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How to Make It In The Music Business Today: It’s Improvisation All the Way


Being a professional musician takes practice—lots of practice. But today, those looking to make a steady living as a musician have to pay much more attention to the networking and management aspects of their careers than they used to.

Last year the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded that there were just over 40,000 people in the nation employed as musicians or singers. Their pay, the bureau says, stood at an average $34.56 per hour. But how do full time musicians find work?

At one time it was common for musicians to have managers who would book them jobs playing live. Established recording companies were also a source of steady income for some, and wages earned for recording music could help a professional get by. Now many musicians manage themselves, and recording companies’ revenue streams have been upended by file-sharing and then streaming technology that allows consumers to access music cheaply or for free. At the same time, the revenue cut a musician can hope to get from streaming music on services like Spotify is slim.

“Artists need to know a lot more than they needed to know twenty years ago or ten years or five years ago,” says Richard Kessler, dean of the Mannes School of Music at the New School in New York. “They need to know social media, they need to know publishing… and they need to direct their own careers.”

At the New School, arts programs offer courses on industry legal issues, entrepreneurship, project development and the use of social media. The school also offers a master’s degree in arts management and entrepreneurship. “(The program) isn’t really meant to develop

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