musician teaching a guitar lesson“With a narrow view of success, musicians unconsciously limit their career options.”
–Angela Beeching
The Musician’s Way, p. 300

Although veteran musicians might derive the bulk of their earnings from full-time jobs, rising artists often depend on multiple income streams.

To assemble such portfolio careers, though, performers require diverse skills, few of which are covered in traditional music curricula.

This post highlights 9 income streams that today’s musicians enjoy along with tips to help emerging artists to learn about and tap them.

You might not find all nine to your taste, but by becoming skilled with a number of them, and perhaps with others not listed here, you’ll be equipped to thrive in today’s scene and to adapt as the future unfolds.

9 Incomes Streams Tapped by Portfolio Musicians

1. Concertizing

Learn how to organize, present, and fund your own concerts.

  • To understand the inner workings of the concert biz, you might volunteer a few hours each month for a presenting organization and then ask a mentor to help you construct a simulated tour.

2. Gigging

Grow your repertoire and business skills such that you can book casual gigs and perform in diverse settings.

  • You might consult a seasoned pro, sit in at gigs, audition for short-term positions at theme parks or on cruise ships, and take a music business course so that you can better handle marketing, sales, contracts, and negotiations.

The Musician's Way book cover

3. Teaching

Become knowledgeable about teaching students of diverse ages in various professional settings.

  • Observe teachers working in private studios, K-12 schools, and in higher ed; study the pedagogical materials and methods pertinent to your specialty; begin teaching part-time; use resources such as; follow the guidelines in my post, Applying for Faculty Positions.

4. Conducting

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, tens of thousands of musicians work as music directors and composers. Vast numbers of conducting opportunities exist in religious organizations, where musicians lead choirs.

  • Take choral conducting courses and periodically assist church music directors and other conductors to grasp the ins and outs of their profession.

5. Contracting & Presenting

Once you’ve learned how to organize your own concerts, you might also put together concert series at the likes of churches, community centers, and libraries, earning fees as a series director and as a performer.

  • Volunteer to assist or intern with a local festival or concert series administrator and ask about funding, promotional, and other strategies; put together a mock series and ask a mentor to evaluate your plan; read about concert programming principles and the offerings of concert presenters in a range of locales.

6. Recording & Audio Engineering

Be able to record, edit, and produce your own and other people’s audio and video recordings so that you you can do freelance work and also teach basic production to your students.

  • Take music recording and technology courses or summer intensives to learn recording techniques and how to use digital audio workstations and video editing programs.

7. Website Development

It’s easier than ever to build and manage websites, but many people still refuse to learn how, which means that there’s abundant work for developers, even ones with only fundamental skills; plus, you need to run your own site expertly.

  • Sign up for a course or seminar that will enable you to create sites, optimize sites for search, and handle other aspects of Web culture.

8. Publishing

Whether online or in print, there’s a never-ending need for instructional materials, music scores, and other content.

  • Create a file, and regularly jot down ideas for blog posts; periodically compose exercises, etudes, and other instructional aids; continually refine your writing abilities. Maybe enroll in a music business course that covers publishing issues.

9. Composing & Arranging

Performers who can write and arrange their own music enjoy lifelong creative and monetary rewards.

  • You might take a course in composition or arranging, study songwriting, or attend a summer program that focuses on your area of interest.

*  *  *

As I see it, the combination of new technologies, the decline of traditional music institutions, and low interest rates on loans has opened a vast frontier for entrepreneurial musicians.

In the words of Dave Kusek, former CEO of BerkleeMusic, “It has never been a better time to be a musician or songwriter than it is today. You have a lot more control over your career than you ever did.”

Also see the Music Career Resources section at as well as Chapter 14 of The Musician’s Way.

Related posts
Are Conservatories Keeping Pace?
Career Strategies that Drive Creativity
Let’s Get Relevant
Ninja Networking
Partnering with Non-Profits

© 2012 Gerald Klickstein
Photo © Andy Dean Photography, licensed from