What Do Music Industry Executives Do?

Becoming a high-earning executive in the music industry is quite an attractive prospect for business-minded people with a love of the arts. Music executives run the show, as it were, being at the top of every facet of the music industry. But how should you choose between the many possible careers in the music business? How do you learn all you will need to know about that role? And, considering how competitive the music industry can be, how do you get the executive-level job?

All of this depends, of course, on what you want to do -- what your passion in music and business is. What career and trajectory best fits your skills and interests? To decide this, you will need to learn about the roles and responsibilities of different kinds of music executives. Four common areas to work in at the upper levels are management, legal, A&R and marketing. By earning an online Master of Music in Music Business and Entertainment Industries (MBEI) from the Frost School of Music, degree candidates have the opportunity to study these and other music industry roles in depth, gaining valuable knowledge, skills and marketable experience specific to their chosen career.


Being a manager can be the perfect job for a music lover with an entrepreneurial spirit and a talent for working with people. Music managers often work independently, starting and building their own companies. They work directly with the artists they represent, managing and promoting every aspect of an artist's career, direction, artistic growth and success.

Managers generally earn a percentage of artists' profits, depending on the contractual agreements. Therefore, it is in the manager's best interest to find opportunities for their artist to grow, whether by negotiating record deals and publishing contracts or getting exposure through radio play, TV appearances and high-visibility live performances.

Effective managers are knowledgeable in every aspect of the music industry, as they work closely with the artist's booking agents, promoters, record producers and labels, ensuring every party is doing their job. Often, managers start their careers in one of these other roles, eventually working their way up and using the knowledge and connections they've gained to go out on their own.

Artists and Repertoire

Artists and Repertoire (A&R) is traditionally the department of a record label that finds new talent, nurturing those artists and helping them grow into successful recording artists, in turn generating revenue for the label.

After finding and signing new artists, A&R executives function much like an artist's manager. They guide every aspect of the artist's development, from working with publishers to find the best songs for their artist to getting the perfect producer and musicians on board to make the record. Once the record is made, the A&R person works closely with marketing, distribution and other departments involved in the record's release to ensure all goes smoothly. And their job continues well beyond the record release, further developing the artist throughout the artist's time working with the label.

Though an A&R person's duties are similar to those of a manager, the A&R executive's purpose is essentially to find and develop artists in order to make the label money. A&R answers to the label, whereas an independent manager answers to the artist and themselves. A&R executives often rise from entry-level positions or have proven their abilities elsewhere as business- and trend-savvy independent managers.


In the world of pop stardom, marketing can literally make or break an artist's career (and a label's investment). Marketing executives need to establish and maintain effective marketing strategies and manage the execution of those strategies. They need to find the best audience for the music they are pushing, as well as the best ways to market to that target audience, all within stringent budgets and timeframes. This involves staying current on marketing techniques shown to be effective for different demographics, appropriately using the wealth of market data available from web analytics services.

Marketing executives have to balance traditional smart business practice with constant innovation. This is a career for those with strong business management skills, an understanding of modern media platforms and consumption trends, and a whole lot of energy.

The Legal Department

As is reflected in Frost's MBEI curricula, music law is at the foundation of every music business course. Being part of a record label's legal department may not seem like the most glamorous or exciting way to be involved in the music industry, but copyright law and contracts are essential to every deal made between artists, labels, publishers, managers, streaming services, and any other entities involved.

Legal disputes arise commonly in the industry. And these disputes, along with all of the legal contracts and agreements, involve substantial amounts money. Consequently, those with the necessary education and qualifications to be part of a record label's legal team are highly sought after and well-compensated.

It may seem difficult -- if not impossible -- to break into the upper levels of music industry jobs, but fierce determination and a willingness to study the music industry thoroughly makes these jobs attainable. In a way, the rise of independent music has led to the rise of many more independent music businesses, which means more jobs in management or marketing, and with legal firms or labels. And all of these businesses can benefit from well-educated, experienced and connected executives leading the way. Frost's MBEI can provide this education and experience, as well as a rich community of instructors and alumni from the industry, giving degree candidates a country-wide network of professionals to help along the way.

Learn more about Frost School of Music's online MBEI program.


The Princeton Review: Music Executive

Forbes: Kevin Liles Reveals Tips on How to Become a Music Executive

Music Careers: A&R -- Artists and Repertoire

Music Careers: Legal Department

CareersinMusic.com: Music Marketing Representative

The Guardian: So What Does a Music Manager Do, Exactly?

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