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, or rock.


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 a 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 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.

Musicians interested in performing popular music typically find jobs by attending auditions or arranging their own performances. They may seek representation by an agent who will help them find jobs and performance opportunities.

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 schools, but they typically need a bachelor’s degree and a teaching license. See the profiles on kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and high school teachers.

Work Environment

Musicians and singers held about 167,400 jobs in 2012. They perform in settings such as concert halls, arenas, and clubs. They often work for religious organizations and performing arts companies. In 2012, 36 percent of musicians and singers were self-employed.

Musicians and singers may spend a lot of time traveling between performances. 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.

Musicians and singers who give recitals or perform in nightclubs travel frequently and may tour nationally or internationally.

Many musicians and singers find only part-time or intermittent work, however, and 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.

In 2012, the industries employing the most musicians and singers were as follows:

Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and
similar organizations
Performing arts companies 12
Educational services; state, local, and private 2

Work Schedules

Rehearsals and recording sessions are commonly held during business hours, but live performances are most often at night and on weekends.

Education and Training

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 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.

Some musicians and singers choose to continue their education by pursuing a master’s degree in fine arts or music.

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 platforms. Good self-promotional skills are helpful in building a fan base.


Musicians and singers need extensive and prolonged learning 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 children. In addition, they must practice often to develop their talent and technique.

Musicians and singers interested in classical music may seek additional training through music camps and fellowships. These programs provide participants with classes, lessons, and performance opportunities. Sometimes these programs are associated with professional orchestras and may lead to a permanent spot in that orchestra.


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.


The median hourly wage for musicians and singers was $23.50 in May 2012. 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 $8.81, and the top 10 percent earned more than $65.24. 

In May 2012, the median hourly wages for musicians and singers in the top three industries in which these workers were employed were as follows:

Performing arts companies $26.72
Educational services; state, local, and private 20.46
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and
similar organizations

Rehearsals and recording sessions are commonly held during business hours, but live performances are most often at night and on weekends.

Job Outlook

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Growth will be due 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.

There will be additional demand for musicians to serve as session musicians and backup artists for recordings and to go on tour. Singers will 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 workers who are interested in becoming musicians and singers. In particular, there will likely be considerable competition for full-time positions.

Musicians and singers with exceptional musical talent and dedication should have the best opportunities.

Many musicians and singers experience periods of unemployment.

For More Information

For more information about music degree programs, visit

National Association of Schools of Music

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook,


Guest (not verified) says...

I think I'm an ENTP and I'm going learn how to make music with software-programs. I see myself as a very creative person with a musical talent. We did a Holland-Code test on school and I got AIE (Artistic, Investigative, Enterprising) which goes along well with ENTP, I think.

Guest (not verified) says...

I think that is a really good idea to do?

Guest (not verified) says...

i love music and i think that its the right career for me. im always singing and i think that i could last a long time in world of music! i hope that i can make it........ wish me luck! :3

Guest (not verified) says...

I think this is the perfect career for me. Music is my life and it would be perfect if I could make money from something I love dearly. I WILL form a band and make thousands of loving fans.

shyleka (not verified) says...

I love music i want to be a music teacher.

Guest (not verified) says...

i would love to be a rapper and travel all over the world. music is my passion

Sam the kattttttt (not verified) says...

me too hope it works out for you

Guest (not verified) says...

Heeeeeeyyyyyyyyy music is life without music wouldn't be life! idgaf!

Guest (not verified) says...

Really? what to do you listen to?
I listen to almost every genre of music.
I also have a lot of music to.
I want to be a musician.
I will be come one.

Guest (not verified) says...

Music is my life. Without it I would be nothing.
All i ever do is listen to music...

Guest (not verified) says...

MUSIC GIVES MY LIFE PURPOSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
MUSIC IS MY PURPOSE IN LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guest (not verified) says...

Music is all i ever think about. Im in band at school i play tenor saxophone. Playing the saxophone is amazing. I can play so many different things, and i can even create random things on my own. I even play the guitar. I'm not great, but i'm slowly getting better. I also love to sing. Singing brings me peace because i always sing no matter what mood im in. I always look towards singing as my escape button.

Guest (not verified) says...

I love music so much. I'm in band i play tenor saxophone. I play some guitar, and i love to sing. Music is my get away no matter what. I turn to sing the most. I sing no matter what kind of mood im in. It's my escape button i always push to get away and think clearly.

Guest (not verified) says...

Hit me up with music production.

imran (not verified) says...

i love singing & singers n i wish to become a singer i want to know how a song creat and there beutiful rethom

Guest (not verified) says...

I really love to sing I am in choir at my school and I want that to go farther than just choir.

Adrieana (not verified) says...

Hi I am a 12 year old singer in choir an I am in 7th grade an I want to go farther than just singing in choir an I'm a very good singing but I'm scared to sing in front of people but I am getting over it so how would I kick start a singing career.. Sincerely, Adrieana

khawaja (not verified) says...

hi adrieana plz send me your number

Guest (not verified) says...

Hey guys it's Katy Perry here and just follow these steps and me on twitter then you'll be just like me.

amit mishra (not verified) says...

Only background singing

faisal rock (not verified) says...

I am singer like a arijit singh I can sing any sad songs I have lot of pain in my heart

Brianna Bradshaw (not verified) says...

I'm 15 and I am already on my way to becoming a singer and I am preparing to try out for the voice. To me, music expresses how I feel. When I perform I feel like it's my song. Like I wrote it, recorded it, like its a part of me. I sing mostly country music because that's who I am.

Khrystalynn (not verified) says...

Same here. I have been singing since before I could talk, basically.

Gad Castro (not verified) says...

Same here im a classical singer from the Philippines .....I used to win contest but there somthing that i wanted to share my experience with God just 13 iwant to spread the true escence of Filipino culture.

Guest (not verified) says...

Doesnt give much information on the budget and salary outlook.

Adrieana (not verified) says...

I love singing

Hailey Zimmerman (not verified) says...

I have always loved music. I have been wanting to be a pop punk singer in a band and I have my heart set on it and I am determined to follow my dreams no matter what people say about it.

nykeishajohnson42 says...


mya johnson (not verified) says...

i love music and whitney houston

nykeishajohnson42 says...

i once talked to chris brown before :) :)

Guest (not verified) says...

Music is the best. It means so much to me, and without it I would be dead. Music is my life and gives me reason to live. I play about seven instruments and am working on two more. I also loooooooove singing! I sing all the time and everywhere. It doesn't even matter what I am doing or what I feel like. Lal la la la laalalala. That's what I'm doing 24-7. :) I'm working on becoming a music teacher some day. I'm pretty excited!!

Stephanie Thompson (not verified) says...

Image search for what musicians and singers 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, or rock. 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, or roc

Guest (not verified) says...

I Love Music. I wanna become a vocalist. Im writing my lyrics now. Just need some time. I wanna do my best to become a singer - I just need some support. Will be in action this summer. Wish me luck in finding my band..

Swaggy G (not verified) says...

I wish you the best of luck and i'm writing music too so hopefully i will see you in the music industry.

Aman (not verified) says...

I hope everything goes well for you, I am doing the same, but in the Sufi genre.

tempesthopkins says...

Music is awesome and it defines who u are

dmccurry59 says...

does being a music producer make it different

Guest (not verified) says...

I know music is my passion, my confidence, my future. I see myself already.

LongGthemachine (not verified) says...

Music is my life

Pepper McGowan (not verified) says...

I found myself accidentally in the music industry when I was in my mid teens and I didn't have a piano where I was staying. I used to write and sing my songs in private as a kinda self therapy. But then I borrowed the piano from a bar, and the owner heard me and booked a performance for me. I showed up, got a decent response, and 2 more places booked me. But I never got comfortable with that being my career because I would be doing it anyway so I felt guilty about making any money for it. After the second CD was released, it got a lot more attention because of the then-fairly new internet that 7 years earlier wasn't commonplace in private homes or music magazines. I was just touring and had an agent booking for me but I loved getting to hear from people who said they had gotten something out of my stuff that helped them through a time they felt alone or hurt, but I was NOT able to to deal with the people who just sent stuff that I am ugly or (a specific well known songwriter pianist) is better than I am but I was obviously trying to copy her, p.s. I was fat (just 21 years old, I was not prepared to fluff that off, I felt like I wished to explain myself, it's hard for ENFP to just accept some people are just jerks, just because) I would be overseas and get questions about the meaning of a song by a person writing an article and I don't like lying, but it got to where I was censoring myself mid-writing about a matter because I might reveal a bit more about my life or others in it than I should. I only wanted to be an author and photographer and I am still trying to separate the identity of the Musician from anything else I do because anyone remembering me has to tie it to what I once DID which was never who I WAS. I don't know what affected anyone in the first place. But I knew that I had to do something else when people did background check and contacted the ex-boyfriend one of the more popular of my tunes is about to ask for his version of the breakup when I made a decent effort to hide the details in lyrical metaphor and evasive wording. I just wanna be an author and actually a counselor of some kind but I am getting a little old to go back to school.

Marie says...

Me personally, I think that music is my mind, my body, my spirit. Music is me. I don't know how but i fell in love with music. When I used to dance for two years at Virtue Arts and Science Academy, I perfomed as if I was obe with the music. Music is like a type of life style for me. I now sing and write music. i still dance but thats ballet. i do all things with music. It's me. It's a part of who I am. Music is me, and I am music.

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