Musicians and singers play instruments or sing for live audiences and in recording studios.
What they do
Musicians and singers perform in a variety of styles, such as classical, jazz, opera, hip-hop, and rock.
They 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.
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.
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.
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 and/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.
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.
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.
The median hourly wage for musicians and singers was $30.39 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $11.11, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $80.70.
Employment of musicians and singers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.
Decreased demand for musicians and singers in performing arts companies, which are expected to have reduced attendance and difficulty getting funding, is expected to limit employment growth.
Digital downloads and streaming platforms make it easy for music 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.
Similar Job Titles
Choir Member, Chorister, Gospel Singer, Musician, Opera Singer, Singer, Singing Telegram Performer, Songwriter, Vocal Performer, Vocalist, Cellist, English Horn Player, Horn Player, Musician, Oboist, Orchestra Musician, Percussionist, Timpanist, Violinist, Violist
Self-Enrichment Education Teacher, Teacher Assistant, Radio and Television Announcer, Tour Guide and Escort, Actor, Door-To-Door Sales Worker, News and Street Vendor, Marking Clerks
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Academy of Country Music
- Actors' Equity Association
- American Federation of Musicians
- American Guild of Musical Artists
- Country Music Association
- North American Singers Association
- Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists
- The Contemporary A Capella Society of America
- American College of Musicians
- American String Teachers Association
- Chamber Music America
- International Bluegrass Music Association
- International Society for the Performing Arts
- League of American Orchestras
- National Band Association
Magazines and Publications
- Classical Singer Music Magazine
- Singer Universe Magazine
- Modern Singer Magazine
- Making Music Magazine
- Interview Magazine – Music
- Music and Musician Magazine
Music is a universal form of self-expression. Musicians and Singers convey a culture’s musical traditions and create new forms as well. An ear, or talent, for music often shows up early in life. While vocal training for singers usually begins in later teen years when the voice matures, musicians can start learning an instrument even sooner. For those who specialize in classical or jazz music, it’s typical to take formal instruction, such as studying with a "master" or earning a bachelors or master’s degree in music. Many musicians working in popular music genres, like hip hop, rock, and folk, are self-taught. Musicians and singers need a great deal of skill, tenacity and sometimes luck -- to earn a living from music. While they may find work through competitive auditions, most need to promote themselves to find consistent work. Gigs, or performances, are often scheduled in the evenings, weekends or holidays and can require travel away from home. Musicians and singers often teach, or hold another “day job” to support a performing career. Offering lessons and performing for different venues is a form of self-employment. Financial and business experience or classes can be helpful for managing the business side of a self-employed music career. While a music career isn’t an easy one, for many, the joy of performing more than makes up for the sacrifices the art demands.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org