Musicians, singers, and related workers perform for the delight and edification of an audience. These professionals ply their trade in all sorts of venues, from street corners to stadiums. Some musicians and singers perform by themselves and some are part of a group or ensemble. To make it in this profession, one needs to have talent and a good work ethic. In addition, one needs to have a little bit of luck.
The life of a musician or singer revolves around performance. Many musical performances take place at night and on the weekends, so a performer must be willing to work unconventional hours. Musicians and singers often have to go on tour, which means spending the night in a hotel or on a tour bus. Even the members of a community orchestra spend a great deal of time on the road.
When they are not performing before a live audience, musicians and singers are often hard at work in the recording studio. Making a polished recording can take months. For singers and musicians who write their own songs, the process of composing and producing a recording can even take years. Studio time is expensive, so musicians and singers often have to put in long hours for several weeks in order to maximize their investment.
The most common path to becoming a successful musician or singer is hard work and practice. The majority of those who make music their life’s work begin their training at a very early age, not because they are trying to build a professional resume, but because they have an innate love of the craft. Of course, this does not mean that musicians and singers cannot benefit from formal training. On the contrary, school bands and orchestras provide essential grounding in basic theory and notation for aspiring instrumentalists and singers. At the same time, many musicians improve their skills by practicing alone or with friends. Still others take private lessons that provide more self-direction.
Many colleges and universities offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in music. These degrees usually include coursework on music theory, composition, arrangement, and performance. It is possible to obtain a specialty degree as a singer or with a particular instrument. While in school, musicians and singers are well advised to get as much experience as possible with different forms of music.
It is hard to establish precise earnings figures for musicians and singers, in part because there is such variation in the number of hours worked. Very few people in this profession are on salary, so income statistics are by the hour. The average wage for musicians and singers is about $21 an hour. The top 10 percent of earners take home $60 or more an hour, while the lowest 10 percent make less than $8 hourly. Total earnings are based on the number of jobs or contracts the performer can arrange. For those music directors and composers lucky enough to be on salary, the average wage is about $40,000 a year. There are professional unions for some types of musicians, such as members of orchestras. These unions arrange minimum salary and benefits packages. Many musicians and singers are required to take on second jobs in order to make a living.
The demand for musician and singers will expand in the future at about the same rate as the rest of the economy. Some of the best job opportunities will be with religious organizations, which are always looking for performers to play at and organize ceremonies. It is somewhat difficult to assess the future job prospects for freelance musicians, because the distribution formats for music are expected to undergo serious change in the coming years. Increasingly, musicians will distribute their music over the Internet, forgoing the traditional label system. Perhaps the best way to ensure success in this field is to play multiple instruments and master several musical styles. In general, those who play musical instruments will have better prospects than singers. Regardless, though, there will be intense competition as many people look to enter this exciting and creative field.