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Music & Radio | The Careers Service Music & Radio – Oxford University Careers Service
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About this sector

According to UK Music ‘there has never been a better time to choose a career in the music industry’. The range and variety of roles is growing rapidly and the industry is worth £4.4 billion to the UK economy. Given the complexity of opportunities available in music-related careers this information focuses on popular non-performance roles and routes into a career in radio. If you are interested in music journalism read our general careers information and advice on getting into Journalism.

To find out more about making it as a performer e.g. a songwriter, DJ or session musician, read the careers guides available on BBC Music Introducing and Careers in Music for useful tips and advice from getting your music heard to choosing labels. If you are considering a performance career in classical music read Kate Blackstone’s useful article on Bachtrack which includes 10 top tips for a successful career.

 

Types of job

A career in music offers a wide variety of different roles – from flexible freelance roles to permanent employment contracts. There are highly creative roles, as well as roles which draw more on communication, business skills, accuracy and technical skills. Some of the more popular roles available are listed below:

Jobs in Music

  • Music publisher – use the UK Music Publishers Association to find out more. Popular graduate schemes and internships include those with Universal Music UK and Warner Music UK.
  • Concert promoter – expect to setup advertising campaigns, be responsible for initial start-up funds, organise talent, maximize ticket sales and attract talent to venues. If you are working with radio formats, you may be expected to generate press and audience buzz that corresponds with major music releases.
  • Licensing and merchandising – Licensing managers typically work for record labels that handle the licenses for multiple different artists. They find companies that might be interested in using a particular artist’s work and then convince the company that the work is a good fit for the project in question. The licensing manager is also responsible for negotiating the contract and collecting the fees for use of the song.
  • Recording engineer, mixer or producer – these technical roles usually require further training and practical experience working as an assistant. Assistant engineers spend all their time in the studio alongside the main recording engineer, available if the engineer needs last-minute adjustments in the studio or help working with the client.
  • A&R (Artist & Repertoire) specialist – responsible for scouting new talent, signing it to a label and then overseeing all aspects of the process that leads up to the delivery of all finished recordings.
  • Music therapy – usually requires further training and qualifications. Useful guides available on the Prospects website and National Careers Service.
  • Music industry lawyer – read our Solicitor or Barrister webpage, and see Chambers: Media & Entertainment for firms with a strong practice in this area. (Music is a subsection on this link).
  • Music marketing / PR specialist – see our occupational information on Advertising, Marketing and PR for more careers advice.

Jobs in Radio (with links to Creative Skillset pages)

 

Entry points

Entry level jobs using core transferable skills

It is possible to work in the sector directly after your degree, particularly in roles which rely more on transferable skills, rather than highly specialised knowledge or ability. For example, your broader organisation, communication and commercial skills can give you access to roles in the business side of the industry, such as orchestra administrator, music retail, radio sales, music licensing or marketing.

Entry level work using specialist skills

It may be possible to gain work in a more specialist role by using the experience you’ve built up alongside your degree. For example, if you’ve been heavily involved in Oxide, the student radio station, it is reasonable to apply for broadcast assistant roles at smaller regional radio stations. If you’ve regularly been gigging with your band through university, it’s reasonable to seek out work as a sessional musician. It’s worth remembering though, that without fairly substantial experience it can be hard to go into a specialist role – you may need further study, or to develop your skills alongside another job.

Training/graduate schemes

Formal entry schemes are unusual in this sector, apart from roles in media production training which might be of interest to those keen to work in radio (see our TV & Film webpage for more on these, including the BBC’s Production Talent Pool).

  • Graduate schemes for the music industry include those at Warner, Universal Music UK and Sony. 
  • Creative Skillset sometimes runs campaigns aimed at encouraging people to get into radio, such as media training sessions (in the past it has funded those considering further study too).
  • A formal recruitment scheme runs for musicians who would like to work in the armed forces (the Army, RAF and the Royal Marines have music roles).

Developing your own work

Usually undertaken alongside another job or source of income, one entry point into the industry is to develop your own projects, from a performing ensemble to your own podcast. Bear in mind that to eventually make the jump from amateur to professional, it’s worth being as professional as you can from the outset, and finding ways to connect with industry professionals, build your network and seek feedback on what you’re doing.

Further study

There are roles in music and radio which require further qualifications after your undergraduate degree, including working as a lawyer in this industry, as an academic, or training as a music therapist.

Many other roles which involve specialised knowledge or abilities, recruit from both specialist masters courses, or from those with no further study but substantial experience. Further study courses exist for journalism – for music journalism or radio journalism; radio production – for producer roles; instrument repair, and music production.

Qualifying courses in teaching give access to more jobs in schools, but it is possible to teach privately without these qualifications.

Performers, composers and conductors typically train and hone their skills for many years. Building skill, exposure and reputation are key – and further study can be a good way of achieving this. Conservatoires in the UK are common places to pursue further study, particularly for the more classical genres and operate a similar applications process to UCAS for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Skills & experience

Am I good enough?

If you’re considering auditioning for music performance roles with companies or productions, first work with music tutor or performance professional to realistically assess your ambitions. Only an industry professional can help you with this question – it’s worth developing contacts with some in relevant areas who are willing to give you their thoughts on your examples of creative work. Remember, it’s not the case that even if you’re not a virtuoso you can’t make a career in the industry; it might just be that your creative output remains at an amateur level, while you make your income from a different role.

Gaining experience

There are lots of ways to get involved and build your CV. Remember to assess each suggestion in light of what kind of role you want to go for if you have a clear ambition. If you’re still undecided about exactly what job’s for you – just get stuck in (but notice the areas you feel more enthused about as you go). There’s some great advice and links to entry level roles on The Big Music Project website.

  • Music industry bodies, record companies and music services may have a formal internship or work experience scheme but if they don’t, make a speculative approach.
  • Major internship schemes include those at Universal Music, Sony and Warner.
  • The university’s Oxide student radio station welcomes students of all subjects keen to learn and contribute to the station.
  • There are two Oxford hospital radio stations which welcome volunteers.
  • You could start your own podcast show and market it online.
  • Get involved with student music groups – OUMS is a good place to start, and then explore their listing of ensembles to find a group that suits you. There are also databases for musicians, singers and teachers you can add yourself to to increase your chance of being approached for work.
  • Arts, music and literary festivals are hotbeds of opportunities – for example, around the time of the British Street Food Festival in Oxford, Universal Music were keen to work with students to get the word about their artists who were playing – a great way to get involved with the PR side of the industry. Opportunities often exist as stewards, sessional musicians, and in local/community performance spaces and local marketing and operational roles.
  • As a performer, Open Mic nights which cater to your genre, or busking (follow the council guidelines: Busking Code of Practice) can be a great way to try out your material and possibly get spotted!
Getting a job

Advertised vacancies

There are many websites which feature vacancies and jobs for this industry (see our list in the ‘External resources’ section below). You’ll notice quickly that some roles are advertised more frequently than others – such as sales roles, retail, business operations and marketing. As these roles exist in other industries (and are less ‘glamourous’ but absolutely crucial to the success of the work), competition is lower and recruiters need to work a bit harder! Explore the specialist websites for niche roles, or go to individual organisation’s pages. For example, Liverpool Philharmonic, like many large organisations, only advertise their performer and educator roles on their own website.

Speculative approaches

These are absolutely essential – many organisations won’t formally advertise roles, relying on their network and those who are proactive enough to get in touch to ask for experience or advice. Make sure speculative approaches are highly tailored to the organisation – an approach to a music publisher which doesn’t mention what aspects of their output you have familiarity with does not give the impression of someone who is enthusiastic or ready to be valuable. Use people you know who do the kind of work you’re interested in – but if you don’t know anyone yet, don’t worry about an email out of the blue to someone you’ve not met! In your first sentence highlight your key selling points, make sure to state clearly what you’re looking for, be polite, and keep the first email short. You can always send a polite follow up asking if they’d had time to see your email in a week’s time if you don’t get a reply.

Self-employment

Many individuals in this sector are self-employed or freelancers, usually with a few different sources of income from different activities. For example, you might play professionally with a number of different small groups, as well as giving individual music tuition. Alternatively, you might end up freelancing as a broadcast assistant for a local commercial radio station, while also DJing for club nights. Read our guide to freelancing which explains more about this kind of self-employed work.

Equality and positive action

To find out the policies and attitudes of employers that you are interested in, explore their equality and diversity policies and see if they offer ‘Guaranteed Interview Schemes’ (for disabled applicants) or are recognised for their policy by such indicators as ‘Mindful Employer’ or as a ‘Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’.

Shape Arts campaigns for access to the arts for those with a disability and holds details of opportunities year round.

Creative Access supports those from under-represented backgrounds to secure internships and graduate jobs in TV, Film, Music, Radio, PR, Publishing, Theatre and Journalism.

Many scholarships for further study in the creative industries seek to improve diversity – check course provider websites to look for funding information. There are also grant providers who offer financial support to performers for lessons, instruments and courses: use Turn2Us to identify trusts which you could apply to.

The UK law protects you from discrimination due to your age, gender, race, religion or beliefs, disability or sexual orientation. For further information on the Equality Act and to find out where and how you are protected, and what to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

Our resources
  • All you Need to Know About the Music Business by Donald Passman, 2011
  • Creative Careers Paths for Aspiring Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers by Elaina Loveland, 2009
  • Creative CV Guide by Jan Cole, 2010
  • Exploring Careers in Music (2nd Edition) by The National Association for Music Education, 2000
  • On Air, A Career in TV & Radio by Chris Alden, 2005
  • Understanding the Music Industry by Chris Anderton, Andrew Dubber & Martin James, 2013
  • How to make it in the Music Business  by Sian Pattenden , 2007
  • Careers In Music by Sara Peacock, 2012
  • Essential Radio Skills by Peter Stewart , 2006
  • Start an Independent Record Label  by J.S. Rudsenske , 2005
  • The Radio Handbook  by Carole Fleming , 2010

    Podcasts of Past Events

    Running the Show! From TEDx to London Music Scene

    The challenges, learning and opportunities that come from Running the Show.

    • 0:00 – Introduction
    • 5:00 – TEDx Oxford: Student led international event: Indyana Schneider
    • 24:30 – Oxford Entrepreneurs: Engaging with commercial partners and event management: Chris Williams
    • 47:00 – The Columbo Group: Marketing on the London club scene: Jason Ellar
    • 1:14:00 – Q & A (ends 1:38:44)

External resources
This information was last updated on 27 February 2018.
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