Music Jobs: The Musician

This blog series focuses on different roles in the music industry. This week: the musician. I believe the following statement might seem redundant, I want to stress that there would not be a music industry without musicians to make music. Therefore, I start this series with elaborating on the role of the musician.

The definition most commonly used for musician rests firmly in a Eurocentric or Western foundation. First, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a musician as “a composer, a conductor, a performer of music; especially: instrumentalist.” If you use Google, it states that a musician is “a person who plays a musical instrument, especially as a profession, or is musically talented.” Finally, Wikipedia states that “a musician is a person who plays a musical instrument or is musically talented. Anyone who composes, conducts, or performs music is referred to as a musician. A musician who plays a musical instrument is also known as an instrumentalist.”

To summarize the definitions mentioned before, you can conclude that a musician is involved in the creation of sound we understand as music. It can be that the musician plays an instrument (instrumentalist), writes compositions (composer or songwriter), or tells others what and how to play within the context of a particular composition (conductor). For this article, I focus on the role of the musician as an instrumentalist.

The word instrumentalist points out the primary role of the musician: the person plays an instrument. The voice is also considered a musical instrument alongside others such as the guitar, piano or drums. Roughly, we can distinguish the role of a musician, the instrumentalist, in four groups: performing artists, recording musicians, performing musicians, and a combination of the latter two.

Performing artists are the people who the common public knows and loves or hates. These are the people who record and perform music themselves, whose names top music charts, and you can find at music venues and festival. Often, these performing artists are singers who play another instrument or a combination of singers with other musicians. We call the latter bands or music groups. Frankly, the role of a performing artist within the music industry deserves an article on its own because their position differs strongly and has particular characteristics compared to the recording and performing musicians.

Recording musicians are instrumentalists who only focus on recording music in studios. They have refined their ability to play music on record as smooth and efficient as possible. They are creative and have a good understanding of what elements are beneficial to the potential success of a song. Their collaboration with the people hiring them is often short-term, albeit that quality recording musician as frequently requested by the same people repeatedly. Recording musicians can be contracted by recording studios, other musicians, producers, and record labels. Synonyms for these recording instrumentalists are session musicians or studio musicians.

Performing musicians are instrumentalists who only focus on performing music in music venues, festivals, and shows for media. They can play their instruments while interacting with the dynamics of a real-life audience and other musicians as well. The importance of understanding those dynamics well enough is often underestimated. Just like the recording musicians, their collaboration with the people hiring them is often short-term from one show to an entire tour. However, that is not always the case. In some cases, performing musicians have long-term contracts for multiple years or album cycles. Although not that common anymore in today’s industry, performing musicians can also be long-term hires for clubs or other companies. Other names you will hear to define these performing instrumentalists are session musicians or live musicians.

As the term session musician might have already given away since it is a synonym for both recording and performing musicians, the combination of both is commonly called a session musician. These instrumentalists are most common in today’s music industry because it is getting harder and harder to earn a living without being both a recording musician as well as a performing musician. They gain fame within the professional music scene but often remain unknown to the common public, and are contracted by performing artists, other musicians, studios, producers, venues, and record labels. A nickname for successful session musicians is “hired guns,” which is also the title of a documentary about session musicians and is available on Netflix.

To end this article, I want to point out that the information written above is based on my idea based on my personal experience in the music industry. Not every statement I make will be accepted within the community, even though I have over fifteen years of experience as an active participant in the music industry as a musician, an industry professional, and an educational professional. Colleagues will have different points of few or have different experiences. Therefore, I want you to look around the industry and talk to people about their points of view.

Music Jobs: Introduction

This blog series focuses on different roles in the music industry. This week: the introduction.

The music industry is a dynamic industry with a lot of people involved. In the Music Jobs-series, I focus on different roles within the music industry of the Eurocentric or Western culture of the twenty-first century*. You will find this information helpful while finding your way into the music industry. You get to know what you can ask from certain people and what you should not ask from the people with whom you work.

My History of Pop Music professor pointed out in his classes that music became a real industry in the 1950s, although that is a matter of perspective. Even though I do not agree with him completely, I do understand why he made that statement: since the 1950s there is a lot of money involved in the music business and a lot of people earn a lot every day. One hugh disclaimer, though: the majority of people in the industry make somewhere between a reasonable monthly salary to way too little to call it a steady income. If you are planning on going into music and get rich, choose another career path.

Finally, I want to emphasize that it is OK not to know what it is you are responsible for or others. Especially in the music industry of the twenty-first century, the lines are more blurry than ever before. We all have to take on multiple roles in the industry to be able to make ends meet. For example, I know a singer who hosts a weekly radio show and works as a musical coach, even though his band is a headliner at venues and festivals worldwide.

In the next post, I will elaborate on the job as a musician and what it is a musician does other than living the ‘sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll’ lifestyle.

* NOTE:
I want to emphasize the cultural aspect since not every culture has the same definition of music and its industry. I also point out the century because certain jobs have gotten different tasks over the years.

New website

Not too long ago, I decided to update my website because I believed the site should be more evident than it was before. Therefore, you might find that the website seems somewhat incomplete right now. I apologize for that.

At the core, this website will represent my love for music, making music, and talking about music. I will use it to promote my services as a working musician in the music industry, and I will maintain a blog to write about music. I hope you understand that this website will not only be a promotional tool for myself, but an educational platform as well to teach newcomers about the ins and outs of the music industry.

I hope that the available information is sufficient for now and that you will find your way anytime you need me.

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