Musicians and Singers

Summary

musicians and singers image
Musicians must practice playing instruments to improve their technique.
Quick Facts: Musicians and Singers
2015 Median Pay $24.20 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education No formal educational credential
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 173,300
Job Outlook, 2014-24 3% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 6,000

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 and prolonged training and practice to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to interpret music at a professional level.

Pay

The median hourly wage for musicians and singers was $24.20 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. 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 About this section

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 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.

Work Environment About this section

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

Musicians and singers held about 173,300 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most musicians and singers were as follows:

Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 44%
Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries 13
Educational services; state, local, and private 2

In 2014, about 2 out of 5 musicians and singers were self-employed. Most of the rest worked for religious organizations and performing arts companies.

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 About this section

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 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.

Pay About this section

Musicians and Singers

Median hourly wages, May 2015

Musicians and singers

$24.20

Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers

$19.25

Total, all occupations

$17.40

 

The median hourly wage for musicians and singers was $24.20 in May 2015. 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 $9.20, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $68.98.

In May 2015, the median hourly wages for musicians and singers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries $26.94
Educational services; state, local, and private 22.20
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 20.54

In 2014, about 2 out of 5 musicians and singers were self-employed. 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 About this section

Musicians and Singers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers

6%

Musicians and singers

3%

 

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Growth will be attributed to increases in demand for musical performances.

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 other commercial purposes, which creates more exposure and additional 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 growth will likely be limited in orchestras, opera companies, and other musical groups because they can 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. During economic downturns, 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, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Musicians and singers

27-2042 173,300 179,300 3 6,000 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) 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. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

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.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet 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 About this section

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 Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Actors

Actors

Actors express ideas and portray characters in theater, film, television, and other performing arts media. They interpret a writer’s script to entertain or inform an audience.

Some college, no degree The annual wage is not available.
Dancers and choreographers

Dancers and Choreographers

Dancers and choreographers use dance performances to express ideas and stories. There are many types of dance, such as ballet, tango, modern dance, tap, and jazz.

See How to Become One The annual wage is not available.
High school teachers

High School Teachers

High school teachers help prepare students for life after graduation. They teach academic lessons and various skills that students will need to attend college and to enter the job market.

Bachelor's degree $57,200
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers prepare younger students for future schooling by teaching them basic subjects such as math and reading.

Bachelor's degree $54,550
Middle school teachers

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers educate students, typically in sixth through eighth grades. Middle school teachers help students build on the fundamentals they learned in elementary school and prepare them for the more difficult curriculum they will face in high school.

Bachelor's degree $55,860
Music directors and composers

Music Directors and Composers

Music directors, also called conductors, lead orchestras and other musical groups during performances and recording sessions. Composers write and arrange original music in a variety of musical styles.

Bachelor's degree $49,820
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

See How to Become One $72,470
Producers and directors

Producers and Directors

Producers and directors create motion pictures, television shows, live theater, commercials, and other performing arts productions. They interpret a writer’s script to entertain or inform an audience.

Bachelor's degree $68,440
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Musicians and Singers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/entertainment-and-sports/musicians-and-singers.htm (visited September 28, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.