Musician job profile | (2022)

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.

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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:

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  • 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.

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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.

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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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Is there a demand for musicians? ›

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

What is the job description of a musician? ›

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.

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!

Is a musician in high demand? ›

Employment Outlook for Musicians and Singers

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth will be attributed to increases in demand for musical performances.

How do musicians make a living in 2022? ›

31 Best Ways To Make Money As A Musician In 2022
  1. Sell your music as digital downloads.
  2. Sell vinyl and CDs.
  3. Earn money by streaming music.
  4. License your music.
  5. Play live shows & cover gigs.
  6. Become a session or studio musician.
  7. Sell beats.
  8. Offer music or instrument lessons.

What skills does a musician need? ›

Personal requirements for a Musician
  • Musical skills.
  • Stamina to perform at peak level.
  • Self-confidence, motivation, dedication and determination.
  • Able to concentrate for long periods.
  • Mastery of one or more styles of music such as classical, jazz or pop.
  • Flair for entertainment.

What are the qualities of a good musician? ›

Some of the qualities successful musicians possess are:
  • Confidence. There are many successful musicians today who had no other choice of career except music, so they gave their 100% to it. ...
  • Hard Work. They say that hard work is the first stepping stone to success. ...
  • Practice. ...
  • Modesty. ...
  • Patience And Not Giving Up. ...
  • Creativity.
29 Sept 2016

Why Being a musician is the best job? ›

You have the opportunity to collaborate with other artists, travel and have a variety of new experiences, often while courting an admiring fan base. The highest level of professional musicians can earn a healthy salary, either as solo artists, session players or as part of a group or band.

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 are the chances of becoming a 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 real job? ›

This personal story from music consultant Wade Sutton reaffirms what you know but may need to hear again: working in music can be a real and gratifying job. Working with independent artists from all over the world for the past couple of years has been a blessing.

Is a musician a skilled worker? ›

However, as we know, musicians are often highly skilled but not highly paid.

Is music a career or a job? ›

In terms of career options, singers and musicians may be the most visible jobs in music, but you could carve out a career in a number of areas including performing, songwriting, composing, live music entertainment, music education, music production, artist management, marketing and PR or music journalism.

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.

Is music a high income skill? ›

Everyone knows that music is a highly lucrative industry. But what many people don't know is that there are specific jobs in the music industry that pay more than others. If you're passionate about music, rewarding career opportunities are available.

Is the music industry hard to get into? ›

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.

Who will stop making music in 2025? ›

Chris Martin recently shocked Coldplay fans when he revealed the band plans to stop making new music within the next three years.

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 is the most important quality for a musician? ›

5 Traits of a Professional Musician
  • 1) Follows directions well. Because most musicians make a living playing music for other people, they have to be good at doing what those people want. ...
  • 2) Well organized. ...
  • 3) Good communication skills. ...
  • 4) Plays well with others. ...
  • 5) Prepared for the job.
22 Oct 2010

What is the most important skill for a musician? ›

1. Music production. No matter what instruments you play, learning how to record and produce yourself will pay back in dividends. It's the single most important skill for any self-reliant musician wanting to be in complete control of the creative process.

Is music a talent or skill? ›

Music is a field in which the word “talent” is bandied about a lot: the world is full of “talented” violinists, conductors, and rock guitarists. Obviously no one is born with the ability to play the violin; like everyone else, a talented person must learn the instrument.

What is the personality of a musician? ›

Musicians tend to be predominantly artistic individuals, meaning that they are creative and original and work well in a setting that allows for self-expression. They also tend to be enterprising, which means that they are usually quite natural leaders who thrive at influencing and persuading others.

What values should a musician have? ›

For musicians, arts leaders and other artists, it is critical to know your values since so much of your work is wrapped up in expressing what is important to you.
3. Find your Values through Stories of Anger and Joy
  • Trust and Integrity.
  • Honesty.
  • Relationships.
  • Community.
  • Security.
  • Professionalism.
1 Jul 2014

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.

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.

What percent of musicians are depressed? ›

Seventy-three percent of independent musicians have experienced "stress, anxiety and/or depression" in relation to their work, a new study has found.

Can I be a musician without talent? ›

So, is natural musical talent necessary to become a musician? Not really. If you work hard enough, you will be able to master your instrument. In fact, it's very difficult to be able to tell the difference between someone with natural talent and someone with acquired talent.

Is it hard to be musician? ›

Becoming “a musician” isn't necessarily any harder than any other broadly-defined professional occupation. Professional musicians do a huge number of different kinds of jobs related to music. Now, if you're referring to those musicians who are rich and famous, well…

Is it easy to become a professional musician? ›

Working as a professional musician requires that you have what it takes: a work ethic and the ability to work under pressure. In other words, being a professional musician means you must have grit. Learning anything -- especially an instrument -- takes commitment.

Why Being a musician is stressful? ›

Previous reports have shown that musicians neglect stress management. They experience a lack of physical autonomy and frequently side line recreational activity such as exercise over musical practice and creation.

How many hours a day do musicians work? ›

But it usually averages out to around 6 hours a day, 6 out of 7 days a week. On Sundays, I take a break and only do 1 hour of maintenance practice. So that comes out to about 37 hours practice a week, and about 26 days of serious practice in a month. I practice in my apartment, or in a hotel room if I'm traveling.

Can a musician be a full-time job? ›

It's up to you how much you can exert, and how well you manage things, as with anything in life. There are full time musicians with no other job who are mediocre at best, and there are people with three jobs and are great at all of them.

How much do musicians 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.

Can UK musicians work in Europe? ›

Since Brexit, UK musicians and creative professionals no longer have free movement rights to travel and work across the EU. The EU and the UK have both said that they put forward proposals to prevent this outcome, but they could not come to an agreement.

What is a person highly skilled in music called? ›

Answer. Letters. Options. A person highly skilled in music or art with 8 Letters. VIRTUOSO.

Is music a good career in the future? ›

Music is a great area where one can hear both name and fame if they are talented and the will of doing hard work. The initial years in this field might be challenging, but with experience, good exposure, and platform, one can reach massive heights in this field.

Is it better to work with music or without? ›

Listening to music at work may increase your overall happiness regardless of what you're doing. Music can engage your brain when completing repetitive tasks, providing you with more satisfaction and less burnout. This can improve your attitude about work and could even improve your productivity.

Is working with music better? ›

Studies have shown that people who listen to music while they work tend to be in better moods, produce work with fewer mistakes, and work more efficiently.

What are the 3 highest paid music jobs in the world? ›

The Top 5 Highest Paying Music Career Jobs
  • Here we break down the Top 5 highest paying music career jobs in 2022. Job Titles: Sound Engineer. ...
  • Job Title: Recording Engineer. Music Degree: Electronic Music Production and Sound Design. ...
  • Job Title: Music Professor. ...
  • Job Title: Music Therapist. ...
  • Job Title: Music Director or Composer.
3 Jun 2022

How do I succeed in music career? ›

Here are five essential practices to consider as you build a foundation for long-term success in the music industry.
  1. Stay in the Loop. The music industry is constantly changing. ...
  2. Meet Others in the Industry. ...
  3. Invest in Your Future with Internships and Working on Campus. ...
  4. Know Your Competitive Advantage. ...
  5. Stay Agile.
14 Aug 2019

What is the difference between an artist and a musician? ›

An artist is someone with a vision who is able to create music or be able to contribute to music creation. A musician, on the other hand, is someone who plays instruments, writes, and performs music. While all musicians are artists, all artists may not necessarily be musicians.

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.

Do musicians make good money? ›

In summary, the average working musician earns $35,300 USD gross revenue annually from their music career, counting income from a variety of sources.

Are musicians unemployed? ›

As of June 2021, 13.5 percent of musicians, 27.9 percent of dancers/choreographers, and 35.3 percent of actors were unemployed. Even when they are working, performing artists earn far less, on average, than do many other types of artists.

Is music a good career in the future? ›

Music is a great area where one can hear both name and fame if they are talented and the will of doing hard work. The initial years in this field might be challenging, but with experience, good exposure, and platform, one can reach massive heights in this field.

What will happen to the music industry in 2022? ›

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

Why do most musicians not make it? ›

The number one reason why we don't “make it” or achieve anything is because of our mindset. This applies to musicians just the same. When we think that we are “no good” and our art and talent, as musicians, is not good enough, then that's the level of success we can attain.

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.

How much do musicians earn in the 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.

Do musicians love their job? ›

On average, musicians rate the meaningfulness of their work a 4.0/5. Unlike many careers, musicians have little difficulty finding meaning in their work, and it likely constitutes one of the main reasons people become musicians.

How do musicians get so rich? ›

The majority of an artist's revenue comes from touring, selling merchandise, licensing their music for things like television, movies, or video games, and partnerships or side businesses.

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.

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 ...

Is a music degree worth it UK? ›

Music Degree Employability

In this regard, a music degree is absolutely worth it. Many employers set this requirement so they know what kind of candidates they are interviewing. If you have a music degree then your knowledge of theory, note reading, performing, and teaching are pretty much verified.

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.


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