to travel with them and make them sound outstanding in a wide range of venues. Hooking up with one of these tours can be very lucrative. If you’re the type of person who likes the challenge of creating an excellent sound experience in a variety of settings, or if you just like to travel, this might be just the gig for you.
- Live venue engineer. If you prefer to stay local and work with a lot of different bands, you might consider becoming the house engineer at a small to mid-size venue in town. These venues need good sound people to help them stay competitive with other venues. As a live venue engineer, instead of trying to work in a wide range of settings, you’ll get the challenge of supporting lots of different types of bands in creating a great sound experience.
- Guitar tech. Ever notice how so many touring guitarists switch guitars in between songs on stage? A guitar tech is the person backstage who coordinates these changes, managing the gear and effects, and tuning and setting up guitars for the players while they perform. As a guitar tech, you’re providing critical support to help the show run smoothly.
- Concert lighting technician. Who makes the band shine–literally? It’s the concert lighting technician, responsible for everything from throwing a spotlight on solo players to creating a dazzling light show for the audience to enjoy. If you have an eye for color and good technical sense, this could be the job for you.
- Concert promoter. Great live shows don’t just happen; they’re coordinated, organized and advertised by concert promoters. The promoter sets up the date at a venue, schedules great bands to fill the time, and gets the word out about the show so people will come see it.
- Venue owner. If you get a kick out of seeing great shows by different bands every night, if you love seeing music lovers come to enjoy the music—and if you’d like to make some money while making that happen—how about launching your own live music venue? Venue owners literally “set the stage” for live shows, providing a great location for bands to perform and fans to come see them.
- Band manager. For bands and artists to be successful, they really need someone to handle the legwork of scheduling the shows, covering promotion, scheduling press interviews, etc. That’s the job of the band manager. If you have a band or artist you believe in and you want to help them connect with fans, this is a great way to do it.
Work Towards a Career in Live Music
Finding your way in any creative career can be difficult and scary. When you’re just starting out it can feel like you’re lost in the wilderness. You’re just firing applications off into the void. You’re not hearing back and you’re not sure what you’re doing wrong. But the truth is that if you’re smart about where you apply your energy, and how you approach things you can really build a career for yourself.
Music, like all creative industries, is all about who you know. It’s all about what connections you have, what skills you have, and how you can assist people in making cool art. Working in live music is a great way to meet people. It’s a perfect way to make connections, build a rolodex, and figure out where you want to go from there. It’s a great way to learn how the mechanisms of the music industry function, how you could fit into them, and which areas of the industry you aren’t interested in.
The music industry may be always reinventing itself, but the one constant is they need driven individuals who bring a unique perspective to the work. That could be you. You just have to meet the right people to make it happen. You just have to have a showcase for your skills.