Artistic Director

 12 July 2012

Artistic directors develop the creative and artistic vision of a live event such as a festival or concert tour.

You need extensive knowledge of music in order to succeed.
You need extensive knowledge of music in order to succeed.

What is the job like?

Artistic directors usually lead a very large team of people to formulate the concept for musical events.

The work can vary according to the musical genre but may involve:

  • Planning concerts and events for a particular season, often based around a theme, such as a composer’s birthday
  • Management and control of budgets and fund-raising
  • Using extensive contacts to secure and book musicians, and liaising with artist management
  • Working closely with other staff such as festival or concert management
  • Selecting appropriate venues to suit the demands of the performers
  • Marketing and publicity
  • Involvement in educational and outreach events (usually in the classical sector).

How do I become an artistic director?

You will need extensive knowledge of music in order to succeed in this career. Job opportunities for artistic directors are very limited and the competition is intense.

Success as an artistic director is all about developing an extensive network of contacts, usually built up over many years. Artistic directors in the classical world are often conductors or highly-established performers. In the popular sector, a background in production or tour management may provide some of the experience you will need.

You need extensive knowledge of music in order to succeed.

Artistic directors need a blend of artistic and management skills. It requires a highly skilled person to plan music programmes that are both commercially viable and innovative.

You will need excellent organisation skills and good problem-solving ability. Highly developed communication skills, both written and verbal, are also essential.

Whilst you are at school make the most of all the musical events and activities on offer. Developing your expertise as a performer will help you, but you could also get involved behind the scenes. Any experience you can get with school or community musical productions and concerts will be an advantage.

Once you are 18 you could volunteer your services at a festival – you will find websites for all the main festivals which will have details on how to apply for posts. Volunteers are often recruited several months before the actual event.

What training and qualifications do I need?

Apprenticeships could provide some useful experience in the music industry before you move into artistic direction later on.

Visit the creative apprenticeship website for opportunities. You could also send a CV and covering letter to live events venues in your area asking about possible apprenticeships.

Academic entry qualifications for apprenticeships can vary, although most employers will look for a good standard of English and Maths at GCSE

School qualifications including English, maths, drama/theatre studies and music at GCSE, AS and A level are all helpful for artistic direction work.

Qualifications in finance or business studies may also be an advantage.

What can I earn?

The earnings of artistic directors vary greatly according to their experience and the size of the event they are working on. Some are freelance, whilst others working for large festival organisers or companies are paid an annual salary.

Artistic directors working freelance would normally be paid a fee for their expertise for a particular festival or event. If working for a festival, they might be paid between £3000 and £6000, possibly more. However the work they do would normally extend well beyond the time of the actual festival.

For those employed on a more permanent basis they could earn in the region of £35,000 - £45,000 depending on their experience.

A typical starting weekly wage for an intermediate apprentice outside London could be £104 per week. In London the starting wage might be between £120 and £150 per week. This could increase to around £170 per week during the apprenticeship.


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