The Best Jobs for Musicians (Besides Teaching)- The New Economy Week


By Hannah Borenstein

Photo by Chris Brown.

With the advent of a generation that believes nothing of artistic value should cost money – music, movies, TV shows, etc. – and with that generation having the computer skills to carry out said vision, being an aspiring musician is now trickier than ever. Without super star clout, people by and large will not purchase your music. Even with super star clout, people will still probably not purchase your music.

In this wonderful new economy, being just a musician isn’t going to cut it. Most music scenes are in urban areas with a high cost of living and expensive practice spaces that force drummers, guitarists and singers, etc. to find day jobs on top of writing, recording, producing, and performing their music.

Below is a short list of jobs that we believe are a good alternative to supplement your income, force you to see some sunlight, or in the very least, make you interact with strange people to provide creative inspiration.

1. Coffee Shop

Nothing screams starving artist like being a snobby barista. But fitting the stereotype is not the only benefit. The hours can be tricky; sometimes getting up at 6 AM may be a little rough after a late-night performance but coffee culture now attracts writers, musicians, and poets, so finding people to network with and bounce ideas off may spawn rather naturally. The tough decision here is independent business or… Starbucks. You’re more likely to control the music at an independent shop, even possibly showcase your own, but even though you may be forced to listen to the ambiguous jazz of Starbucks they offer a great perk helpful to musicians over the age of 26 – health benefits.

2. Business Owner

The concept of starting your own business in addition to pursuing a musical career sounds a tad overly ambitious, even illogical if anything. However, LA Weekly published an article about a musician who did just that while trying to make it big. Dan Perkins of The New Fidelity started a company called Couch Guitar Straps. In the article, Perkins says that his company “designs and manufactures vegan guitar straps, camera straps, wallets and belts out of automotive upholstery. I wanted Couch to complement music as best as possible — that includes not going into work till 10 in the morning because of late-night gigs and rehearsals, and having work five minutes from my home for a traffic-free L.A. life.” Flexibility and freedom come with his work choice, as well as a relevance to music – his primary passion.

3. Retail

The hours at a clothing retail store will likely match up very well with performance and recording options. This option could particularly come in handy if fashion is a key element of the music because retail discounts are generally pretty awesome. Even more relevant and convenient when it comes to discount would be music retail. Getting a job sampling instruments for customers could be fun and earn you some potentially substantial commission.

4. Web Design

If you have the skills or time to develop the skills, web design and other freelance work can be really convenient. You make your own hours, can do it from anywhere, and they are jobs that are in pretty high demand. So if you’re driven, you can probably find work. It’s also not such a terrible thing to have on your resume in case the whole musician thing doesn’t work out; you’ll be among the few in reach of hopping back into the real world.

5. Tractor Driving

This one is kind of a joke. Kind of. The legendary B.B. King supposedly drove a tractor in his younger days and considered himself something of a pro, according to an article on Spinner. As a guitarist I would assume the driving sharpened his motor skills and strengthened his hand muscles. He moved to Indianola, Mississippi in 1943 after purchasing his first guitar for $15, and began driving tractors and performing with a music group. The guy is 86 and still shreds better than anyone in this guitar-playing world so he must have done something right.