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Working as a Musician

What Does a Musician Do

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 locations for performances or concerts
  • Travel, sometimes great distances, to performance venues
  • Promote their careers by maintaining a website or social media presence or 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 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 who must work and practice together, such as an orchestra. 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, who specialize 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 singers act out a story by singing instead of speaking the dialogue. Some singers become background singers, providing vocals to harmonize 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.

How To Become a Musician

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 audition in person, and sometimes, must do both.

Undergraduate music programs teach students about music history and styles, and teach methods for improving their instrumental and vocal technique and musical expression. Undergraduate voice programs also teach courses in diction, which 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 and prolonged training and 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 additional 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 performances.

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.

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Average Salary$79,878
0

Musician Jobs

Musician Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a Musician. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

Learn How To Write a Musician Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless Musician resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

Musician Career Paths

Top Careers Before Musician

Top Careers After Musician

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Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.

Average Salary for a Musician

Musicians in America make an average salary of $79,878 per year or $38 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $168,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $37,000 per year.
Average Salary
$79,878

Best Paying Cities

Average Salary
Salary Range83k - 181k$123k$122,807
Salary Range81k - 179k$120k$120,473
Salary Range81k - 177k$120k$120,329
Salary Range80k - 172k$118k$118,040
Salary Range75k - 165k$112k$111,838
Salary Range67k - 156k$102k$102,398
$35k
$181k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Musician-Brass Ensemble
Musician-Brass Ensemble
Salvation Army USA
Salvation Army USA
09/28/2020
09/28/2020
$20,87009/28/2020
$20,870
Musician-Brass Ensemble
Musician-Brass Ensemble
The Salvation Army-Metro Division
The Salvation Army-Metro Division
09/25/2020
09/25/2020
$20,87009/25/2020
$20,870
(7) Musicians for 7Th and 8Th Grade Play
(7) Musicians for 7Th and 8Th Grade Play
Monroe Township School District
Monroe Township School District
02/28/2020
02/28/2020
$31,30502/28/2020
$31,305
Musician
Musician
Dayton
Dayton
12/31/2019
12/31/2019
$17,84412/31/2019
$17,844
Musician
Musician
Milton Hershey School
Milton Hershey School
12/16/2019
12/16/2019
$76,53012/16/2019
$76,530
See More Recent Salaries

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Musician Demographics

Gender

male

74.7%

female

20.4%

unknown

4.8%

Ethnicity

White

68.9%

Hispanic or Latino

11.4%

Black or African American

11.0%

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

49.5%

French

16.9%

German

8.1%
See More Demographics

Musician Education

Degrees

Bachelors

48.3%

High School Diploma

20.9%

Associate

12.8%

Top Colleges for Musicians

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA

Tuition and fees
$51,832
Enrollment
4,550

2. Stanford University

Stanford, CA

Tuition and fees
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

3. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

Tuition and fees
$50,420
Enrollment
7,582

4. Duke University

Durham, NC

Tuition and fees
$55,695
Enrollment
6,596

5. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

Tuition and fees
$55,584
Enrollment
10,764

6. Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

Tuition and fees
$50,340
Enrollment
5,301

7. Yale University

New Haven, CT

Tuition and fees
$53,430
Enrollment
5,963

8. Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, GA

Tuition and fees
$12,424
Enrollment
15,201

9. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY

Tuition and fees
$55,188
Enrollment
15,105

10. Georgetown University

Washington, DC

Tuition and fees
$54,104
Enrollment
7,089
See More Education Info

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming A Musician

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Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Musician

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 17.9% of musicians listed live performances on their resume, but soft skills such as discipline and physical stamina are important as well.

  • Live Performances, 17.9%
  • Bass Guitar, 14.5%
  • Music Videos, 10.1%
  • Musical Entertainment, 7.3%
  • Musical Support, 7.1%
  • Other Skills, 43.1%
  • See All Musician Skills

Best States For a Musician

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a musician. The best states for people in this position are Alaska, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Musicians make the most in Alaska with an average salary of $133,832. Whereas in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, they would average $116,208 and $115,672, respectively. While musicians would only make an average of $114,222 in Connecticut, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Connecticut

Total Musician Jobs:
2
Highest 10% Earn:
$205,000
Location Quotient:
4.74
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Rhode Island

Total Musician Jobs:
0
Highest 10% Earn:
$208,000
Location Quotient:
0
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Pennsylvania

Total Musician Jobs:
3
Highest 10% Earn:
$199,000
Location Quotient:
2.03
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
View Full List

Musician Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a musician. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

At Zippia, we went through countless musician resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Write a Musician Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless musician resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

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Top Musician Employers

1. US Army
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$53,674
Musicians Hired: 
44+
2. U.S. Navy
4.1
Avg. Salary: 
$53,690
Musicians Hired: 
22+
3. Carnival
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$46,037
Musicians Hired: 
18+
4. Royal Caribbean Cruises
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$51,509
Musicians Hired: 
18+
5. Princess Cruise Lines
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$47,467
Musicians Hired: 
17+
6. US MARINE CORPS
4.3
Avg. Salary: 
$57,440
Musicians Hired: 
17+

Musician Videos

Recently Added Musician Jobs