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Pros and Cons of a Portfolio Career for Music Producers (Part 3)

Part 3 of our Portfolio Career series looks at adding teaching as another part of your skillset, as well as the pros and cons of a portfolio career for music producers. Part 1 looked at exactly what a portfolio career is and some traditional job roles for a music producer to take on, while Part 2 looked at some more entry-level online income streams to kickstart your portfolio career.  

Teaching

As a producer, you already have the mass amounts of passion and fantastic interpersonal skills needed to be a great teacher. If you have the enthusiasm and patience for sharing knowledge with others, then teaching or tutoring can be a very rewarding addition to your portfolio career. This may include instrumental or vocal teaching if that’s your thing, or perhaps music theory, songwriting or of course production.

As a teacher, you will have the opportunity to form connections with people of all different ages and backgrounds. They will introduce you to their own musical passions, even artists and genres you haven’t heard of before, widening your music knowledge and inspiration bank.

Another added benefit is the chance to practice more often. If you’re an instrumentalist, you’re very familiar with struggling to fit in time to practice your instrument. By teaching, you’ll have a chance to practice every time you have a lesson, and be able to infuse in the student’s motivated attitude to learning.

There are plenty of third-party sites out there to teach with, or you may choose to work independently through word-of-mouth and searching for potential students.

Online Courses

In recent years, online courses have become a major source of income throughout the creative and technology industries. Now with a huge community of creatives and tech fans looking to take on new hobbies, being able to share your own professional skills in an indefinitely-sellable digital format is highly valuable.

Producers have shared their knowledge to fans, including Joel Zimmerman (better known as Deadmau5) who hosted a 5.5 hour-long course sharing his methods and theories for the music development process, and audio engineer Brian Jackson, who delivered a comprehensive beginners’ guide to Ableton.

Creating an online course yourself is surprisingly accessible. All you need is a topic to teach, a microphone and a visual element like screen recording. There are plenty of platforms where you can post your course, though you might prefer to host it on your own website for more control over the course. This is not only a great way to give back to the music community, but also a clever way to create brand awareness for your production and skills.

Pros and Cons of a Portfolio Career

Whether you’re teaching, exploring the online world of beatmaking and sample packs, or harnessing your production skills as a live engineer, there are benefits and downsides associated with a portfolio career. Let’s start with some of the positives:

  • Creative freedom. Those who consider themselves multi-potential have the chance to find fulfilment in many different disciplines. Writer and artist Emilie Wapnick refers to people with multiple career interests as ‘multipotentialites’ in her TED talk Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling. Even if you don’t quite relate to the multipotentialite description, the variety and excitement of a portfolio career could still suit you when compared to a typical one-job approach to working.
  • Flexibility. It is an ideal choice for those who want to fit work around other elements in life, working according to their own schedule. Not only do you get to set your hours and can base your lifestyle more freely around your work, but you also decide how much work you take on at any one point, scaling your projects up or down as you like.
  • Reliability. Like a structure with many supporting beams, having multiple incomes means you can feel reassured that if one role is lost, the others will still be there to support you. In Part 2 of this series we looked at some ‘passive’ income streams, such as library music and selling beats, referring to income that can run on its own once it’s set up. For every week that you’re working on a project, creating new content or managing other tasks, you’ll be secure in the knowledge that income will continue to arrive even on weeks when you don’t work from these passive streams.
  • Impressive skill set. Potential clients may be impressed by the broader skill set needed to fulfil multiple job roles, not to mention the organisational skills needed to consistently move between them. You also have the unique opportunity to offer extra services to your existing clients. For example, if you’re producing for them you might also offer some of the services we discussed in Part 1 like artist development and management, mixing and mastering, sound engineering in the studio and live, etc.

Of course, there are also some difficulties with this type of career. Challenges may include:

  • Fluctuating work and insecurity. Naturally when working on a project-to-project basis, you will have months where you are completely booked and others where you’re struggling to fill the calendar. It’s not always possible to predict the volume of incoming work or when and where success will come from. If you have a particular specialty offered at a higher rate then you may struggle to fill your calendar with it consistently. Instead, you’ll need to supplement it with a different offering.
  • Time management. When focusing on multiple projects at once, it can be difficult to assess just how much time to assign to each task in order to ensure steady progress overall. You’ll also be working outside the standard 9-5 hours, so must keep your working hours in check – overworking is exhausting!
  • Responsibility. With a portfolio career, every part of finance, planning, management and accounting will be entirely your responsibility, rather than handing some of the load to an employer or co-worker. This sounds a little scary, but it doesn’t have to be; as long as you are disciplined in your organisation, aware of your finances and able to problem-solve if anything goes wrong, the responsibility can become very freeing.
  • Maintaining a strong network and community presence. No matter the job role, reliably finding new clients takes consistency in communication and in showcasing work to suitable audiences. You’ll need to understand how to find and nurture a client to gain their trust in the long term. For some, this might look like posting on social media every day and interacting with your audience, while others might be building an email list, maintaining a website, networking at live events or asking previous clients for referrals.

Is the Portfolio Career Right For You?

If you are, like most music professionals, a creative person with many interests and a huge desire for variety, the portfolio career could well be a perfect fit.

The very point of a portfolio career is that it isn’t one-size-fits-all. It can be shaped and moulded to fit your interests and areas you would like to explore. The skills you learn as a music producer are so varied that they will open doorways to all sorts of new opportunities.

Our CUA60520 Advanced Diploma of Music covers all of these skills and gets you ready for these opportunities, giving you solid ground to kick-start your career in music production and build the ultimate portfolio.