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Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZZ7Q2wYKzI.
Quick Facts: Musicians and Singers
2021 Median Pay $30.49 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, 2021 151,300
Job Outlook, 2021-31 4% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2021-31 6,400

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, churches, and clubs. Part-time work is common, and work schedules may vary and include mornings, nights, or weekends.

How to Become a Musician or Singer

Musicians and singers typically do not need formal postsecondary education to enter the occupation. However, those pursuing careers in some genres, such as classical or opera, may choose to earn a bachelor's or higher degree. Musicians and singers need extensive training and regular practice to acquire their skills.

Pay

The median hourly wage for musicians and singers was $30.49 in May 2021.

Job Outlook

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 20,800 openings for musicians and singers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

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 a variety of genres, such as classical, jazz, and rock.

Duties

Musicians and singers typically do the following:

  • Perform music for live audiences and recordings
  • Audition for positions in orchestras, choirs, bands, and other types of music groups
  • Practice playing instruments or singing to improve their technique
  • Rehearse music and parts to prepare for performances
  • Find and book locations for performances or concerts
  • 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 become proficient in multiple musical instruments or styles. Some diversify by both singing and playing instruments.

Musicians play solo or in orchestras, bands, or limited-size groups, such as trios. Those in bands or groups may play at small venues, such as private parties or bars, sometimes building enough of a fan base to get a recording contract or representation by an agent. Musicians who work in orchestras perform in venues with a stage large enough to accommodate all the musicians and their instruments. A few orchestra musicians become section leaders, who may be responsible for assigning parts to other musicians or for leading rehearsals.

Singers perform vocal music in a variety of genres. Some specialize in a particular vocal style, such as opera or jazz. Singers may perform in different languages, such as French or Italian, particularly if they specialize in classical music or opera. In addition to singing, those in opera and musical theater productions must act during their performances.

Musicians who specialize in playing backup for a singer or band leader during recording sessions and live performances are known as session musicians. Singers who provide background vocals to harmonize with or support a lead singer are known as backup singers or backing vocalists.

Sometimes, 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 elementary, middle, and high schools, which typically requires 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 151,300 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of musicians and singers were as follows:

Self-employed workers 44%
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 43
Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries 9
Educational services; state, local, and private 3

Musicians and singers perform in settings such as concert halls, churches, and clubs. Musicians and singers travel frequently for performances, either locally, nationally, or internationally. When recording music, they may spend time in a studio.

Work Schedules

Musicians and singers often have irregular work schedules. This includes rehearsing and performing during the day or night on weekdays and 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 may require them to accept 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
Those who work as classical musicians or singers may pursue a degree in a field such as music performance.

Musicians and singers typically do not need formal postsecondary education to enter the occupation. However, those pursuing careers in some genres, such as classical or opera, may choose to earn a bachelor’s or higher degree. Musicians and singers need extensive training and regular practice to acquire their skills.

Education

Musicians and singers typically need no postsecondary education to enter the occupation. Musicians and singers of some genres, such as classical music and opera, may pursue training that leads to a bachelor’s degree in a field such as music theory or performance. To be accepted into one of these programs, applicants typically are 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 may include courses in diction. Courses in a foreign language may benefit students who intend to perform in that language. Some business courses, such as marketing, may be helpful for learning about the self-promotion often required for professional musicians and singers.

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 perform music professionally. They typically begin singing or learning to play an instrument at a young age by taking private lessons and school classes. As they advance, they may participate in music camps, festivals, or fellowships.

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 becoming section leaders in an orchestra. Others may advance to become music directors and composers.

Important Qualities

Dedication. Auditioning for jobs can be a frustrating process because it may take many different auditions to get hired. Musicians and singers must be determined to continue auditioning after receiving rejections.

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

Interpersonal skills. Musicians and singers need to work well with a variety of people, such as agents, producers, and conductors. They must be able to build connections and create good working relationships.

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

Physical stamina. Musicians and singers who perform on stage or go on tour for weeks or months must be able to endure frequent travel and irregular performance schedules.

Promotional skills. To build a fan base, musicians and singers need to promote their music and performances through local communities, word of mouth, and social media.

Pay About this section

Musicians and Singers

Median hourly wages, May 2021

Musicians and singers

$30.49

Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers

$23.78

Total, all occupations

$22.00

 

The median hourly wage for musicians and singers was $30.49 in May 2021. 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 $11.47, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $88.77.

In May 2021, 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 $36.73
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 31.11
Educational services; state, local, and private 29.13

Musicians and singers often have irregular work schedules. This includes rehearsing and performing during the day or night on weekdays and 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 may require them to accept 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 2021-31

Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers

13%

Total, all occupations

5%

Musicians and singers

4%

 

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 20,800 openings for musicians and singers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession of 2020 and is likely to occur early in the projections decade.

Digital downloads and streaming platforms are expected to continue to make it easy for music fans to listen to recordings and view performances, which could lead to increased demand for musicians and singers. 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 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.

Employment projections data for musicians and singers, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Musicians and singers

27-2042 151,300 157,700 4 6,400 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

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. The link(s) below go to OEWS 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.

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 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 on Entry-Level Education 2021 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Actors Actors

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

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.

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

Bachelor's degree $61,820
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.

Bachelor's degree $61,350
Middle school teachers Middle School Teachers

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

Bachelor's degree $61,320
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.

Bachelor's degree $49,130
Postsecondary teachers Postsecondary Teachers

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

See How to Become One $79,640
Producers and directors Producers and Directors

Producers and directors make business and creative decisions about film, television, stage, and other productions.

Bachelor's degree $79,000
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 October 30, 2022).

Last Modified Date: Friday, September 16, 2022

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. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

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

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).

2021 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 and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2021, the median annual wage for all workers was $45,760.

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, 2021

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2021, which is the base year of the 2021-31 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2021-31

The projected percent change in employment from 2021 to 2031. The average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent.

Employment Change, 2021-31

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

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 2021-31

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2021 to 2031.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2021 to 2031.

2021 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 and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2021, the median annual wage for all workers was $45,760.