Dream of landing a great role in the music industry? The first step to success if a killer CV.
A properly formatted, well-written and tailored CV will seriously increase your chances of landing an interview.
But if you’re not sure where to start, this guide will steer you in the right direction.
It contains everything you need to put forward a job-winning application, including a tried-and-tested example musician CV.
Here’s what I’ll cover in the guide:
- Music CV example
- Structuring and formatting your CV
- Writing your CV profile
- Detailing work experience
- Your education
- Skills required for your music CV
Musician CV example
The example CV above should give you a could idea of how to layout your CV for maximum impact.
This candidate puts forward their key skills and experience in a punchy profile and core skills list, allowing the reader to see their potential from the start.
The clearly-formatted headings also mean it’s easy for recruiters to scan through the document and pinpoint the information they’re seeking.
Music CV structure & format
With recruiters potentially reading hundreds of CVs per role, they don’t have long to review each application.
That’s why, above anything, your music CV should be well-presented, clear and concise.
- Length: The unwritten rule of CV length is 2 sides of A4 or less. This forces you to focus on the most relevant information and ensures your CV doesn’t become tedious.
- Readability: Your overarching aim should be to make your CV as easy to read as possible. So, break up any large blocks of texts into smaller paragraphs and, where possible, format information into short, sharp bullet points. Format your CV section headings so that they clearly stand out.
- Design: You might be a creative genius, but be careful with your CV design. Generally, a simple design with a muted colour palette and clear font is best. However, if you do want to add some personality to the design, remember to prioritise readability over style.
- Things to avoid: Generally, images and profile photos aren’t necessary. However, do double-check whether the job advertisement specifically asks you to include a profile photo, as they’re more common in the performance and entertainment sector.
Structuring your CV
Break your key information up into the following CV sections:
- Contact details – These should always sit at the very top of your CV.
- Profile – A short introductory paragraph that summarises your music experience and why you’re a great fit for the role.
- Work experience / Career history – Work backwards through your most relevant roles and/or contracts.
- Performances – If applicable, add a short and snappy list of your key performances.
- Education – Highlight your academic background, focusing on your industry-specific qualifications.
- Interest and hobbies – An optional section, which you can use to demonstrate your commitment to the music industry.
Next, we’ll go through each CV section in greater detail, so you understand exactly what you need to include:
CV Contact Details
Kick-off your CV by listing your contact details.
These only need to be basic at this stage – there’s no point wasting space with excessive detail.
Here’s what you should include:
- Phone number
- Email address
- Location – Just list your town or city, for example, ‘London’ or ‘Manchester’.
- If you have one, add a link to your music portfolio or website.
Music CV Profile
This should be a well-rounded summary of your music skills, experience and achievements to date.
Recruiters normally read this first, so your aim should be to hook their attention and entice them into the rest of your CV.
Tips to consider when creating your profile:
- Tailor it to the job: If your profile doesn’t contain the information that recruiters are looking for, they might chuck your CV in the bin before reading the rest. So, make sure it contains highly relevant information and paints you as the perfect fit for the job requirements.
- It should be short and snappy: A paragraph length of between 5-10 lines is perfect for experienced candidates, while junior and graduate candidates can go up to 15 lines. This keeps the tone punchy and exciting; enticing recruiters to continue reading and find out more about you.
- Avoid clichés: It might be tempted to describe yourself as a “talented and passionate musician who always gives 110%”, but generic phrases like this are best avoided. Recruiters have no reason to believe your claims, so it’s more effective to put forward hard facts, accomplishments and achievements instead.
- Avoid objectives: If you’re an experienced applicant, don’t add your objectives or motives to your profile – save them for your cover letter. However, graduates and junior candidates should briefly touch on the type of roles they’re seeking and why.
Quick tip: Spelling and grammar mistakes could make your CV look unprofessional. Use a free writing assistant tool, such as Grammarly, to check it over for errors.
What to include in your music CV profile?
- Specialism – Whether you play an instrument, are a music producer, a singer, a songwriter or DJ, your specialism should immediately be made clear.
- Level of experience – Are you a recent graduate? 2 years of experience? 10+ years of experience? No matter what type of music career you’re looking for, recruiters need to know your experience level.
- Relevant experience/projects/contracts – Summarise your relevant experience so far – this might be employed roles, contracts, university placements, personal projects and performances.
- Music qualifications – Highlight your highest and most relevant qualifications, whether that’s a music degree, A-Level and/or specific instrument grades.
- Music skills – Showcase your relevant music skills, tailoring them to the job requirements if possible. For example, music theory, production, music history, songwriting, symphony experience…
- Performances and/or achievements – If applicable, make sure to mention a couple of your stand out musical performances. You should also list your key accomplishments in your career to date, such as notable venues you performed at, exemplary feedback you achieved, impressive marks you received during a music exam, leading musicians you’ve worked with or notable artists/musicians you’ve worked alongside. Bear in mind that these will inevitably vary depending on your specific profession, but anything that makes you stand out is worth including.
Core skills section
Next, prove your suitability for the role by listing your core music skills and specialisms.
Format these into 2-3 columns of bullet points for maximum impact.
Your list should be tailored to the role, highlighting the skills, techniques, software and disciplines mentioned in the job advertisement.
Work experience/Career history
Next up is your work experience section, which some music professionals might find difficult.
Depending on the nature of your job, you might have what’s referred to as a ‘mosaic career’ – ie, numerous short-term roles and contracts.
But busy recruiter or casting directors don’t want to read about every contract you’ve ever had, so you need to be selective.
What’s the solution? Try to prioritise space and go into the most detail for your biggest and most relevant jobs/contracts.
If you run out of space, just list the name of the show or company you worked on/for, along with the dates, for your oldest or most irrelevant roles.
For musicians/performers, another option is to highlight longer contracts in a work experience section, but then include a ‘Performances’ section underneath, where you provide a snappy list of the key shows you’ve been part of.
Ultimately, no matter what your career path looks like, it’s best to focus on relevancy to the target role.
Quick tip: If you write or compose music, add an ‘Original Compositions‘ section and cite your stand out pieces or albums.
Structuring your roles
If you want to keep recruiter’s attention hooked, your work experience needs to be snappy and easy to digest.
My 3-step role structure, as outlined below, will allow them to scan through your career history without missing on critical information:
Start with a well-rounded overview of the company you worked for, what the role or contract entailed and who you worked alongside.
“Lead violinist in the string section of a major orchestra, performing for audiences ranging from 100-8,000.”
Share a punchy list of your key duties, using short bullet points for ease of reading.
- Regularly performed for large audiences; with an average of 5,000.
- Lead a team of 10 violinists to meet high performance standards and ensure a cohesive sound.
- Tutored junior violinists to play the advanced parts of assigned pieces.
To impress recruiters even further, create a list of your key achievements within the role.
This might be results, feedback, awards or ratings, or anything else that added value to the employer, a client or the audience.
If you can, quantify your examples using hard facts and figures.
- Headhunted to contribute to several BBC TV soundtracks.
- Started and managed a free club for gifted young violinists.
- Organised a charity concert and fundraised over £20,000 in ticket sales.
After your work experience, use the education section to display your qualifications.
Start with your sector-specific music qualifications, such as your degree, a music BTEC, music A-Level, or specific instrument theory and practical grades.
You should share the institution or governing body, your grades and the dates of study.
Then, give a brief overview of your other qualifications, especially if they’re in some way relevant to the role.
Quick tip: Junior and graduate candidates should add more detail to this section. If there were any aspects of a course – such as an assignment, placement or project – that are particularly relevant to the role you’re applying for, discuss them in further detail.
Interests and hobbies
This is an optional section, but it can be particularly useful in the music industry.
Musicians or other professionals in the music industry need to be passionate about the sector. Therefore, any hobby, side project or interest that showcases your commitment to music, or has helped you gain relevant skills, should be discussed.
For example, perhaps you’re part of a performing arts or music club, are learning a new instrument, produce music in your spare time or write songs.
Essential skills for your music CV
Careers in the music industry are varied, and the skillset need for a musician, sound engineer and music teacher will vary. Therefore, it’s essential to tailor your CV skills to your target role.
However, some common music skills include:
Instruments – It comes as no surprise that the ability to play an instrument is often vital, whether that’s piano, guitar, violin, cello, bass…
Music theory – The ability to read and write music, as well as understanding of the practises, methods, concepts and terms used in creating and performing.
Performance – Dedication to practise to achieve performance standards, as well as the confidence to perform in front of audiences.
Technical skills – Sound engineers and music producers will require a wide range of technical skills, such as sound design, editing and ghost production.
Teaching – Teaching clients or fellow musicians various elements of general musicianship, such as theory and instrumental technique.
Communication – Whether it’s working with organisations, venues, bandmates or artists, most music professions require solid communication and interpersonal skills.
Writing your music CV
If music is your dream career path, a flawless CV is an essential stepping stone to landing the best roles and contracts.
If you focus on tailoring your skills and experience to the job requirements and ensure your CV has a professional appearance, it’s sure to get attention.
Before you send off any application, it’s important to triple-check for typos and silly mistakes using Grammarly – after all, musicians need great attention to detail!
Good luck with your job search.