Starting With You                       What's Happening Today
Careers In Culture

Music and Sound Recording - What You Need to Know

Challenges and Opportunities

On this page:

Take your passion and make it happen

Come On In – We’re Playing Your Song

Are you passionate about music? Well, that's great because the lifeblood of the industry has always been young, enthusiastic people with new music and fresh ideas. Want to be a conductor, composer, musician or arranger? Fantastic! You can't play an instrument or carry a tune but you are still attracted to music? That's no problem. There are actually more jobs off-stage than in the spotlight. You could become a publicist or booking agent. Or maybe an arts administrator or personal manager.

All in a Day’s Work

Those who are successful in a music and sound recording career know that they must become skilled at a variety of tasks. For example, the owner of an independent record company not only signs new artists, but he or she likely does the bulk of the publicity, promotion, administration and marketing. A sound engineer might record a string quartet in the daytime and then mix live sound for a country band in a bar at night. Musicians routinely take whatever work they can get, regardless of the style of music. In the long run, flexibility and adaptability will be the key to your survival.

Beware of the Two Fs

Many people are attracted to the music business because they dream of fame and fortune. Only a lucky few become huge “overnight” successes. Continue a broad-based education and develop a variety of skills so that you can exercise other options, perhaps even outside the industry, when times get tough. For example, you could be a songwriter who has to supplement his or her income by writing magazine articles. Don't let the two Fs keep you from gaining a broad range of knowledge. Chances are that chasing your dream will be a life-long challenge.

Global Jukebox

Did you know that the Juno Awards started in 1971 as a modest insider’s celebration of Canada’s music talent? Now it is one of English Canada’s glitziest annual events, presenting awards in 39 different artist and industry categories. The French-Canadian equivalent – the coveted “Felix” award – is presented in 56 categories at the annual Gala de l’ADISQ (Association québécoise de l'industrie du disque. And regional music events such as the East Coast Music Awards, Gala MiMi in Quebec and the Pacific Coast Music Awards have become excellent venues for exposure to audiences, business representatives, international agents, etc.

As our global village gets smaller and our population becomes increasingly diverse, differing musical forms such as world beat, blues, hip hop, rap, electronic music, salsa, new age and Celtic music are finding a growing audience. This diversity also demonstrates the old saying that there are really only two kinds of music – good and bad. Do your musical interests and tastes fall outside what’s considered “in” today? Don’t despair. If you love what you’re doing and are doing it well, you’ll eventually find or create your audience. On the other hand, you might consider adopting a style that is more marketable to keep your revenue generating options open.

Let’s Get Digital

Evolving technology constantly changes the face of the music and sound recording industry. Artists and labels now have an array of new, affordable technological tools to connect with global audiences. Welcome to the world of podcasts, webcasts, file-sharing and downloading. The Internet is a marvelous tool and the more you understand its potential, the more effective you will be in your marketing efforts. Artists (and all major and indie record labels!) are concerned with music piracy, but some artists encourage downloading, even though they recognize that they may lose some sales. The introduction of websites for the inexpensive downloading of songs or albums has enabled some artists to benefit from the sales of their copyrighted music while ensuring extensive access to and publicity about their work. Such promotion increases attendance at the band’s live concerts. Artists who may have already signed a contract with a record label can increase their fame, while artists who do not have a contract often find that the Internet gives them a perfect platform to make their music known.

D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself)

The music industry is changing. Some indie labels, with low overheads and a no-frills approach, show steady growth while the big mainstream record companies are feeling the pinch. In response, these are downsizing staff and using more contract workers. This has created opportunities for those who are self-employed. Basement studios, small record companies (labels), manufacturers and independent promotion firms are springing up all over Canada. As an entrepreneur you're going to need business skills. You're also going to have to get out there and develop a network of associates and clients. Do you have a knack for communication? Are you a good negotiator? Do you have a flair for marketing and promotion? Develop these skills and you’ll have what it takes in this “do-it-yourself” musical world.

The "classical" approach

Many people get into classical music at a very early age in order to develop their instrumental technique and style. If this is the route you’ve taken, perhaps you already had extensive musical training by the time you reached your teens. This head start is invaluable no matter what kind of music you eventually pursue. However, it does not necessarily ensure your success.

Every musical genre is very competitive. Use the checklist to make sure that you’re taking advantage of every possible strategy to reach your full musical potential.

  • I have joined a professional association/union.
  • I know how to prepare for and perform well at an audition.
  • I practice every day.
  • I try to play as many different styles as I can so I don't limit my musical horizons.
  • I take Master Classes.
  • I enter music festivals and competitions to gain performing experience.
  • I audition for local/provincial/national orchestras.
  • I read trade magazines and newsletters about the music industry.
  • I take lessons with orchestra professionals.
  • I attend music workshops and seminars.
  • I network with other musicians to better understand my profession.
  • I take business and marketing courses and learn about self-promotion.
  • I perform music whenever the opportunity arises.