What Does a Developer (Web, Software, or Application) Do?

As digital technology continues its steady march toward replacing analog tools and media, developers have become key players in the music world, making it possible to record, produce, distribute, integrate, and consume music where people increasingly live their lives: on computers and mobile devices. Developers create software and applications for just about any music-related activity one can think of: notation, composition, performance, recording, production, editing, instruction, research, broadcasting, publication, tuning, and—of course—listening.

Anyone can learn to write code, but what makes a strong developer is the concentration and attention to detail to write foolproof, resilient code, as well as the ability to quickly identify and resolve errors when they arise.

Although they're not necessarily involved in the conception and planning stages of software, an app, or a website, developers are involved in every subsequent step: building mockups, programming the software or building the website through multiple iterations, collaborating with designers and data specialists, and overseeing a rigorous test process to fix bugs before release. After launch, developers generally maintain, update, and enhance the products they create. 

Additionally, developers fall into many categories and specializations based on their preferred languages and tools. In the web development world, it's common to market oneself as either a front-end or back-end developer (those who can do both are called full-stack developers). Front-end devs mainly use HTML, CSS, and Javascript to produce the outward-facing part of a website, while back-end devs might use languages like Ruby, PHP, or Python to construct and optimize the inner workings—the data storage and server. The world of software engineering shares similar distinctions and specializations.

Whether software- or web-focused, part of becoming a successful developer is expanding the breadth of languages and tools one can use, and improving one's ability to pick up new ones on the fly.

Developer (Web, Software, or Application) at a Glance

Career Path

There are few formal educational requirements to work as a developer. What's necessary is a proven track record in one's chosen field, be that mobile app development, computer software development, or web development. Some developers specialize in one of the aforementioned media, while others switch based on the requirements of the project, or even focus on porting releases between different platforms.

As developers progress through their careers, they accrue knowledge of numerous programming languages, tools, and fundamental skills, allowing them to work as senior developers. Developers who grow tired of implementing the ideas of others might become digital product designers, lead developers, or website architects.

Finding Work

Developers work for startups, app development companies, software development companies, record labels, entertainment companies, music distribution services (e.g. Bandcamp), and music streaming services. This is a rapidly expanding field and demand is high, particularly for mobile app developers. Finding work involves looking for developer positions posted online, attending hackathons and meetups sponsored by startups, or getting together with some similarly inclined friends and developing one's own startup. It's also possible for innovative and successful technology trainers to be hired as developers by the companies whose tools and software they teach.

Professional Skills
  • Coding in various languages
  • Debugging
  • Web development
  • Software development
  • UX design
  • Problem solving and analytic thinking
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Creativity
  • Attention to detail
Interpersonal Skills

While being a developer is—in a creative sense—all about designing and building in virtual spaces using programming languages, as a profession it’s really about preventing and solving problems while working under a deadline. Anyone can learn to write code, but what makes a strong developer is the concentration and attention to detail to write foolproof, resilient code, as well as the ability to quickly identify and resolve errors when they arise. Because they almost always work in groups, developers should also aim to acquire strong collaboration and communication skills.

Work Life

Some developers work traditional business hours in an office setting, while others work at their own pace from home. Flexibility is certainly an aspect of this profession, but only insofar as deadlines allow. This is a results-oriented industry, and developers who don’t manage to finish that new website or app in time for a marketing push or official release aren’t likely to be employed for long. Fortunately, project managers provide logistical support in scheduling and goal-setting.