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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Elliott

10 Essential Skills Not Taught in Music School: Part III

Music Publishing Royalties, Live Performance, Adaptability, and The Music Major Fallacy

In Part II: Contract Negotiation, Entrepreneurship, Digital Distribution & Streaming, and Intellectual Property Rights, we've delved into three critical components: contract negotiation, entrepreneurship, and intellectual property rights. These areas form the bedrock of a successful music career, offering invaluable insights into protecting your interests, fostering sustainability, and maximizing your earning potential as a musician. From understanding the nuances of contract terms and negotiation principles to embracing an entrepreneurial mindset and safeguarding your creative works through intellectual property rights, we've provided practical advice and resources to empower you on your music career journey. By equipping yourself with knowledge and strategies in these key areas, you'll be better prepared to navigate the complexities of the music industry and forge a path toward long-term success and fulfillment.

This post is the last installment of a three-part blog post covering essential skills not taught in music school:

In this final Part III installment, we'll cover Music Publishing and Royalties, Touring and Live Performance, and touch on Adaptability and Resilience. Learn how to earn from your music, plan successful live shows, and adapt to industry changes. Plus, we'll debunk common myths about music careers and explore alternative paths. Get ready to equip yourself for a successful journey in the music industry!


8. Music Publishing and Royalties

Navigating the world of music publishing and royalties is essential for earning income from your musical compositions and recordings. Familiarize yourself with different types of music royalties and understand how they are collected and distributed by music publishers and PROs.

Where to Start

  - Consider signing a publishing agreement with a reputable music publisher to administer and promote your compositions and secure placement opportunities.

  - Explore alternative revenue streams in music publishing (such as sub-publishing, co-publishing, and administration deals) to maximize your earning potential.

  - Stay informed about changes in music publishing and royalty collection practices to ensure fair compensation for your creative works.

9. Touring and Live Performance

Planning and executing successful live performances are essential for building your fan base and generating income as a musician. Learn how to book venues, hire production, interact with technical staff, and develop accurate pre-production timelines. Develop a strategic touring plan for solo artists or bands and negotiate performance contracts with venues and promoters.

Where to Start

  • Build relationships with local venues and booking agents to secure performance opportunities.

  • Invest in professional stage production and sound equipment to enhance the quality of your live performances and create memorable experiences for your audience.

  • Promote your live shows effectively through social media, email newsletters, and online ticketing platforms to attract audiences and increase ticket sales.

  • If you find it difficult to get booked, just put on your own shows. It’s not that difficult and is something anyone can do. One of the most well-known choral composers out there occasionally hosts a simple recital in his home to showcase and workshop new music he’s working on. It’s simple and effective.

  • Explore any insurance or liability requirements or coverages depending on the scope of your performance.

10. Adaptability and Resilience

Adapting to changes in the music industry and maintaining resilience in the face of challenges is essential for long-term success as a musician. Stay informed about industry trends and technological advancements to adapt your strategies and stay ahead of the curve.

Where to Start

  • Embrace a growth mindset and continuously invest in your personal and professional development through education, training, and mentorship.

  • Cultivate resilience by learning from setbacks and failures. Maintain a positive attitude, and seek support from peers and mentors during difficult times.

  • Stay adaptable and open to new opportunities in the music industry, and be prepared to pivot your strategies and career goals as needed to achieve success in your music career journey.

  • Continually reevaluate your existing beliefs and knowledge. Could you be wrong? Is there more room for improvement? Can this situation be viewed differently? Should your goals adjust or change entirely in the face of new data or information? 

BONUS (#11): The Music Major Fallacy 

BA or BM. Music Performance or Music Education. Undergraduates are so caught up in which emphasis to choose. The fact is, after graduating, no one cares. What matters after graduation is whether you are consistently good at what you do. That’s how people get hired and establish a credible reputation in this industry. 

The music industry offers a myriad of career options in between performance and education. In today’s world, where musicians can wear multiple hats (sound designer, vocalist, producer, composer, arranger, etc.), you can essentially craft your own career in music. Explore areas beyond the traditional music major predefined paths such as music production, sound engineering, live entertainment, themed entertainment,  music journalism, music business management, arts administration, and music technology.

At the same time, some people may be perfectly content with pursuing a career as a music educator or performer. That’s okay! But in my experience mentoring hundreds of music majors, many feel that neither degree meets their needs or purpose. 

Where to Start

  • Research different career paths and explore internships or volunteer opportunities in your areas of interest.

  • Take advantage of continuing education programs, workshops, and online courses to develop additional skills and knowledge relevant to your desired career path.

  • Network with professionals in your desired field and seek mentorship to gain insights and guidance on pursuing alternative music career opportunities.

  • Write down all of your unique skills, abilities, and interests, and identify possible career options beyond music education and music performance. You just may have identified your next business pursuit or goal!


In summary, we’ve covered ten things you should know about the music industry:

  1. Financial Management

  2. Marketing & Promotion

  3. Networking & Relationship Building

  4. Contract Negotiation

  5. Entrepreneurship

  6. Digital Distribution & Streaming Platforms

  7. Intellectual Property Rights

  8. Music Publishing & Royalties

  9. Touring and Live Performance

  10. Adaptability and Resilience

Plus, as a bonus 11th category, we talk about rejecting the Music Major Fallacy.

Concluding this three-part series, essential insights have been covered to empower aspiring musicians in navigating the complexities of the music industry. While this series isn't exhaustive, nor is it intended to be, it serves as a foundational resource to kickstart your journey and prompt deeper consideration of critical aspects often overlooked in traditional music education. From financial management to networking, contract negotiation to digital distribution, and intellectual property rights to adaptability and resilience, a framework has been provided for understanding key elements crucial for success in the music industry. Remember that this is just the beginning; this series is meant to spark your curiosity and encourage further exploration into these topics as you continue to grow and evolve in your music career. Onward. 

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