What Musicians and Singers Do
Musicians and singers play instruments or sing for live audiences and in recording studios.
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.
The median hourly wage for musicians and singers was $30.39 in May 2019.
Employment of musicians and singers is projected to grow 1 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations.
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.
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.
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%|
|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.
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.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of musicians and singers.
For more information about music careers and compensation, visit
For more information about music degree programs, visit
For a career video on musicians and singers, visit
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 ).