The Road Less Traveled: Alternative Paths to Success in the Music Industry

The music industry is dynamic. You don’t have to break into stardom to have a fulfilling and impactful career in music (though no one is stopping you from following in the footsteps of Beyoncé, Harry Styles, and Taylor Swift). You might be pushing the industry forward as a songwriter, keep the crowd entertained as a disc jockey, or play a pivotal role behind the scenes as a sound technician. Wherever your passions and talents lie, there is no single road to “making it” in music. Myriad paths can take you where you want to go.

Define Success

You have the power to create a roadmap for your music career. Your definition of success doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s in the industry. Reflect on your interests. What are the most gratifying parts of your jobs and hobbies? How many work hours do you want to put in each week, and how much money do you want to earn? Answering these questions will make creating an action plan and achieving goals simpler. 

Remember to implement short-time milestones and long-term goals as you build your map. Celebrating the small victories will keep you from becoming discouraged if your overarching goals are taking longer than you expected.

Go Virtual

No one in the music industry can avoid the digital age. It’s revolutionized how artists create and sell songs, and people consume music. Formulating a music distribution plan is crucial to your success. Music distributors allow you to share songs and albums on streaming services and in stores, boosting name recognition and revenue. You no longer have to wait, work, and hope for a million-dollar record deal. You can send your music to the masses and build a loyal fanbase at a fraction of the cost. Some distributors go above and beyond by spotlighting your music on their playlists, curating promo cards with album art, and providing video generators to make your music even more engaging.

The digital revolution has made music distribution more widely accessible to artists. However, it can be difficult to keep up with the ever-expanding amount of streaming platforms. Thankfully, some distributors remove this hassle, allowing you to upload as many songs as you want to all platforms, from Spotify and Apple Music to Amazon and iHeartRadio.

Benefits of Virtual Engagement

Gone are the days when music fans had to book tickets to massive concerts and intimate indie shows to see their favorite artists. Now, musicians can connect with and even perform for fans using social media. Cultivating an active presence on social media is an excellent way to share your music, build relationships with your listeners, and potentially generate revenue. Many musicians have experienced a launch into fame after their songs went viral on TikTok. Some remain content creators, while others travel on solo tours or open for established artists. 

In-person performances may not be feasible for you. If so, you can maximize Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok’s live-streaming functions. You can make your super fans feel special by giving them early-access codes and discounts or opening up a virtual chat room with them before the performance. These shows can be solo showcases. However, they also present the opportunity to collaborate and play with musicians around the globe, all without leaving the comforts of your home or studio. You can make these performances all-inclusive and free or charge admission fees to generate income and remain within attendee limits (especially for platforms like Zoom).

You can expand your online presence beyond Instagram live streams and reels. Consider building a website or blog to share your talents, engage with others in the music industry, stream music, and sell band merch.

Become a Teacher

Being a music teacher can be the best of both worlds. You get to perform for an engaged audience and experience budding musicians, songwriters, and producers as they explore their passion for music. You can make teaching a full-time gig or make the most of a flexible schedule as a mentor. 

If you choose to teach in online learning platforms or at schools, you can head up classes on music theory and production. You can also lead private lessons for your favorite instruments. Making education, your career might be your definition of success in the music industry. Teaching is also favorable for those looking to make a consistent income while keeping their calendars open for other opportunities. It’s also a networking tool. You never know who you might connect with while teaching students about tempo and singing on key.


Success in the music industry is whatever you make it. It might look like scheduling out your guitar solos for Instagram posts or conducting a high school marching band. Wherever you want to go, know there are many alternative paths to an exciting and fulfilling career in music.


Alex is a small business blogger with a focus on entrepreneurship and growth. With over 5 years of experience covering the startup and small business landscape, Alex has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, approachable and entrepreneurial-minded blogger. He has a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners, and is able to provide actionable advice and strategies for success. Alex has interviewed successful entrepreneurs, and covered major small business events such as the Small Business Expo and the Inc. 500|5000 conference. He is also a successful entrepreneur himself, having started and grown several small businesses in different industries.