All You Need To Know About A Musician Career

You think about becoming a musician but want to get additional information before making your final career choice?

Great! Stick with me since I will show you everything you need to know about being a musician in the following chapters.

Not only will you learn how much you can make as a musician, but we will also talk about work-life balance, job satisfaction, future outlook, educational requirements, duties, responsibilities and much more.

You will also find an FAQ section at the end of this article where I answer the most common questions about being a musician.

After reading this article, you will have a much better idea of what working as a musician really looks like and whether you still want to become a musician or rather want to work in a different field instead.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

Table of Contents

What does a Musician do?

Musicians make a living writing, recording and performing music at concerts, festivals and many other occasions.

They also often play for private events like birthdays and make sure that people have a good time.

Musicians can also make significant money by selling their work online or as traditional CDs.

Apply for Jobs!

Responsibilities & Duties of a Musician

  • Performing music on various occasions
  • Writing songs
  • Recording songs
  • Making sure that people are entertained
  • Selling CDs or music in digital formats
  • Playing instruments
  • Playing in a band
  • Following current market trends
  • Setting own trends
  • Building a strong personal brand
  • Promoting their work on digital channels

What a Typical Day of a Musician looks like?

Musicians often do many different things during their workday.

Once they get to work, they usually check their mails and answer the most important ones.

After doing some organizational work, they often meet up with other band members to write and perform new songs.

Musicians often also have to travel the country quite a lot to perform live gigs and this means that you will be on the road quite often once you reach a certain level of fame.

Also your working hours will change quite a lot and you can never be sure when your workday will actually end.

Hence, you should be the spontaneous type of person and should also be open to new things to stay happy with a musician career in the long run.

Musician Salary 2021

Musician salary brackets 2021

Salary BracketsSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Top 10 %> $86,000> $42.95
Top 25 %$62,000 – $78,000$30.91 – $38.89
Bottom 25 %$36,000 – $41,000$17.94 – $20.42
Bottom 10 %$27,000 – $32,000$13.48 – $15.97
Range$27,000 – $96,000$13.48 – $47.93
Average (Mean)$47,000$23.49
Median$45,000$22.42

Musician salary 2021 by expert level

Level of ExperienceSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Entry level$27,000 – $38,000$13.48 – $18.92
Junior$35,000 – $49,000$17.44 – $24.47
Professional$46,000 – $54,000$22.88 – $26.94
Senior Professional$52,000 – $67,000$25.89 – $33.38
Expert$65,000 – $78,000$32.46 – $38.91
Top Expert$76,000 – $96,000$37.93 – $47.96

Musician salary by state 2021 (average)

StateSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Alabama$45,200$22.58
Alaska$42,800$21.37
Arizona$44,700$22.34
Arkansas$42,300$21.13
California$53,600$26.79
Colorado$45,400$22.68
Connecticut$44,900$22.43
Delaware$41,800$20.89
District of Columbia$45,700$22.84
Florida$48,200$24.09
Georgia$46,600$23.28
Guam$43,100$21.53
Hawaii$48,300$24.14
Idaho$43,700$21.82
Illinois$42,500$21.23
Indiana$46,800$23.37
Iowa$42,400$21.19
Kansas$41,900$20.93
Kentucky$43,200$21.58
Louisiana$44,900$22.42
Maine$46,700$23.34
Maryland$49,400$24.69
Massachusetts$51,700$25.83
Michigan$44,800$22.38
Minnesota$46,200$23.09
Mississippi$43,500$21.72
Missouri$41,700$20.84
Montana$44,600$22.29
Nebraska$40,900$20.43
Nevada$41,800$20.88
New Hampshire$45,300$22.64
New Jersey$49,200$24.57
New Mexico$43,100$21.53
New York$58,700$29.33
North Carolina$43,400$21.68
North Dakota$46,100$23.04
Ohio$42,800$21.38
Oklahoma$43,800$21.89
Oregon$45,600$22.78
Pennsylvania$49,300$24.14
Rhode Island$47,500$23.72
South Carolina$44,900$22.43
South Dakota$42,800$21.37
Tennessee$43,100$21.54
Texas$46,200$23.08
Utah$48,500$24.23
Vermont$42,800$21.39
Virginia$46,700$23.34
Washington$53,900$26.93
West Virginia$46,200$23.09
Wisconsin$45,300$22.63
Wyoming$42,900$21.44

Job Security of Musicians

Musicians have pretty poor job security since they often work self-employed and in case they work as employed musicians, they often only get short-term contracts and have to worry about getting laid off on a regular basis.

Moreover, many people aspire to a musician career and only very few will really make a living in this field while many musicians out there struggle to find enough jobs to cover their expenses.

Future Outlook of Musicians

Since many people aspire to a career in the music industry while people don’t buy as many CDs anymore as they used to just one decade ago, the future outlook for musicians is pretty poor since you will have to deal with fierce competition and only the best musicians will be able to make a living from playing music just a few years from now.

Working Hours of Musicians

Working hours of musicians greatly vary over time.

For instance, while you will have a rather standard workday when you record music in a studio, you will have to work long hours during the late evening or at nighttime if you do live performances at concerts or festivals.

Thus, you should be pretty flexible in this regard since you will never exactly know when your workday will start and end.

Job Satisfaction of Musicians

While most musicians really love what they do, many of them also complain about overall poor working conditions since they often have to work long hours and have to be pretty spontaneous while they still suffer from serious insecurity related to their work and are also not able to make really good money from what they are doing.

Hence, if you are looking for a solid job, you should not become a musician but rather go for a dentist career instead.

Promotion Opportunities of Musicians

Since musicians often work self-employed, they also don’t have many promotion opportunities.

Instead, the better you get at what you are doing, the more value you will provide to your audience and the more money you can make in the long run.

Career Levels of Musicians

  • Musician intern
  • Junior musician
  • Senior musician
  • Senior musician leading a band
  • Manager of a band
  • Manager of a band with commercial rights

Fields and Types of Musicians

  • Singers
  • Drummers
  • Trumpeters
  • Guitarists
  • Musicians specialized in playing rather exotic instruments
  • Songwriters
  • Musicians focused on live performances
  • Musicians focused on recording songs
  • Musicians specialized in playing on private events
  • Musicians specialized in marketing songs

Educational Requirements for Musicians

Musicians don’t need fancy formal education.

While you could go to music school and get official certificates, it is not urgently necessary as long as you are talented enough to learn everything you need on your own.

There are many free courses and videos out there that teach you how to play various instruments in a proper manner and if you are willing to put in the work, you can start your musician career without getting any formal education at all.

How to become a Musician

  1. Inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of being a musician
  2. Play musical instruments from a rather early age
  3. Finish high school
  4. Put in long hours to really hone your craft
  5. Apply for music school (optional)
  6. Share your work on social media
  7. Build an audience
  8. Connect to other musicians and important people in your industry
  9. Sell your songs and/or do live performances
  10. Work hard and become a renowned musician

Character Traits you need as a Musician

  • You should be the spontaneous type of person
  • Willingness to work in a field with low job security
  • Creativity helps to always reinvent yourself
  • You should be open to new things
  • You should be willing to work hard to make your audience happy
  • Willingness to work rather exotic hours
  • You should be an open and outgoing person
  • Passion for making music
  • Ability to speak in front of a crowd
  • Empathy for people who don’t like your music
  • You should be a strong character
  • Snarky comments of others should not bring you down

Hard Skills for Musicians

  • You should be good at playing musical instruments
  • Singing abilities are a plus
  • You should know how the music industry works
  • Selling skills help as well
  • Ability to work hard and get better at what you are doing every day
  • You should be customer-focused
  • Digital skills help you promote your work
  • Math skills help you grow a profitable music business
  • Expertise in filing taxes can help as well
  • Knowledge of regulatory aspects related to playing music

Soft Skills for Musicians

  • Ability to stay calm under pressure
  • Spontaneity helps you stay flexible when plans change unexpectedly
  • Good time management skills help you plan your gigs
  • Persistence helps you overcome difficult periods of your career
  • Ability to believe in yourself
  • Dedication to practice every day to hone your craft
  • Willingness to work harder than your competition
  • Ability to deal with snarky comments in an emotionally healthy manner
  • Self-discipline helps you stay on track with your goals
  • Teamwork helps you succeed in a band

Exit Options for Musicians

Musicians have pretty poor exit options since they are often rather specialized in what they are doing and don’t learn many skills apart from making music.

Consequently, while musicians can often work as tour managers or music producers, they have a hard time finding a job in a different field unless they get lots of additional education.

Musician – Similar Careers

  • Band manager
  • Music producer
  • Tour manager
  • Composer
  • Booking agent
  • DJ
  • Sound engineer
  • Music technician
  • Publicist
  • Author

Musician Career FAQs

Is working as a musician physically demanding?

Working as a musician can be physically demanding in case you do live performances and play musical instruments for a longer period of time.

In fact, you should not underestimate the physical component that is involved in this job and you should therefore be in good physical condition to stay successful in this industry in the long run.

Is working as a musician mentally demanding?

Being a musician can also be mentally demanding since you will have to remember many songs if you want to perform well.

Moreover, you should also not underestimate the emotional pressure that comes along with working as a musician since your fans will have high expectations and you will always have the pressure of making your audience happy.

Is it dangerous to work as a musician?

Working as a musician is not that dangerous.

Most of the time, you will work in a rather safe environment practicing and recording music.

However, during live gigs, you will often get pretty close to the crowd and some people who may not like your work may try to throw things at you.

Hence, while working as a musician is not without risk, you will still not have to deal with the same high level of risk as police officers or firefighters.

How long do musicians stay in their jobs?

Musicians often work in this field for many years or even decades.

Many musicians really love what they are doing and can’t imagine doing anything else for a living.

Many musicians are also pretty specialized in what they are doing and will often lack the skills to work in a different industry.

Is it easy for musicians to find a new job?

Since musicians often work self-employed and competition in this field is pretty fierce, you will often have a hard time finding new jobs as a musician, especially if you are still relatively new in this industry and haven’t built important contacts yet.

Is it hard to switch from being a musician to another field of work?

While musicians will get really good at performing music, they will also often lack many other skills needed in the job market right now and you will therefore have a pretty hard time finding a job in a different field.

Do musicians have a high social status?

Musicians enjoy a decent social status.

However, your social standing will also greatly depend on your level of fame and while very few world-class musicians will be admired by millions of people, the vast majority of musicians will never get to this point and will not be recognized by the general public.

Can you help out your family and friends as a musician?

As a musician, you can help out your loved ones since you can perform music at birthday parties, weddings and so on.

Consequently, your family and friends will not have to spend lots of money on those things and can also rely on you instead of having to rely on strangers who might just mess up and give a really poor performance.

Can musicians work remotely?

Musicians are able to work remotely part of the time.

For instance, while musicians may be able to practice and record music at home, you still have to be present when doing live gigs at concerts or festivals and this means that you will be on the road quite often.

Is it easy to find a partner as a musician?

Since musicians meet many new people during their careers, they will also have an easy time finding partners for short-term relationships.

However, musicians often have a hard time maintaining serious relationships since they will be away from home quite often and also have to deal with lots of insecurity related to their jobs in general.

Do musicians have to work on weekends?

Musicians also often have to work on weekends.

In fact, many festivals and concerts are scheduled on Saturdays or Sundays and while many other people will be able to enjoy their leisure during those days, you as a musician will have to work and will not have time to meet up with your loved ones.

Do musicians have to work on holidays?

Musicians also sometimes have to work on holidays.

In fact, you will not have many days off as a musician since you will always have to work on new songs if you want to stay successful with what you are doing in the long run.

Do musicians have to work at nighttime?

Musicians often have to work during the late evening or even at nighttime.

Hence, while many other people are able to meet up with their families after work, you will often have to work during those times and may not have enough time to spend with your social contacts in general.

Do you have to travel as a musician?

You will often have to travel as a musician if you focus on live performances.

It is not uncommon for famous musicians to travel the country or even the world for many weeks or even months and if you are a person who rather wants to stay at home, you should not become a musician but rather aspire to a career as a roofer or another job where you will be able to stay at home with your loved ones on a regular basis.

Are musician pensions good?

Since most musicians are not able to make good money from what they are doing, they also don’t receive great pensions and are often also not able to save and invest enough money for retirement and may suffer from serious financial problems once they quit their active careers.

Are musician salaries going up?

Musician salaries have not been going up significantly over the past years.

Since you will often work self-employed, your income will greatly depend on the number of CDs or digital songs you have sold and also on the number of live performances.

Hence, the harder you work and the more famous you become, the more money you can make as a musician.

Can you have a positive impact on society as a musician?

You can have a significant positive impact on society as a musician since you can use your fame and reach to make the world a better place by making songs that deal with global problems and showing solutions to those problems.

How long does it take to become a musician?

Since you will not need any fancy formal education to become a musician, you can start your musician career at a pretty early age.

However, it will still take you many years to become really good at what you are doing and if you want to stay ahead of the game and become better than your competition, you have to practice long hours every day.

Is it difficult to become a musician?

Becoming a musician is not difficult at all since you don’t need any formal education.

Yet, you should still have some level of talent since you will never get really good at what you are doing otherwise.

Do you need to be smart to work as a musician?

You don’t need to be smart to work as a musician.

What’s much more important is that you are talented and that you are also really passionate about making music so that you can hone your craft in a natural manner and your work will not really feel like work to you.

Do musicians have a good work-life balance?

Musicians don’t have a good work-life balance since they often have to work on weekends and at nighttime while they are often on the road and will not have enough time to spend with their loved ones.

Do musicians have to work many extra hours?

Musicians often have to work many extra hours.

In fact, while you will be more flexible, you as a musician will also often have to work longer than in a classical 9 to 5 job since you will have to practice quite a lot to stay competitive with what you are doing in the long run.

How to maximize your chances of becoming a musician?

If you want to maximize your chances of becoming a musician, you should start making music as early as possible since the sooner you start, the easier it will be for you to learn in a natural manner and the more time you will have to hone your craft and to become really good at what you are doing.

Can musicians work part-time?

While musicians are able to work part-time in theory, most musicians still have to work full-time to pay their bills since their effective hourly wage is pretty low.

Do musicians work indoors or outdoors?

Musicians work indoors as well as outdoors.

Hence, you might sometimes have to work outdoors during times of bad weather and if you are not willing to do so, you should rather aspire to a career as a financial controller or to another office job instead of becoming a musician.

What does the workplace of a musician look like?

Musicians play in various different locations on a regular basis.

Thus, it is almost impossible to say what your workplace will look like just one gig from now.

However, what’s certain is that you will always have to be flexible to be able to adapt to new circumstances as a musician.

Do you have to look good for working as a musician?

While you don’t necessarily have to look good as a musician, it can still help you become successful since the better you look, the easier it will be for you to attract an audience and to gain a certain level of fame.

Is a musician career beneficial for your private life?

Working as a musician will not be beneficial for your private life since your income will vary quite a lot over time and you will also be on the road and away from home quite often.

Consequently, it will be pretty hard to maintain long-term relationships for you as a musician and you will have to deal with high levels of insecurity in general.

Do you need a college degree for becoming a musician?

You don’t need a degree for becoming a musician.

What’s much more important than looking good on paper is that you have a real passion for making music and for playing in front of people.

Do you need to be certified to work as a musician?

You also don’t need to be certified to work as a musician.

While you could go to music school and get those certificates, it will be much more important to practice as often as possible to get really good at what you are doing in the long run.

How much does it cost to become a musician?

Since you will not need fancy formal education, you can become a musician at virtually no cost.

Instead of investing lots of money in education, you would have to invest lots of time for your dream of becoming a famous musician.

Is being a musician a good career?

While many people out there consider being a musician a good career, most of them have a pretty flawed picture of reality.

While the life of a musician has its advantages, you will also be away from home quite often and will also have to deal with lots of insecurity while you will most likely still not be able to make really good money from what you are doing.

Hence, whether you consider being a musician a good career greatly depends on your character and whether you are able to deal with high levels of insecurity in an emotionally healthy manner or not.

Is it easy to start your own business as a musician?

It is relatively easy to start your own business as a musician since you will not have to invest lots of money on equipment or machinery as would be the case in many other fields.

Consequently, you can just give it a try and see whether it works out or not without having to deal with serious financial consequences.

Can musicians teach themselves?

Musicians can teach themselves most things they need to succeed in this industry.

In fact, the more you practice, the better you will get and instead of spending lots of time and money on formal education, you will be way better off using your resources to practice as much as possible to really hone your craft.

Do musicians make good money?

While a small minority of musicians are able to make good money, the vast majority of musicians will barely make a living from what they are doing and often struggle to even cover their basic expenses.

If you want to make really good money, you will have better chances by becoming a dentist instead of aspiring to a career in music.

Is it ever too late to become a musician?

While it is never too late to become a musician, you should still start your career at an early age since you will have to practice for many years to get really good at what you are doing and to build important contacts with important people in this industry.

Do musicians have to quit their careers early?

Many musicians have to quit their careers early since they live a pretty unhealthy lifestyle and their bodies just no longer work properly to deal with all the stress and physical work. Also their looks will fade once they get older.

Thus, most musicians quit their careers in their late 30s or 40s and have to get a different job.

What is the hardest thing about working as a musician?

The most challenging part of being a musician is that you will always have to adapt to new circumstances since no gig will be the same and also the expectations of your audience will be quite different.

Hence, you will have to deal with lots of critical feedback and you need a strong mindset to deal with snarky comments in an emotionally healthy manner.

Can you provide for your family by working as a musician?

You will not be a good provider as a musician since you will have to deal with huge income swings and most musicians just don’t make good money in general.

Thus, if your plan is to have a family and you want to be able to provide for your loved ones, you should not become a musician but rather work as a compliance officer or in another standard office job where you can make good money and have decent job security.

Will musicians suffer from old-age poverty?

Musicians often suffer from old-age poverty since they don’t receive good pensions while they are still not able to save and invest enough money during their active careers.

In turn, many musicians struggle to pay their bills once they get older and retire.

Can musicians retire early?

While a small minority of musicians will be able to retire early, most musicians will not be able to make enough money and will therefore have to work until official retirement age or even longer to be able to pay their bills.

Do musicians get a fixed or variable salary?

Since musicians often work self-employed, their income will vary quite a lot over time and the more gigs you have and the more songs you well, the more you can make as a musician.

Can you get rich as a musician?

While you could get rich as a musician if you become really famous, most musicians will never get to this stage and will rather make pretty poor money from what they are doing.

Do musicians need a second job?

Many musicians are not able to make a living from what they are doing and therefore need a second job to pay their bills.

This is especially true for musicians who work in expensive regions where rents and housing prices are pretty high.

Do you get continuous training as a musician?

You will not get any training as a musician.

Since you will work self-employed most of the time, it will be on you to hone your craft if you want to stay successful with what you are doing in the long run.

Do you get sick pay as a musician?

Since you will work self-employed most of the time, you will also not get paid in case you get sick.

Consequently, you should have an emergency fund in which you save money during good times to use it during bad times when you are sick and not able to work so that you are still able to pay your bills.

Do musicians have a high level of responsibility?

Musicians have a high level of responsibility since they can influence many people and the messages they send will have a significant impact on how the general public behaves.

Can musicians work abroad?

Musicians can work all over the world.

However, you should still inform yourself about working conditions and salaries of musicians in the country you want to migrate to before making this big step to avoid any unpleasant surprises in this regard.

Is it stressful to work as a musician?

Working as a musician can be really stressful since you will be on the road quite often and also have to meet the high expectations of your fans on a regular basis.

Moreover, you will also have to deal with lots of insecurity related to your job and if you don’t have a strong mental mindset, you may suffer from serious mental and emotional problems sooner or later.

Is it boring to work as a musician?

Working as a musician is not boring since you will experience many new situations on a regular basis and you will also be able to always reinvent yourself and to hone your craft even further.

You will also meet many exotic and exciting people during your career and if you are really passionate about working in this industry, chances are that you will never become bored with your job as a musician.

Is being a musician hard?

Working as a musician can be hard since you will have to deal with high levels of insecurity and you will also have to deal with many snarky comments.

Moreover, your income will also vary quite a lot and you will always have to worry about whether you are able to pay your bills or not.

Are musicians at risk of burnout?

Since the life of musicians can be pretty stressful, many musicians are on the brink of burnout and also often suffer from mental and emotional problems.

Is there a dress code for musicians?

There is no dress code for musicians.

In fact, musicians are free to wear whatever they want and they are often also trendsetters for new styles.

What kind of musicians are paid the most?

The more famous and popular you become as a musician, the more you can make in this industry.

Hence, your top priority should be to grow an audience and to share your work as much as possible if you want to make really good money from what you are doing.

What percentage of musicians are women?

While only around 28% of all musicians are women, 72% are men.

However, an increasing number of women aspire to a career in the music industry and percentages may therefore change in the near future and may get more balanced.

Do I need a mentor to succeed as a musician?

While you don’t necessarily need a mentor to succeed as a musician, it can still help to have someone on your side who is familiar with the music industry and has important contacts with producers who could help you become famous.

Will you be personally liable for mistakes as a musician?

Since most musicians work self-employed, they will often also be liable for mistakes they make.

Hence, you should get proper insurance in this regard to be covered in case of emergency.

Do musicians have a high life expectancy?

Musicians have a rather low life expectancy since they often live a pretty unhealthy lifestyle and often also suffer from serious mental and emotional problems sooner or later.

Do musicians suffer from sleeping problems?

Since musicians often work at nighttime, many of them are not able to maintain a healthy sleeping pattern and suffer from serious sleeping problems in the long run.

What states are best for working as a musician?

As a musician, you should work in a state where you can take part in many live concerts so that you can start making serious money and become more popular within a rather short period of time.

Who do musicians work with?

Musicians work with many different people on a regular basis.

Hence, you should be an open and spontaneous type of person to stay happy with a music career in the long run.

Is working as a musician cool?

Working as a musician is considered cool by the majority of the general public.

Yet, you should still not choose your job according to what’s cool but should rather ask yourself whether you want to work in this field or not independent of the opinions of others.

Can you start a side hustle as a musician?

It will be pretty easy for you to start a side hustle as a musician since you can just start a YouTube channel where you show people how to get better at singing or playing instruments and can build a huge audience that you can monetize later on.

Do you have to be creative as a musician?

Being creative helps you succeed as a musician since the more creative you are, the easier it will be for you to write songs and to reinvent yourself.

Do musicians suffer from being overweight?

Since musicians often have to work in a physical manner and are also on the road quite often, most musicians are able to stay relatively fit and don’t suffer from being overweight, even though many of them still have a pretty unhealthy lifestyle.

How employable are musicians?

Since almost everyone can work as a musician, competition in this field is pretty fierce and musicians often have a hard time finding new jobs, especially in case they are still new to this industry and haven’t made important contacts yet.

Are musicians happy with their jobs?

While most musicians really love playing in front of an audience, many of them also complain about poor job security and about exotic working hours.

Many musicians are also not happy with their income and secretly think about working in a different field.

Is working as a musician exciting?

Working as a musician can be pretty exciting since you will meet many new people in a rather short period of time and you will also always have to reinvent yourself to stay successful with what you are doing in the long run.

Can you have a positive impact on our environment as a musician?

Musicians don’t have a positive impact on our environment since they will be on the road quite often and will therefore contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases quite a lot.

What are the pros and cons of working as a musician?

If you are still interested in becoming a musician, you should also have a look at additional pros and cons of a musician career.

Sources

https://www.statista.com/statistics/298190/music-industry-revenue-usa/

https://www.statista.com/topics/1639/music/

Interviews and own research.

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.

This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.

Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.

I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.

Wanna support my blog? Share it!

Pin It on Pinterest