A musician plays a musical instrument or sings for entertainment, as a profession, or as a hobby. Musicians need a great deal of training and practice to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in their field. Musicians may specialize in a particular type of music, such as classical music, jazz, or country. Some musicians work in a variety of musical styles.
Many musicians work in a group or band and are typically self-employed. Musicians often have to audition for jobs, and many work long hours for little pay when starting out.
Musician Job Duties
Musicians can be involved in a wide range of duties, including:
- Performing in concerts or at shows for audiences
- Conceptualizing musical ideas and putting together orchestras, bands, ensembles etc. for specific purposes
- Creating original music or songs and playing instruments such as guitars, keyboards, drums, or other instruments
- Managing inventory of supplies used for performances, such as sheet music, speakers, instrument strings, and instrument cases
- Ensuring that the instruments are in good working order and repairing or replacing them when necessary
- Communicate with fellow musicians, producers, directors, managers, agents, and promoters about their work
- Participating in press interviews to promote new music, albums, concerts, or new band members
- Teaching private lessons to students
Musician Salary & Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, as of May 2020, the median hourly wage for musicians and singers was $31.40. That translates to approximately $65,220 per year. This is a highly competitive field, and the top-earning 10% of professionals in the field were earning $87.50 per hour or more.
The demand for musicians and singers is expected to remain steady between 2019-2029. Increased demand for live music performances and for music in advertisements and films will lead to more jobs in the field.
Musician Job Requirements
No formal training is needed to work as a musician, but mastering the skills and developing the talent are important.
Education: Most musicians learn their trade through practical experience, although some musicians study in music schools or colleges.
Training: Both formal and informal training are important. The informal training comes from playing in bands, jamming, listening to music, and learning from others. Formal training is provided by music schools and colleges.
Certifications & Licenses: Musicians are usually not required to have any certifications or licenses. However, some musical performances may require them to obtain a state-issued public performance license.
A musician must have the following skills:
Creativity: Musicians must be able to create new and original pieces of music.
Musical knowledge: A musician must have a strong understanding of music theory, history, and other related subjects.
Interpersonal skills: A musician must be able to work well with others in a band or orchestra.
Performance skills: A musician must be able to perform live for an audience.
Perseverance: Success doesn’t happen overnight, so you need to have the ability to keep working at your craft even when you don’t see immediate results from your efforts.
Musician Work Environment
Musicians are often self-employed and can work in a variety of locations. They might work in a rock band, for example, performing in a nightclub or at a private event. They might also work in a symphony orchestra, performing at a concert hall or on a tour. Some musicians work in recording studios, which can be in any number of locations.
Musicians often work long hours, and this occupation is not for those who need to have a set schedule or who are unable to work evenings and weekends.
The work environment can be hectic, noisy, and crowded, and musicians are often on their feet for long periods of time.
Musician Career Advancement
There are many different avenues you can take as a musician, depending on your instrument of choice. For example, if you play a variety of instruments, you may want to become an orchestra conductor. If you play the guitar, you may want to become a music teacher at a local school or college.
If you’re more interested in performing, then you could become a studio musician or work as a freelancer for hire. Some musicians choose to tour with other bands and make their way across the country. No matter what path you choose, it is important to continue growing your skills through practice, classes, and workshops to stay ahead of the game.
How to Become a Musician
1. Planning Your Career Path
Becoming a musician is an admirable goal, but it’s important to have realistic expectations about the process. Even if you’re already making music on your own, remember that this doesn’t mean you will automatically be successful when you start to pursue your passion professionally.
If you want to make a living as a musician, it’s essential to treat your career like any other job and take steps toward making that dream a reality. To do so, we recommend setting some goals around what type of musician you want to become (such as a singer-songwriter or session musician) and creating a plan for how you will achieve these goals. Remember that even though there are no guarantees in life, pursuing your passion is always worth the effort!
2. Writing a Resume
As a musician, you will need to write a resume that highlights your talent and experience. To do this, first create an outline of the most relevant information for potential employers. Be sure to include any music education you have completed as well as any professional performances or paid gigs you’ve had in the past.
In addition to these points, be sure to mention any other skills you possess such as playing multiple instruments or being able to read sheet music (as some jobs require musicians who can sight-read). Another thing that many applicants forget is including contact information — make sure yours is up-to-date.
3. Applying for Jobs
Musicians and music industry professionals alike will find that networking is a valuable tool in a job search. This means attending concerts, going to industry events, and taking advantage of social media. If you can, try to create connections with the artists you love — their managers and agents. Artists have a lot of sway in this business so this could be a great way to get your foot in the door.
4. Ace the Interview
There are many skills required for a musician to excel in an interview, including interpersonal skills, people skills, teamwork, and many more. A great musician candidate will be able to talk about how they can improve the performance of a band or orchestra. Also, make sure you are well-informed about the specific instrument you play.
The interviewer will want to know that you are capable of playing a wide variety of songs. Also, you should be prepared to play the instrument in question during the interview. In addition, it is important to be punctual for your interview and maintain good hygiene and a professional appearance.