Who says you can’t make money with a music degree?

One of the top concerns that I get from parents working with me is their wondering what their children will be able to do career-wise with a degree in music.

In the past, I have redirected these troubled guardians to a previous article I wrote, in which I outline 70+ careers that musicians can get with a music degree.

However, it is worth noting that some careers typically pay more than others in the music industry.

My only disclaimer: It is true that nearly any career in the music industry can eventually pay 6 figures. You can be sure that many successful performing artists in almost every genre make well into the 6-figures, with the most successful making 7-figures. Music producers, musical theatre artists, songwriters, and even teachers all have commanded six figure salaries when the demand for their abilities calls for it.

That all being said, some careers more commonly come with the heftier salary than others.

That’s what I am about to outline in this article.

From management to writing to institutional professorships, here are 10 six-figure jobs that you can get with a music degree.


10. Booking Agent

A booking agent is someone who finds jobs & gigs for composers, performers, producers, etc. Often times, a booking agent is considered synonymous with a talent agent, but in the field of music this isn’t necessarily true.

In music, a booking agent usually books the shows for the performers & producers they represent. In this scenario, the booking agent is a single person or entity that puts together tours & shows for their artists.

Traditionally, a booking agent is distinct from an artist manager, whose job is much more concerned with guiding the career of musicians and helping them succeed in the industry. Independent artists that aren’t signed to major deals with international distribution may use one person as both a manger and a booking agent.

So how does a booking agent make money? They take a percentage of what the artist will be paid at a show. Usually, this percentage is between 10-20%. More than that would be unfair to the performer.

A booking agent will often represent multiple artists. That is how the agent can make six figures.

Salary: According to Forbes Magazine, a booking agent can make over $1,000,000+ per year. I do know someone who has made close to that amount of money doing bookings.


9. Film, Television, and Video Game Composer

michael nyman photo

Film Composer Michael Nyman: Photo by monophonic.grrrl

Commercial music composition is a continuously growing business that is becoming easier and easier to get into.

Twenty years ago, writing music for video games consisted of writing for limited capability MIDI machines. Listen to the background music to any of your favorite classic video games from the 90s to understand where I am coming from.

Today, video games now profit almost $100 billion more than Hollywood does annually. It’s time to take this industry very seriously.

But let’s not forget about the film & television industries as well. Composers can make a substantial living working in the television industry: for a half-hour episode, a composer can make around $7,500. For an hour-long episode, which is becoming the norm for dramatic television shows today, a composer can make between $10,000 – $15,000 per episode.

So if a television series has a 10-episode season, then you have made a six-figure salary on that one job alone. That sounds pretty great to me!

Salary: Some common salaries are as follows for the video game, film scoring, and television composing agency:

30-minute television show: Around $5,000 – $8,000

60-minute television show: Around $8,000 – $16,000

Made-for-television movie/Independent Feature: Around $60k

Major Television Movie: $75,000 – $1,000,000+

Video Game: Per-project fee is around $30,000

Here’s an article I wrote last year detailing advice on how to get started as a commercial music composer.


8. Concert Promoter

concert photo

Photo by Activedia (Pixabay)

These are the people that are behind organizing tours, performances with attendances of 1,000+, and special events.

A concert promoter’s job is typically fourfold:

  1. Offer a contract to a particular artist or lineup of artists.
  2. Getting a venue / performance center of any kind.
  3. Pricing the show(s).
  4. Providing transportation costs for the artists and any other associated entities.

When in college, students can find internships with major record labels to gain valuable experience as aspiring concert promoters. For example, Sony Music offers internships in its College Marketing Division.

Salary: It is true that no standardized salary for a promoter exists. That said, even just one exceptionally well put-together marketed properly can drive revenue into the six figures.


7. Mastering Engineer

One of the most elusive yet universally significant careers in the music industry, the mastering engineer provides the finishing touches to a recorded piece of music.

Nearly every major record, CD, film score, mp3, commercial jingle, song on the radio, etc. has been touched by a mastering engineer.

The mastering engineer takes a recording that has been processed by a mixing engineer and makes it ready for distribution.

One of the notable jobs of a mastering engineer is to take a recording and make it sound bigger, louder, brighter, and fuller. The idea behind this is to make the quality of a recording as competitive as other commercial recordings in its final state.

To make a recording sound as great as possible, mastering engineers use a combination of signal audio processors, frequency analyzers, software programs like Izotope Ozone, and a variety of speakers and headphones to test how the final product sounds on a variety of commercial devices.

Salary: A mastering engineer usually charges between $700 – $1,000 per album. I know one engineer who masters 4 albums a week. If he makes $700 per album (I know for a fact he does), his yearly salary equates to $145,600.

Although the initial overhead for buying the right equipment can be costly, the payout can be tremendous for the mastering engineer who is technically adept and well-networked in his or her greater musical community.