In each entry of our Path to Professionalism series, we offer advice and guidance to aspiring composers regarding a specific aspect of their musical journey. So far, we’ve covered such topics as how to get the most professional results out of our music notation software, how best to hone your engraving skills, and how to make the most of your time as a music student. All of these are important and necessary skills for a modern composer to learn, but it is also important to address an issue that might otherwise be ignored in favour of more esoteric musical ambitions – money.
The simple truth is that very few musicians arrive instantly at a stage of their career where they can eke a living solely out of the money they are making from their music. Instead, the majority of composers working today begin their career with a sideline role to supplement their income, and sometimes gain further experience. Here, we explore the avenues of supplementary income available to aspiring composers.
Secondary Roles in Professional Music
One source of supplementary income that will fit seamlessly alongside your own ambitions is a job directly related to the world of professional music.
Many composers begin their careers in a sheet music writer role of some form, particularly as engravers or copyists. Professional engravers, whether working freelance or employed by a music publisher, are required to have a level of skill beyond that of composers armed with even the latest and best notation software. An extensive knowledge and familiarity with music scoring software, and a keen eye for precision and detail, are therefore essential for these roles.
In addition to these paths, taking a job as an arranger, composer’s assistant or even as a freelance session musician can all provide ways to top up your bank balance and hone your musical craft at the same time.
For young musicians with their mind set on conquering the world’s concert halls, the prospect of teaching music can seem comparatively lacking in glamour. In fact, teaching is one of the most common and reliable career paths for musicians to follow as both a full-time and freelance role.
Freelance music teaching in particular has a number of distinct benefits for aspiring musicians, as the flexible hours and ability to pick and choose engagements can leave you with enough time and freedom to work on you own music.
Submitting to Music Libraries
We’ll be discussing the relative merits and drawbacks of music libraries in greater detail in one of our upcoming blogs, but for now it’s sufficient to say that they no longer suffer from the same negative reputation that they used to. Submitting your work to a music library doesn’t have to be a difficult or time-consuming process, and the income you stand to receive from licensing your work makes this an option seriously worth your consideration.
Entering Your Work into Competitions
As we’ve discussed before, this can be a great opportunity for promoting your music, but many competitions also offer cash prizes. Of course, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to create a regular source of incoming revenue entirely from competitions, but most of them are so quick and easy to enter that there’s little harm in submitting your work whenever you can.
As an aspiring composer, the process of implementing your income should be about finding viable, practical solutions that still allow you to spend time working on your own music. Each of these avenues has its advantages, and each poses its own challenges to finding the sweet spot between a healthy bank balance and a fulfilling creative process. Ultimately, remaining in the clear financially while also being able to compose freely is one of the delicate arts that a musician should learn to master.