Careers in Music

Career Development in the Music Industry

The media & entertainment industry in India is enormous, it reaches over 200 million people in India across film, radio, newspapers, television, Internet, gaming and mobile platforms. Apart from print, music is required across the spectrum, and while the music industry currently grapples with declining sales of physical copies, the coming of age of digital platforms promises a fantastic future for music and media professionals.



The Indian film industry is staggeringly prolific, and spans multiple geographies and languages. India produces almost as many movies as the next 3 – US, Japan & China, combined! While Bollywood may be India’s most popular export, vernacular languages are equally commercial. Chennai itself has the highest output of movies per annum as compared to any city around the world.

Commercial music in India is almost synonymous with film soundtracks. Each film creates multiple jobs for musicians. There is work for composers, music directors, programmers, lyricists, live musicians and also professionals on the production side, with recording engineers, mixing engineers, mastering engineers, producers and more.

Composers create the main melody and are responsible for the whole score. Music Directors supervise the process ofcompletion of the music and are paid similarly. The Arranger or Programmer has to develop the main theme into the final music that the audience hears. Detailing the rhythm, the instrumentation, and arrangement of the song.

A strong understanding of music, harmony theory, instrumentation and arrangement is required. Live instruments, like orchestras, guitars, piano, bass, flute are often hired to play specific parts. Every industry has booking agents & talent managers that supply musicians who play various instruments to film studios.

Vocalists and playback singers are held almost at par with the lead actors in a movie, in terms of the fame and celebrity status. This opens up many further avenues in allied media – TV shows, reality shows, interviews, news and other coverage are part of the package. Remuneration starts out low but even a single hit can mean skyrocketing fees and instant stardom. Unlike actors, who can’t afford a flop, singers go relatively unnoticed until their next hit.

Recording Engineers and studio technicians who know their craft are high in demand. While most composers and directors have their own small studios and hire engineers on a salary, good engineers work on freelance or project basis and charge substantial amounts for their time.

In the current scenario, not many musicians hold hard qualifications, and many haven’t received formal training in music. This means that given the massive size of the industry, the sheer number of feature film productions, entering the world of music production, composition or engineering for films is a potentially lucrative option for educated musicians.

In fact, SAM students Anuraag Saikia and Vivian Varghese have already made use of their education in the film industry. Vivian scored a short film called “Alfie” that was screened at Cannes, and Anurag is a well known music director and composer who won the Best Music Director at the 61st National Awards for an Assamese film, “Yugadrashta”, and now works in Bollywood Orchestral playing is a good career for musicians who can read music notation and play fluently. Internationally, orchestral music is much more organized, where one can audition for a seat and earn a salary, as well as payment for rehearsals and performances. Orchestras also require arrangers and conductors, whom are paid very highly.


Composition and writing music is not, however limited to just feature films. Other performance arts such as dance, theater, and other media also create work for musicians.

Composing for classical dance and dancers can earn you upto 2 lakhs for a project depending on the profile of your client and their shows. Composing for musical theater is another type of work that generates multiple revenue streams. Playing with theater groups, puppet shows, and other live theater, you can earn royalties for your music or performance fees for each show.

Composing for musical theater is another type of work that generates multiple revenue streams

Orchestral playing is a good career for musicians who can read music notation and play fluently. Internationally, orchestral music is much more organized, where one can audition for a seat and earn a salary, as well as payment for rehearsals and performances. Orchestras also require arrangers and conductors, whom are paid very highly.



The Indian TV market is the 3rd largest in the world, reaching 161 million viewers, with over 800 channels. TV alone is expected to be worth over 50,000 crores in 2014.

Now each of these TV & news channels hire their own producers and sound engineers, so all the jobs in films have their counterparts in TV & News. While the payscale is lower, the frequency of work and regularity of the job make it a good career for educated musicians.

Television studios have complete production studios, and hire a host of composers, audio professionals, mixing engineers, to work on their numerous serials, game shows, reality shows and other productions


fm_radioLike most other media channels, FM Radio has seen a massive increase in channels and content. 245 FM channels were launched in 85 cities since 2005, and 839 more channels are going to be launched in 294 cities. This industry is expected to cross 1500 crores in 2014.

Broadcasting music & audio is the primary service a radio station provides, and hence it is a medium that values musicians and audio professionals. Production in these studios includes voiceovers, jingles and promotions, as well as curating music. At a radio station, sound engineers work in their studios and manage the equipment. Timings can be a little erratic but experienced sound engineers can earn up to 80 thousand rupeesa month.

Being an RJ is an option for musicians and singers who can speak well. RJs could start out at 25000 but there is no ceiling on their value, similar to artists who cultivate their following.

The music manager in a radio station is responsible for all the music being played at the station, including the studio work and schedules. He needs an understanding of the audience and must be absolutely up to date on trends in music. This is a very senior position and is remunerated accordingly.


gamingGaming, led by over 214 million internet users and 130 million mobile users, is one the fastest growing industries in India, with massive potential in the years to come. Bangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi/NCR are the main centers for this industry with over 300 game development companies in India right now, the casual gaming revenue in India is set to quadruple by 2015 to USD 244 million.

Composers and producers are hired to create music for these games. Sound effects are another category altogether that comes under sound design. This is usually also done by a musician with experience in synthesis.

In terms of producing music, it’s not unlike film scoring, however the terms of employment resemble that of software engineers. Unlike most freelance work and studio employment, hours of work are clearly defined and standard HR practices apply. Since these game developers are organized, professional companies, working even as a musician or sound designer carries the same financial security as any IT professional career. The standard holidays and time off gives you the opportunity to work on your own music too, so this makes it a great option for budding independent artistes. Salaries start around 15 thousand for inexperienced composers & programmers but can go up to 50 to 60 thousand.


electronicThere are always new avenues opening up in the dynamic digital world. Electronic music is a huge field which is extremely active, diverse and also very profitable. Some of the largest concerts in the world today are for electronic dance music (EDM), and digital sales of electronic music are through the roof. Needless to say, DJs are this era’s rock stars, with the top artists raking in millions of dollars every year.

Some of the largest concerts in the world today are for electronic dance music (EDM), and digital sales of electronic music are through the roof

What is interesting about this is that electronic music removes geographic barriers, making it a lot easier to go international. The software and instruments are available to everybody and in that sense it levels the playing field. Rock stars were traditionally from the US or the UK but in electronic music, the top artists could be from anywhere.

Commercial brands have realized this and are backing electronic artists all over the world, and investing heavily in sponsorship of electronic music events. Even at local clubs, DJs are well paid and enjoy steady employment and residencies. Earnings could be anything from 5 to over 50 thousand rupees a night.


educationGoing through a thorough curriculum in music and having the right teachers puts you through a structured method and approach to any subject. Musicians who have this formal training are in a much better position than their self-taught counterparts when it comes to teaching their craft. With hundreds of music schools popping up all over the country, and an ever-growing demand for music from the industry, music education is a major opportunity for educated musicians.

Starting up a local music school can be a profitable business, and even if you don’t have the capital to start a business, there are opportunities for music teachers at these schools.

Opening a music school can get you anything from 5 to 500 regular students per annum, depending on how they are marketed. Students for these schools are mostly part-time hobbyists, either in school or working, looking for extra-curricular activities and not necessarily aiming to be professional musicians
yet. Students are charged between 2 and 8 thousand rupees a month for weekly classes.

The Internet gives us many more options too. If you’re a good teacher and performer, a combination of YouTube lessons and word of mouth can build your subscriber base enough for it to be a substantial revenue stream. Skype lessons allow you to reach an audience around the world, charge in dollars, and create a regular, sustainable lifestyle for yourself.



The market for live performances is growing at over 20% according to the FICCI-KPMG Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report 2014. More and more musicians are now recording and producing music at home, which in turn gives them the freedom to experiment with their musical styles. We’re living in a time when artists can be as true to themselves and their art as they like, and whether you’re on the side of albums or live performance, that prospect is timeless.

The way people consume music is, to a large extent, determined by the medium through which they consume it. Given the way the musical landscape is evolving, artists who feel that they are committed to a certain format — be it an album, a single, performances or an EP — are now being introduced to more and more live acts, given the rise of music festivals and performance spaces in the country over the past five years.

In the past one-year a host of music festivals have mushroomed across the country. These are festivals with big lineups, great locales, big production “flea markets” and more in the hope of getting audiences to spend anywhere between Rs 1,000 (a lot of festivals have cheaper tickets for Under-21s or “students”) and Rs 15,000 (depending on how much you value “free IMFL”, reserved parking and being a person of great importance on account of your superior spending power). NH7 Weekender in Pune in October 2013 drew 10,700 people over three days, compared to 2,000 when the event started in 2010. This, despite daily ticket prices being raised from Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,500, and three-day ticket prices going from Rs 3,000 to Rs 3,750. A number of new promoters and live entertainment companies are making their debut in the music industry, joining a growing pool of players in what is becoming, despite a slow economy, a fairly vibrant industry.

In the past one-year a host of music festivals have mushroomed across the country

These festivals trigger what journalists are now calling ‘music tourism’ which is a rub-off effect on the economy because of the number of music-based events in the country. This season, a number of destination festivals are in their third or fourth editions, asking fans to travel to scenic locales in the likes of Arunachal Pradesh (the Ziro Festival of Music, September 20-22), Ooty (the goMAD Festival, October 25-27), sand dunes in Rajasthan (the Ragasthan Festival), Coorg (the Storm Festival),Nagaland (Hornbill Festival). And then there’s the marquee edition of the Sunburn franchise (now in its eighth year) set to hit Goa’s beaches (though it isn’t entirely certain which one yet) once again this December. Most of these festivals are hoping that the repeated patronage of genre-agnostic music fans will help build a legit loyalty and give a stage to more performances.

Besides festivals, venues such as Hard Rock Cafe (India has four) and Blue Frog (one each in Mumbai and Delhi) have helped non-Bollywood music grow in India. Almost 70 per cent of these clubs’ revenue comes from food and beverages, but the bands get a platform and customers get to hear independent music performed live. According to a Business Today report in 2013, Blue Frog in Mumbai attracts nearly 10,000 visitors a month. It features live bands nearly every day, charges an entry fee of Rs 300 on weekdays and Rs 600 on weekends. If the artist is a big name, entry could cost as much as Rs 2,000. The popularity of independent music is not limited to international genres. Indian folk, classical, Indipop and ghazals are also part of the surge. Soulful Melody, a five-member band based in Mumbai, makes a living out of folk songs, ghazals and bhajans in Hindi, Marathi, Sindhi and Urdu. The band is booked nearly every weekend, and makes anything between Rs 10,000 to Rs 35,000 per event for starters.

Corporate giants like Viacom18 and MTV are preparing to make a splash in the live music scene this year (the company recently started a new division under its Integrated Network Services banner called Viacom18 Live and Mtv Indies respectively), with multiple, genre-specific events, and newbie entrants like Twisted Entertainment (who are promoting the Enchanted Valley Carnival festival in Aamby Valley this December) are also looking to maketheir mark.

According to a report published by Bussiness Today in 2013 The number of bands making a living by playing non-film music – rock, Indipop, metal, jazz and the like – rose from 10-15 in 2007/08 to over 60 today.

It’s now pretty much a given that big-name international artists, and popular and emerging Indian talent will make up the bills at all these event, and that quality of production will also be world-class. So now is the time to take a career in music education seriously so that the stage can see professional independent acts like never before.

Secured By miniOrange