Written by Paul Adler
It’s no secret that most musicians these days are finding difficult the prospect of making a living in a music industry that, it’s probably safe to say, is about as stable as a vegan’s intestinal tract after a Crunchwrap Supreme. So how have musicians been hacking it in the face of online piracy, dwindling concert attendance, and a widespread economic recession? The answer may be more simple than one would think: a growing number of musicians have taken to moonlighting—working after-hours jobs which, while still viable contributors to the music industry itself, are outside of the jobholders’ primary careers. We here at Indie Ambassador have conjured up what we feel to be the top ten most popular potential occupations in the cloak-and-dagger, back-alley world of music industry moonlighting and compiled them below.
Give them a read through, and don't worry if you don't yet have the clout to go these routes! Here is a list of music industry side jobs with lower barriers to entry.
Despite the rarity of music-to-screen (or vice-versa) crossover success, we felt it would be best to include the first alternative occupation most laymen would probably think of when being prompted with the subject of “music industry side jobs,” as many of these moonlighters are easily-recalled subjects of pop culture fascination.
Notable examples: Jared Leto (Fight Club, Requiem For A Dream, 30 Seconds To Mars), Zooey Deschanel ((500) Days of Summer, that awful show on FOX, She & Him), and yes, even Kid Cudi (How To Make It In America).
9. Tattoo Artist
It seems like the music business and body mod culture have always gone hand-in-hand and if your conception of the heavily-tatted industry professional is confined to world of rock and alternative music, you definitely haven’t seen the occupants of most big-city major label offices where, unlike the rest of the corporate world, a facial piercing or a bit of visible ink won’t cost you a job. Plenty of tattoo artists are involved in the music industry, from tattooing bands at home and on the road, to achieving success on their own terms as performing artists.
Notable examples: Frank Carter (Gallows), Dan Smith (The Dear & Departed).
8. Label Owner/Founder, Entrepreneur
Whether emerging through a passion for good music or a resentment for other (read: major) record companies, the founding of labels by musicians has become a time-honored trend for industry veterans.
Notable examples: Pete Wentz (Fallout Boy, Decaydance Records), Vinnie Fiorello (Less Than Jake, Fueled By Ramen), Eminem (Shady Records).
7. Charity/NPO Volunteer
Performance art has long been used to fund-raise for charity, and music is the most obvious instance of this; from high school benefit concerts to arena tours and traveling festivals, many modern charities have teamed up with the producers of these live music events to promote and raise money for their organizations. Just look at the Vans Warped Tour—charity groups, traveling, working, and partying alongside bands, almost indistinguishable from each other, after-hours. While these “side jobs” might not necessarily garner steady income, they look great on a resume and represent valuable networking opportunities.
Notable Examples: the Keep A Breast Foundation, Invisible Children, To Write Love On Her Arms.
6. Clothing Company Owner
Similar to body mod culture, music and fashion have had a continuous modern-day relationship; from alt-scene icons to full-fledged pop stars, musicians and label folk are no strangers to trying their hand in the fashion industry.
Notable Examples: Oli Sykes (Bring Me The Horizon, Drop Dead Clothing), Gwen Stefani (No Doubt, L.A.M.B.), Tom Delonge/Mark Hoppus (Blink-182, Macbeth Footwear).
5. Graphic Artist/Painter
For some musicians, the act of making music isn’t enough to still their creative output. From creating comic books to selling their paintings online, these “renaissance men” have more than one artistic venture that brings home the bacon. Notable
Examples: Jordan Buckley (Every Time I Die), Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio).
4. Bar/Restauraunt Owner, Bartender
Occasionally, a successful musician or industry professional will open a restaurant or bar to either embark on an entrepreneurial venture and make money or to nourish their passion for food and drink. However, it’s not uncommon in the slightest to find band guys supplementing their incomes with bartending gigs.
Notable Examples: Fat Mike (NOFX, Thick Thistle Tavern), Marc Schapiro (Branch Marketing Collective, Idle Hands Bar), and any number of the faceless, music-oriented denizens of Williamsburg, Bushwick, or Manhattan.
**Honorable Mention: Pete Wentz (Fallout Boy, Angels & Kings).
3. Roadie/Tech/Merch Guy/Fill-in
Many, many members of touring and recording bands, as well as a variety of music industry inhabitants have engaged in moonlighting in the form of a roadie, techie, merch guy, or fill-in member for other bands. It’s extremely common to find that some if not most of any given band’s crew and fill-in members are either in a band of their own or have another, more primary job involving music.
Notable Examples: too many to list; if you know someone (and we suspect, if you’re reading this article, you do) who’s been “out” with a band, they fall into this category.
Another relatively common extracurricular activity for those in the music industry is DJ-ing. While many who’ve tried their hand at this novelty have come to be considered obnoxious, a few acts have risen to a level of prominence for their DJ sets that they may have fallen short of as a live band.
Notable Examples: Death From Above 1979, Passion Pit, Enter Shikari, Keith Buckley (Every Time I Die).
Blogging has become almost ubiquitous, these days; bloggers come from all walks of life and populate the far reaches of the globe. It doesn’t take much to get one’s foot in the door—though a mediocre attempt at the craft will fall flat—but many in the music industry have found themselves contributing to blogs, writing for magazines, and even starting online shrines to their passions and hobbies.
Notable Examples: Chris Stang and Andrew Steinthal (Immaculate Infatuation, Atlantic and Warner Bros. Records, respectively), Steve Albini, Claudio Sanchez (Coheed and Cambria, The Amory Wars), Riley Breckenridge (Thrice, Alternative Press).
As a reminder, it would behoove any aspiring artist or industry professional to, again, realize that some of these less-extravagant “side jobs” have been necessitated out of financial need, as opposed to engendering from a passion or hobby, alone—that the music industry is, at present, still suffering greatly, with no panacea in sight for the industry’s hemorrhaging capital. However, the main thing you should take away from this list is that it can’t hurt to pursue occupations outside of music, especially ones that fit your interests. And hey, if you can’t find a side job, there’s always retail.