Bureau of Labor Statistics

Musicians and Singers

musicians and singers image
Musicians must practice playing instruments to improve their technique.
Quick Facts: Musicians and Singers
2020 Median Pay $31.40 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, 2019 175,600
Job Outlook, 2019-29 1% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2019-29 1,600

Summary

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 training and regular 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 $31.40 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.

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

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 and book locations for performances or concerts
  • Travel, sometimes great distances, to performance venues
  • 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 musicians become proficient in multiple musical instruments or styles.

Musicians play solo or 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, such as an orchestra, whose members must work and practice together. 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, specializing 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 and musical theater singers act out a story by singing instead of speaking the dialogue. Some singers become background singers, providing vocals to harmonize with 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

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

Musicians and singers held about 175,600 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of musicians and singers were as follows:

Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 43%
Self-employed workers 38
Performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries 13
Educational services; state, local, and private 4

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

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 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 teach courses in diction. Such courses 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 training and regular 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 further 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 performance.

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. Some musicians and singers advance to leading musical groups or to writing complex music such as symphonies. For more information, see the profile on music directors and composers.

Pay

Musicians and Singers

Median hourly wages, May 2020

Musicians and singers

$31.40

Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers

$22.63

Total, all occupations

$20.17

 

The median hourly wage for musicians and singers was $31.40 in May 2020. 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 $11.17, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $87.47.

In May 2020, 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 $40.36
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 25.24
Educational services; state, local, and private 25.07

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

Musicians and Singers

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers

7%

Total, all occupations

4%

Musicians and singers

1%

 

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.

Decreased demand for musicians and singers in performing arts companies, which are expected to have reduced attendance and difficulty getting funding, is expected to limit employment growth.

Digital downloads and streaming platforms make it easy for music 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 for other commercial purposes, creating more exposure and 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.

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, 2019-29

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

Occupational Title

Musicians and singers

SOC Code27-2042
Employment, 2019175,600
Projected Employment, 2029177,200
Percent Change, 2019-291
Numeric Change, 2019-291,600
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

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

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 2020 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 $62,870
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 $60,660
Middle school teachers

Middle School Teachers

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

Bachelor's degree $60,810
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 $52,250
Postsecondary teachers

Postsecondary Teachers

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

See How to Become One $80,790
Producers and directors

Producers and Directors

Producers and directors create motion pictures, television shows, live theater, commercials, and other performing arts productions.

Bachelor's degree $76,400

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 9, 2021

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 June 11, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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