Musician job profile | (2023)

Musicians are composers, conductors or performers of music, and use their skills to pursue a creative role in a variety of settings

You could be a composer, instrumentalist or a singer performing either in the studio or to a live audience.

You may work alone, as a freelance artist, in collaboration with others, or as a salaried member of a:

  • band
  • choir
  • theatrical ensemble
  • opera company
  • orchestra.

Competition in this field is high, so you'll need to dedicate hours of practice to maintain and develop your skills - whatever your preferred style.


As there are many genres of music, some activities will differ depending on your area of expertise. However, you'll typically need to:

  • perform at concerts, festivals, theatres and other music venues
  • participate in recording sessions
  • practise regularly
  • attend rehearsals and plan performances
  • prepare for auditions
  • look after your instrument and/or voice
  • set up/tune your instrument and other equipment, arranging for its transportation if required
  • compose new songs and music
  • promote your act by making demos, using social media, setting up your own website, and contacting agents and record companies
  • handle the administration of business activities such as handling accounts, negotiating fees and organising distribution of your recordings both offline and online
  • seek out new venues in which to perform
  • arrange gigs and tours either yourself or through a manager or agent
  • deliver educational work in schools, businesses and the wider community.


  • Your income will vary widely depending on, for example, whether you're working freelance or as part of an orchestra, or whether you're performing a gig in a pub or in a concert venue.
  • You would normally negotiate gig fees on a case-by-case basis. However, the Musicians' Union (MU) provides minimum casual stage rates for groups performing on stage (usually in a theatre or concert venue) ranging from £164 to £182.75 (for a single performance plus rehearsal on the same day), as well as a national gig rate for groups performing in pubs, clubs and functions ranging from £139.50 to £186.
  • In orchestras, your salary will depend on the orchestra you work for, your grade and experience. For example, salaries for BBC orchestra players can range from £30,000 to £55,000. Rates for freelance orchestral concerts range from £167.50 to £191.

The MU has guidance on rates for employed and self-employed orchestral musicians, gigs and live engagements, session musicians, and musicians working in theatre.

Increases in income will depend on your genre, experience and skill, the type of venue you play in, your popularity and the general economic climate.

For salaried musicians, extra payments can be made for overtime, concert fees, recordings, porterage of large instruments and travel expenses. In some instances, you may also be paid an additional fee for rehearsal. Royalties may be additionally paid if the music has been registered with the PPL or PRS for Music.

Figures are intended as a guide only. See the MU and the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) for more information on fees and rates for musicians.

Working hours

You won't have a regular Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm work pattern. Rehearsals usually take place during the day and performances in the evenings, though this can vary.

Studio recordings can take place late into the evening.

(Video) Musicians and Singers Career Video

Private practice can take place any time of the day or night.

What to expect

  • It takes time, skill, practice and dedication to develop a reputation as a musician and you'll be expected to learn in your own time.
  • You may need to diversify and branch out into other styles of music in order to enhance your employability. You may also have to take on other work, for example teaching music either to individual pupils or peripatetic teaching in schools/colleges, to enhance your income as a performer.
  • Performing and auditioning can be stressful for some musicians, and performance-related psychology can be helpful. Repetitive strain injuries are not uncommon.
  • It's relatively common to spend time away from home, sometimes for long periods, both in the UK and abroad. This goes hand in hand with touring companies or going on tour with your band. You'll need to be flexible and travel where the work takes you, whether this is freelance or contract work.
  • A limited number of orchestral posts are available and tend to be in the larger cities. There are opportunities for singers and instrumentalists to audition throughout Europe and beyond.


Although you don't need a degree in music to become a musician, for some genres, such as the classical repertoire, it is highly regarded. Experience and overall musicianship are paramount.

Most musicians start learning an instrument or singing from an early age. This is particularly true of classical musicians, who take graded music exams, including theory, before going on to further training at a conservatoire (music college) or university.

Conservatoires differ from universities as they focus more on performance-led diplomas or degrees, with an emphasis on practical skills. You'll be expected to work a full week with performances and workshops usually held in the evening or at the weekend. You must also be prepared to practise in your own time. Entry is via audition and undergraduate courses last three or four years. There are also postgraduate courses available. See UCAS - Conservatoires for information on courses and to apply.

There are also many universities offering music degrees - visit UCAS for details and to apply. Some courses focus more on the academic side of music so do your research to make sure the course matches your career aims.

Relevant qualifications and graded exams are also provided by organisations such as The Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) and Rockschool Music.

Competition is tough in the industry, but a love for your style of music combined with the determination to succeed should improve your chances. Entry to full-time posts in orchestras is particularly competitive and you'll usually need to build a musical career incorporating performance work in a number of different settings and groups, teaching and arranging music.


You'll need to have:

  • motivation, determination and perseverance
  • confidence in performing before an audience
  • stamina and dedication to continue practising every day
  • reliability and flexibility as you'll need to work long and irregular hours
  • the ability to work well as part of a team
  • creativity
  • self-discipline and good time management
  • good communication and interpersonal skills
  • patience, understanding and resilience, to take on board criticism and accept rejection
  • attention to detail.

You'll also need business and marketing skills as many musicians work on a self-employed or freelance basis.

Work experience

Whatever your genre of music, you'll need to get practical experience. Get involved with relevant orchestras, choirs, music societies, bands and solo musicians at university and in your local area. Introduce yourself to as many musicians as possible, use any professional contacts you make and keep up with social media to promote yourself and showcase your work. For more information on how to promote yourself, see the MU's advice on marketing yourself.

Networking is vital as opportunities are often discovered via word of mouth, and personal recommendations can sometimes lead to auditions. Take any opportunity that arises to gain experience - by doing so, you'll build your confidence and professional network and extend your repertoire. Examples of where to gain this experience include:

(Video) Career Profile-Musician

  • playing for amateur orchestras
  • attending auditions
  • entering talent competitions
  • playing at festivals
  • playing gigs
  • joining student society music groups.

Entry is usually through an audition. Where appropriate, keep a record of when different organisations audition by closely following their website or calling them in person. For example, some orchestras and opera houses hold auditions on a yearly basis, while others only audition when a current member leaves.

See BBC Introducing Music for information on how to get started.

Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.


Many professional musicians, regardless of their genre, are self-employed, with the exception of some classical musicians, who are occasionally employed as a full or part-time member of a specific orchestra.

There is a great variety of orchestras and ensembles in the UK and they differ in terms of size, style, location and repertoire. Employers include ballet, symphony, opera and chamber orchestras, some of which will be large enough to employ musicians on full-time contracts. For a list of member orchestras and ensembles see the Association of British Orchestras (ABO).

As a popular musician you could form part of a band, a backing group or be a solo performer. You'll generally need to work in another role and play part time until you become successful.

The most common employers of classical singers are opera companies, although as there are very few professional choirs opportunities can be limited. Some of the larger choral societies employ opera singers for solo and oratorio work.

There is also occasional work offered by independent fixers for recording sessions and outdoor performances. Freelance musicians or permanent staff can take on this ad-hoc work.

Organists are attached to a specific cathedral or church and their full-time post may also include the role of choirmaster and director of music. The majority of organists will work part time and combine their role with teaching at an associated school or conducting a local choral society.

Other employers of musicians include holiday camps, cruise ships, theatre companies and the Corps of Army Music (military music for the British Army and wider defence community).

Look for job vacancies at:

You can also visit the ABO website and search individual orchestral and opera company websites.

(Video) The Job of the Musical Director Explained

Although some jobs and auditions are advertised in the music and entertainment press, one of the most common ways to learn of vacancies is via word of mouth and networking.

It's also possible to find work through an agent or manager.

You could also produce a demo CD, DVD or MP3 of your music to send to recording companies.

Professional development

You'll need to continue training to improve your performance and professional development throughout your working life. This is achieved through practising every day and performing, as well as by taking lessons with private music teachers.

Further training and support is available from a range of organisations and professional bodies related to your genre of music, for example:

These organisations provide a range of professional development opportunities such as training courses, qualifications and seminars, as well as access to advice, awards and bursaries.

The ISM and the MU provide members with access to careers and business advice on issues such as fees and contracts, as well as networking and professional development opportunities.

Funding and grants may be available to help further develop your skills. See Help Musicians UK for information on funding opportunities through their Creative Programme.

It's also worth reading the specialist press for your area of music, such as Music Week, to keep up to date with what is happening in the industry.

Career prospects

Establishing a career as a musician can be difficult as it's a very competitive area of work. It's not always possible to work full time as a musician, particularly at the start of your career, and you'll need talent, determination and perseverance to succeed.

There isn't a great deal of movement within the orchestral profession, so bottlenecks do occur and progression can be slow. Movement to another orchestra may be the only way to advance in this situation. With experience you may be able to progress to principal player or section leader. This is likely to involve extra duties such as organising a section of the orchestra, editing the music and discussing options with conductors.

Solo performers may start their career within an orchestra or amateur choir and then progress to become a soloist, but very often they start their career from day one as a solo performer with a mixture of freelance solo work and teaching. You'll receive more work as you build your reputation.

(Video) Careers For Musicians - Exploring Musician Jobs with a Pro

Once you've gained experience in the popular music industry, you may decide to move into the business side as a producer, manager or writer or you could work for a record company.

It's also possible to develop your career as a composer or conductor, start your own ensemble or move into related areas of work such as music education, administration or community arts work.

Find out how Isabel became a musician at BBC Bitesize.

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What is the demand for a musician? ›

Quick Facts: Musicians and Singers
On-the-job TrainingLong-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2021151,300
Job Outlook, 2021-314% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2021-316,400
3 more rows
16 Sept 2022

Is musician a good career choice? ›

Is a career in music a good move? Of course, it is if you want a highly rewarding career where you get to perform music every day and do what you love. It is worth it, but you better be prepared to put the work in. It is not an easy ride, but once you get the taste for it, you won't look back.

What is the career path for a musician? ›

A Music Industry degree prepares graduates for success in multiple aspects of the music industry, including careers in management, production, touring, gaming, radio, publishing, business, public relations, entertainment law, advertising, recording, and promotions. See what else Music Industry degree offers!

How much does the average musician make UK? ›

The average salary for a musician is £19,365 per year, although this primarily considers those working for companies and record labels rather than working independently. For example, employers may look for talented musicians to play in marching bands or even orchestras.

What is the future of musicians? ›

In the future, artists will push the concept of evolving music much further. Instead of releasing a static recording, artists could release music that is dynamic, fluid and open for reinterpretation, remixing and reimagining.

Are musicians declining? ›

"According to BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] data from the Federal government, the number of people who self describe themselves as musicians has declined since 1999 by 41 percent.

What percentage of musicians succeed? ›

90% of ALL artists fail. Yes, even the talented ones. This is because your success as a musician isn't down to talent. Mindset, hard work, patience, consistency... all of these and more are what shape successful artists.

What percentage of musicians are successful? ›

Only 0.04% of musicians achieve success. Artists represent 90.7 percent of all artists in the world. The act of performing one or more musical instruments is known as being a musician. Musicians and singers interested in performing popular music do not need to go to postsecondary school.

How long is the average musicians career? ›

Average artist career length: 17 years. Percentage of top artists that are still active: 92% Longest artist career: The Blind Boys of Alabama – 73 Years and still going. Gone but not forgotten – Robert Johnson – Hasn't recorded since 1938 but still in the top 1,000.

What are 3 careers in music? ›

Top 10 Careers in the Music Business (and How Much Money You Can Make)
  • Music Producer.
  • Recording Engineer.
  • Artist Manager.
  • Tour Manager.
  • Booking Agent.
  • Music Publicist.
  • Composer.
  • Music Arranger.

What are the odds of becoming a professional musician? ›

Meaning you're probably going to have get one of those "job" things you were trying to avoid in the first place by becoming a musician. In many ways it's a crapshoot, but if you're super-talented, charismatic, and driven, your odds go up. From 0.000001% to about 0.000002%.

Is being a musician a career? ›

Musicians primary job is to perform or sing for live audiences or in recording studios. Styles can vary (for instance, rap, hip hop, rock, jazz, classical, country, folk, etc.). Musicians often start their careers to build up their reputation by performing at clubs, weddings, or other music venues.

How much do street musicians make UK? ›

Potential earnings in a strong area: £8 – £15 per hour

During special events, it is also possible to pick up particularly generous one-off tips from any passers-by that can be anything from £5 to £100! There are certain areas where you might be able to be paid for busking.

How much do musicians make in London? ›

Average £28.23 per hour.

What will happen to the music industry in 2022? ›

Digital music distribution and white-label distribution platforms take the lead: While physical formats like vinyl records have experienced a revival during the past 12 months, 2022 is going to be the year where music distribution through digital channels will consolidate.

Does music have a future? ›

The future of music will most likely follow the same trends we are seeing in modern technology. It will be incredibly social similar to social media, it will become increasingly computer-based and A.I.

Is music Losing Popularity? ›

The latest report shows that the consumption of old music grew another 14% during the first half of 2022, while demand for new music declined an additional 1.4%. These old tunes now represent a staggering 72% of the market.

Are most musicians depressed? ›

According to a study done by the University of Westminster and MusicTank of musicians, 68.5% of 2,211 said they have experienced depression, and 71.1% said they had experienced severe anxiety or panic attacks. These results show that musicians are 3 times more susceptible to depression than the average person.

What is the biggest problem the music industry is facing? ›

Industry monopolies and unethical paid promotions make it hard for independent musician to sustain their career. It's a vicious game of chance and some musicians practice unethical promotion tactics to get ahead. These industry monopolies undermine a free market and make it even more difficult for independent artists.

What a musician should not do? ›

Here's a quick guide to what you shouldn't be doing.
  • THE PERSONAL ELEMENT. Don't ever stop practicing your instrument. ...
  • THE GENERAL BAND STUFF. Don't assume anyone will care about your band. ...
  • BOOKING & TOURING. Don't ask for too much. ...
  • RECORDING. ...
25 Feb 2014

Are musicians more prone to mental illness? ›

Research has shown that people working in the music industry are more prone to mental health problems than the general population, with musicians being up to three times more likely to suffer from depression.

Is being a musician stressful? ›

In the paper, researchers Sally-Anne Gross and Dr George Musgrove, from Westminster University, found that 71 percent of the 2,200-plus musicians they interviewed across the genre spectrum suffer from high levels of anxiety – three times higher than among the general population – while 69 percent report they have ...

What is the average IQ of a musician? ›

Before they took up an instrument, the new musicians' average IQ score was 103. When they were tested again, six months later, it had increased to 113. Scores for IQ tests, which are used to measure various cognitive reasoning skills, average around 100 in general.

Do musicians have a high IQ? ›

Participants were asked to complete several tests, one of which was the WAIS-II intelligence test. Musicians had a higher IQ than amateur musicians, who, in turn, had a higher IQ than non-musicians. However, only the higher IQ of musicians was substantially larger than that of non-musicians.

Are musicians highly intelligent? ›

While musicians had similar verbal capabilities to non-musicians, the musicians' ability to memorize new words was markedly better, too. Perhaps most importantly, the musicians' IQ scores were higher overall than those who spent their lives listening to music rather than performing it.

Why is the music industry so hard to get into? ›

A lack of skills, or a lack of the right type of skills, is one of the greatest barriers of entry into the music industry. You aren't going to get hired at a commercial recording studio if you don't know the first thing about recording music.

Can you start a music career at 30? ›

You absolutely can have a great career in the music industry, regardless of your age.

Do musicians use more of their brain? ›

Musicians have more connected brains than non-musicians

The brains of musicians have stronger structural and functional connections compared to those of non-musicians, regardless of innate pitch ability, according to new research from JNeurosci. Years of musical training shape the brain in dramatic ways.

How many hours a day should a musician practice? ›

10 – 15 Hours/Week (1.5 – 2 Hours/Day) – RECOMMENDED. We recommend spending 1.5-2 hours a day practicing, as it is a great amount of time to thoroughly warm up and make true accomplishments in each practice session. These are the practices you walk away from and already feel better than when you went in.

How hard is it to get a career in music? ›

The music industry is very competitive and one of the more difficult industries to break into, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. Whether you are a Music Producer, Engineer, or Artist, you still may have what it takes to break into the music industry if you work hard and take the necessary steps.

Is a music degree worth it UK? ›

Yes, a music degree is worth it for most aspiring musicians. Music degrees are essential for employment in the music industry as well as building well-rounded musicians. However, in some areas of music, a degree may not be necessary.

Which field is best for music? ›

Here are five music fields of study to consider.
  1. Sound engineering and music production. ...
  2. Music technology. ...
  3. Music education. ...
  4. Musicology. ...
  5. Music therapy.
10 Jul 2019

How do I get a job in the music industry UK? ›

Seven top tips on breaking into the music industry:
  1. Get work experience. These professionals say getting work experience is a great way in. ...
  2. Write your own blog. ...
  3. Consider practical study courses. ...
  4. Find a way in. ...
  5. Know what makes you tick. ...
  6. Be passionate about what you do. ...
  7. Don't be afraid to ask for advice.

Who is the hardest working musician? ›

Lewis Capaldi has been named the hardest working artist in music, according to a new study. Research conducted by the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP) revealed which of the world's musicians work the hardest based on a number of different factors.

Why do musicians stop making music? ›

Burnout. If you're a committed, serious musician, this reason for quitting is one that can sneak up on you. Similar to how financial debt creates conditions that make it impossible for many musicians to create in, doing too much at the wrong time can cause you to step away from music and never come back.

What do musicians do all day? ›

Musicians perform, compose, conduct, arrange, and teach music. Performing musicians may work alone or as part of a group, or ensemble. They may play before live audiences in clubs or auditoriums, or they may perform on television or radio, in motion pictures, or in a recording studio.

Who is the highest paid musician in the UK? ›

Paul McCartney, U2 and Andrew Lloyd Webber are at the top of the Sunday Times Rich List for musicians from UK and Ireland. Beatles star McCartney's wealth is listed as £865m, with the publication reporting that he has gained £45m since 2021.

Where do musicians make the most money? ›

Well, here you go - 10 major revenue streams that'll make up the bulk of any artist's income.
  • CHAPTERS. Streaming Royalties.
  • Music Publishing.
  • Merchandise.
  • Touring & Live Shows.
  • Physical Sales.
  • Sync Deals.
  • Brand Partnerships.
  • Crowdfunding.
21 Feb 2022

Is busking a good career? ›

“While busking is a great way of earning money from music quickly, it's not without its challenges. It's weather dependant, you often have to get a license in many places and in many other places you can't busk in the same spot for more than two hours.

What is the highest salary for a musician? ›

Taylor Swift

Her annual salary is said to be $150 million, which is the highest reported of any musician in this guide. Swift has sold more than 200 million albums worldwide, owns $90 million in real estate, and holds the record for the most one-day streams on Spotify.

How much do understudies get paid UK? ›

Performers can also earn additional payments for 'extras' such as £91 per week for being the Dance Captain ($406 on Broadway), or £26 per performance for understudying a lead role ($54).

How do professional musicians earn a living? ›

Artists who remain musicians earn money from advances, merchandise, royalties, licensing fees and playing live music. Unless the artist remains independent, they pay a share of their money to others involved, such as managers, agents, promoters, PR teams and sound engineers.

Is there a high demand for artists? ›

Overall employment of craft and fine artists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Are session musicians in demand? ›

A session musician can be hired by anybody that needs to record music: a band, music producer, music contractor, even a video producer. Therefore, their duties vary based on a type of job he or she is hired for, but their skills remain in high demand.

What is the success rate for musicians? ›

90% of ALL artists fail. Yes, even the talented ones. This is because your success as a musician isn't down to talent.

How do 2022 musicians make money? ›

The two primary ways bands and solo musicians make money from gigs are: 1) taking a cut of ticket pre-sales and 2) taking a guaranteed fee. It is common to have one or the other agreed and whether you push for a cut of ticket sales or a guaranteed fee for playing will depend on the circumstances.

What kind of artist are in demand? ›

In-demand art careers
  • Video editor. National average salary: ₹2,36,020 per year. ...
  • Creative director. National average salary: ₹8,33,441 per year. ...
  • Interior designer. National average salary: ₹2,60,863 per year. ...
  • Graphic designer. National average salary: ₹2,41,384 per year. ...
  • Gallery manager. ...
  • Landscape architect.
22 Jul 2021

Is being an artist a stressful job? ›

The unfortunate thing is that being a professional artist is, in most cases, stressful and overwhelming. In order to be successful, almost all artists have to be personable, consistent, and reliable.

Will artists be in demand in the future? ›

The demand for artists continues to be on the rise in recent years. The projections for the near future look promising as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth rate of nearly six percent in the coming years.

How many hours a week should a musician practice? ›

3 – 4 Hours/Week (20 – 40 Minutes/Day)

Daily practice is essential when it comes to practicing music. Routine and repetition make your practices stick in the long run. Many beginning students or young musicians will start with 30 minutes a day because it isn't a massive commitment.

How much do session musicians charge UK? ›

Non-Classical recording session fees
Standard SessionLong Session
Session fee£130.00£194.40
Overtime (per 15 minutes)£32.50£48.60
26 Sept 2022

What is the average lifespan of a musician? ›

The median ages of popular musician death in the two Bellis studies (links above) were 41.78 and 45.2 years respectively, which closely aligned with my findings.

What do musicians struggle with? ›

Anxiety and depression are common in the industry and this should not be taken for granted. Once you feel burned out, reach out for someone to talk to and consider taking a breather from your music. There are a lot of online resources where you can connect to people and open up on your struggles.

How long does the average music career last? ›

Average artist career length: 17 years. Percentage of top artists that are still active: 92% Longest artist career: The Blind Boys of Alabama – 73 Years and still going. Gone but not forgotten – Robert Johnson – Hasn't recorded since 1938 but still in the top 1,000.

Is it possible to make a living as a musician? ›

How Musicians Are Making Money Today (According to RIAA and a Scientific Study) The above studies show us that, yes, you can totally make a living as a musician. It's difficult but possible. Thousands of other people are.

Do musicians make more money now or in the past? ›

According to the study: The average American musician earned between $20,000 and $25,000 a year from 2012 to 2016, but in 2017 it was only $21,300. The majority of that money came from playing live events, and was not sufficient to meet their living expenses.


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