Many 21st century musicians are turning toward performance opportunities and music jobs abroad, and you should too! Whether your passion is education, performance, ethnomusicology, or any one of the hundred possible music careers out there, you can find an incredible wealth of employment opportunities across the globe. Determine your ideal location, select a sub-field, and begin your search, and you will be on your way to your new home in no time!
Each year, thousands of students graduate with degrees in music, so obtaining your dream music job can involve a great deal of hard work, competition, and convincing. The harsh truth of the matter is that music jobs (in any discipline) in the United States are extremely rare to come by, especially for performers and educators. Due to this, many newly-grads are looking for music jobs abroad, for more reasons than one. Working abroad in music offers individuals an opportunity to compete for jobs in a less saturated market, while expanding their professional experience and knowledge of the field (and a new place too!).
Music jobs abroad are a great prospect to consider, but these opportunities are also great additions to your marketability after the fact too. Organizations, companies, and schools around the world will look very highly upon international work experience, in almost any field, as it shows commitment, passion, and a desire to work and succeed a new environment. In the field of music, the benefits of working abroad last long after you return home and begin searching for jobs again. Working abroad in music can help prepare you for a whole host of career options, and give you the upper-hand over other applicants at the same time.
At its core, music is an international discipline, so seeking music jobs abroad is quite a natural fit. What makes music special, is that it will go hand-in-hand with the local culture of your new home. There are dozens of countries, hundreds of thousands of cities, and even more “off-the-beaten-path” locations that provide an almost limitless amount of opportunities for music jobs abroad, and each one will provide you with a unique perspective of music not possible anywhere else in the world.
The countries listed below merely scratch the surface of location options for music jobs abroad. It is up to you to decide what area of the world you’d like to explore. Perhaps your family is originally from France, and you want to reconnect with your roots while performing with French chamber orchestras in Lyon or Paris. Maybe you spent your winter break in Mexico and fell in love with Norteño or Son music, and want to conduct choral ensembles while exploring the vast musical culture of Mexico. It is up to you to set the stage for your international music job.
Sweden. Home to a number of working class cities, Sweden is an excellent location for music jobs abroad, especially for those with backgrounds in music education. Music teachers can avail numerous benefits and perks while working in Sweden, including opportunities to pursue any passion for music performance on the side. Additionally, Sweden is world renown for many forms of electronic music, so it won’t be too difficult for talented musicians to find work in the music production industry as studio engineers, sound technicians, and many more positions.
Mexico offers an extensive job market for active musicians, with music education jobs at the forefront. There are schools throughout Mexico that constantly seek to expand their music curriculum and increase the makeup and skill of their performing ensembles. Those who want to obtain music education jobs in Mexico will find that Spanish language skills are a must. In addition to music education, music performance jobs can be found at a plethora of resorts and vacation hotspots throughout Mexico.
England. A major player in the development of Western music, England is the perfect place to look for music jobs abroad, especially in the areas of performance, education, or business. England is also home to a historically thriving theatre community, a bevy of symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles, and famous recording studios, where it is possible for foreigners to find work. Those with backgrounds in conducting, performance, composition, production, and even more areas of the industry will be able to find work opportunities in England.
There are a surprisingly high number of possible careers under the umbrella of the music industry, and many of them do not involve living “paycheck to paycheck”, contrary to popular belief.
Touring Ensembles. It is possible for foreign musicians to audition for touring ensembles and fulfill their dream of working abroad in music, while performing not only in one country, but potentially all over the world! While these contracts are very competitive, there are also plenty of opportunities, in a wide range of musical styles. Some examples include (but are not limited to) working on a cruise ship, in Cirque du Soleil, and becoming part of a theatre group or touring orchestra.
Performance. Along quite similar lines, but with more geographically stable characteristics, jobs abroad in music performance are the most all-encompassing type in the field. Individuals can find and audition for specific ensembles based on their instrument of choice in orchestras and chamber ensembles all around the world. Again, these spots are the definition of competitive, but winning one almost guarantees a steady paycheck (something that is hard to come by in the field of music).
Music Education. The most popular type of music job abroad, individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree in music education can find a wealth of teaching job opportunities abroad. As the number of students graduating with music education degrees increases exponentially every year, and the number of teaching jobs (especially in the U.S.) diminishes, many teachers are looking to international music jobs to build their careers. Likewise, many foreign academic institutions love hiring foreign music teachers, to bring a new perspective and cultural buoyancy to their programs.
Discussing “average” salaries within the music industry is an analogy that doesn’t truly exist, since it is such a distinctive field that runs the gamut of possible earnings and expectations. That being said, those involved in the education side of the field can expect a more common “pay and benefits” package; however, the typical music teacher’s salary will vary greatly by location, responsibilities, and the type of school (charter, magnet, private, etc.). Individuals seeking music jobs abroad in performance should be prepared to live modestly, and sometimes well below their means. Typical contracts can vary between weekly payments and stipends to more structured long-term monthly agreements, depending on the venue, duration of the show, skill level of the musician, and performance setting.
Networking. As any working musician will tell you, networking is one of the most essential elements to a successful career in music, especially in the performance arena. Good, hard work, and an excellent attitude at one gig can change everything for a musician, so while you’re abroad be sure to keep this in mind! Not only are you representing yourself as a musician and person, but you are a representative of your country as well; take this responsibility seriously and you will be sure to see positive results in the future. You never know who will have the “next great opportunity” or musician’s call, and if your name is in their queue as a reliable, strong, worker, then you may be rewarded with another international music job. A career in music (especially performance) can be boiled down to “the stringing together of one job to the next,” and you always want to know when and where your next gig is coming from. During any music job abroad be sure to focus on networking successfully and be your best advocate, to ensure a successful career in the industry.
Make Real Change. As the common saying goes, “no one goes into music for the money,” and there is certainly a lot of truth to that statement. One of the major benefits of a career in music, is the opportunity to entertain, bring joy, and hopefully inspire others to reach their highest creative potential. As a performer, and especially a music educator abroad, you will be tapping into an entirely new demographic and audience than you may have previously been exposed to in your home country.
Regardless of what area of the industry you choose for your music job abroad, keep in mind that music can make all the difference in a person's life and you could be the one to plant the music seed.