Musicians and Singers

Summary

musicians and singers image
Musicians must practice playing instruments to improve their technique.
Quick Facts: Musicians and Singers
2019 Median Pay $qf_median_annual_wage_html $qf_median_hourly_wage_html
Typical Entry-Level Education $qf_education_html
Work Experience in a Related Occupation $qf_experience_html
On-the-job Training $qf_training_html
Number of Jobs, 2018 $qf_number_jobs_html
Job Outlook, 2018-28 $qf_outlook_html
Employment Change, 2018-28 $qf_openings_html

What Musicians and Singers Do

Musicians and singers play instruments or sing for live audiences and in recording studios.

Work Environment

Musicians and singers often perform in settings such as concert halls, arenas, and clubs.

How to Become a Musician or Singer

There are no postsecondary education requirements for musicians or singers interested in performing popular music. However, many performers of classical music and opera have at least a bachelor’s degree. Musicians and singers need extensive training and regular practice to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to interpret music at a professional level.

Pay

Job Outlook

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to show little or no change from 2018 to 2028. Growth will be due to increases in demand for musical performances. However, there will be tough competition for jobs because of the large number of people who are interested in becoming musicians and singers.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for musicians and singers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of musicians and singers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about musicians and singers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Musicians and Singers Do

Musicians and singers
Musicians in bands may play clubs and bars while they try to build enough fans to get a recording contract or representation by an agent.

Musicians and singers play instruments or sing for live audiences and in recording studios. They perform in a variety of styles, such as classical, jazz, opera, hip-hop, and rock.

Duties

Musicians and singers typically do the following:

  • Perform music for live audiences and recordings
  • Audition for positions in orchestras, choruses, bands, and other types of music groups
  • Practice playing instruments or singing to improve their technique
  • Rehearse to prepare for performances
  • Find and book locations for performances or concerts
  • Travel, sometimes great distances, to performance venues
  • Promote their careers by maintaining a website or social media presence or by doing photo shoots and interviews

Musicians play one or more instruments. To make themselves more marketable, many musicians become proficient in multiple musical instruments or styles.

Musicians play solo or in bands, orchestras, or small groups. Those in bands may play at weddings, private parties, clubs, or bars while they try to build enough fans to get a recording contract or representation by an agent. Some musicians work as part of a large group of musicians, such as an orchestra, whose members must work and practice together. A few musicians become section leaders, who may be responsible for assigning parts to other musicians or for leading rehearsals.

Others musicians are session musicians, specializing in playing backup for a singer or band leader during recording sessions and live performances.

Singers perform vocal music in a variety of styles. Some specialize in a particular vocal style, such as opera or jazz; others perform in a variety of musical genres. Singers, particularly those who specialize in opera or classical music, may perform in different languages, such as French or Italian. Opera and musical theater singers act out a story by singing instead of speaking the dialogue. Some singers become background singers, providing vocals to harmonize with or support a lead singer.

In some cases, musicians and singers write their own music to record and perform. For more information about careers in songwriting, see the profile on music directors and composers.

Some musicians and singers give private music lessons to children and adults. Others with a background in music may teach music in public and private schools, but they typically need a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license. For more information, see the profiles on kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers.

Work Environment

Musicians and singers
Some musicians and singers spend time in recording studios.

Musicians and singers perform in settings such as concert halls, arenas, and clubs. Musicians and singers who give recitals or perform in nightclubs travel frequently and may tour nationally or internationally. Some spend time in recording studios. There are many jobs in cities that have a high concentration of entertainment activities, such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Nashville.

Work Schedules

Rehearsals and recording sessions are commonly held during business hours, but live performances are most often at night and on weekends.

Many musicians and singers find only part-time or intermittent work and may have long periods of unemployment between jobs. The stress of constantly looking for work leads many to accept permanent full-time jobs in other occupations while working part time as a musician or singer.

How to Become a Musician or Singer

Musicians and singers
To work as a classical musician or singer, a bachelor’s degree in music theory or music performance is generally required.

There are no postsecondary education requirements for musicians or singers interested in performing popular music. However, many performers of classical music and opera have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Education

There are no postsecondary education requirements for those interested in performing popular music. Many musicians and singers of classical music and opera have a bachelor’s degree in music theory or performance. To be accepted into one of these programs, applicants are typically required to submit recordings or to audition in person and sometimes must do both.

Undergraduate music programs teach students about music history and styles. In addition, they teach methods for improving instrumental and vocal techniques and musical expression. Undergraduate voice programs also teach courses in diction. Such courses help students perform opera in foreign languages.

Some musicians and singers choose to continue their education by pursuing a master’s degree in fine arts or music.

Training

Musicians and singers need extensive training and regular practice to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to interpret music at a professional level. They typically begin singing or learning to play an instrument by taking lessons and classes when they are at a young age. In addition, they must practice often to develop their talent and technique.

Musicians and singers interested in performing classical music may seek further training through music camps and fellowships. These programs provide participants with classes, lessons, and performance opportunities.

Important Qualities

Dedication. Auditioning for jobs can be a frustrating process because it may take many different auditions to get hired. Musicians and singers need determination and dedication to continue to audition after receiving many rejections.

Discipline. Talent is not enough for most musicians and singers to find employment in this field. They must constantly practice and rehearse to improve their technique, style, and performance.

Interpersonal skills. Musicians and singers need to work well with a variety of people, such as agents, music producers, conductors, and other musicians. Good people skills are helpful in building good working relationships.

Musical talent. Professional musicians or singers must have superior musical abilities.

Physical stamina. Musicians and singers who play in concerts or in nightclubs, and those who tour, must be able to endure frequent travel and irregular performance schedules.

Promotional skills. Musicians and singers need to promote their performances through local communities, word of mouth, and social media. Good self-promotional skills are helpful in building a fan base.

Advancement

As with other occupations in which people perform, advancement for musicians and singers means becoming better known, finding work more easily, and earning more money for each performance. Successful musicians and singers often rely on agents or managers to find them jobs, negotiate contracts, and develop their careers. Some musicians and singers advance to leading musical groups or to writing complex music such as symphonies. For more information, see the profile on music directors and composers.

Pay

Musicians and Singers

Median hourly wages, May 2019

Musicians and singers

$31.40

Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers

$22.63

Total, all occupations

$20.17

 

Rehearsals and recording sessions are commonly held during business hours, but live performances are most often at night and on weekends.

Many musicians and singers find only part-time or intermittent work and may have long periods of unemployment between jobs. The stress of constantly looking for work leads many to accept permanent full-time jobs in other occupations while working part time as a musician or singer.

Job Outlook

Musicians and Singers

Percent change in employment, projected 2018-28

Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers

7%

Total, all occupations

4%

Musicians and singers

1%

 

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to show little or no change from 2018 to 2028.

Digital downloads and streaming platforms make it easier for fans to listen to recordings and view performances. Easier access to recordings gives musicians more publicity and grows interest in their work, and concertgoers may become interested in seeing them perform live. Moreover, some musicians and singers license their music for use in advertisements or for other commercial purposes, creating more exposure and revenue opportunities.

There may be some additional demand for musicians to serve as session musicians and backup artists for recordings and to go on tour. Singers may be needed to sing backup and to make recordings for commercials, films, and television.

However, employment is projected to decline in orchestras, opera companies, and other musical groups because they may have difficulty getting funding. Some musicians and singers work for nonprofit organizations that rely on donations, government funding, and corporate sponsorships, in addition to ticket sales, to fund their work. These organizations may have trouble finding enough funding to cover their expenses.

Job Prospects

There will be tough competition for jobs because of the large number of people who are interested in becoming musicians and singers. Many musicians and singers experience periods of unemployment, and there will likely be considerable competition for full-time positions.

Musicians and singers with exceptional musical talent and dedication should have the best opportunities.

Employment projections data for musicians and singers, 2018-28
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Musicians and singers

27-2042 175,600 177,200 1 1,600 Get data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of musicians and singers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2019 MEDIAN PAY
Actors Actors

Actors express ideas and portray characters in theater, film, television, and other performing arts media.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Dancers and choreographers Dancers and Choreographers

Dancers and choreographers use dance performances to express ideas and stories.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
High school teachers High School Teachers

High school teachers teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers instruct young students in basic subjects in order to prepare them for future schooling.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Middle school teachers Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Music directors and composers Music Directors and Composers

Music directors lead musical groups during performances and recording sessions. Composers write and arrange original music in a variety of musical styles.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Postsecondary teachers Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Producers and directors Producers and Directors

Producers and directors create motion pictures, television shows, live theater, commercials, and other performing arts productions.

$qf_education_html $qf_median_annual_wage_html
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Musicians and Singers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/musicians-and-singers.htm (visited January 22, 2022).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 4, 2019