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Job Photographs

  • Four musicians, all dressed in black, are on a stage.  Three men are standing, playing guitar, bass and fiddle.  A woman is seated, playing an accordion.

    Playing live at a festival.

  • A man is holding open a cardboard box with one hand.  He is looking at a CD he is holding in his other hand.

    Getting a box of CDs ready to take on tour. Musicians sometimes sell their own music at live gigs.

  • A man is sitting at a table using a small mixing desk.  He is wearing headphones and looking at a monitor.

    Recording music in a home studio.

  • A man is standing behind a microphone, playing a fiddle.

    Playing live is often the part of the job musicians like the most.

  • A man is taking apart a drum kit.

    Taking apart a drum kit, ready to go on tour.

  • A man is sitting at a table, hunched over a folder.  There is paperwork, as well as a calculator and a laptop computer on the table.

    Musicians are usually self-employed, so are responsible for their own accounts.

  • Musician



As a Musician you will perform live at concerts and festivals. You'll also record music for sale to the public. You'll spend a lot of time auditioning and practising for performances. You might also get involved in teaching or writing music.

Also known as

  • Composer
  • Rock Star (Musician)
  • Pop Star (Musician)

Video: - Tom: Musician

Video: - Huey: Musician

Video: - Tuggy: Musician

Video: - Wendy: Community Musician

Work Activities

As well as performing, you will spend a large amount of time practising, rehearsing, auditioning and planning performances. These activities are often combined with composing or teaching music.

Classical music

As a Classical Musician, once trained, you will gain experience and develop contacts by taking part in competitions, festivals and concerts. If competition is severe, you might use professional Agents to promote you and your work. The majority of recently trained Musicians perform a variety of solo, choral/orchestral and ensemble work.

As an Orchestral Performer, you can work your way up to the top of the profession, to become an Instrumental Soloist. You'll have to invest in a high quality instrument and travel around with the orchestra.

Popular music

As a Non-classical Musician, you will usually start out by performing at live gigs to build up a following and send demos to record companies. Representatives from record companies' Artists and Repertoire (A and R) departments listen to bands' demos and go to live gigs, offering some Performers a record deal.

Increasingly, new Artists/bands are promoting and selling their music themselves through the internet, so this is something you could consider.

Early in your career you will usually need to find a Manager. The Manager usually takes responsibility for organising financial backing, finding suitable venues and helping you to promote yourself effectively.

You might make a living playing live gigs in pubs, clubs, hotels, holiday camps, etc. You'll usually specialise in a particular kind of music, eg, rock, pop, jazz, etc. You could use local entertainment agents to help you to find work. Or you might promote yourself, eg, by putting up posters, handing out leaflets, and getting featured in the local press. You may perform one-off gigs in different places, or play a whole summer season in one venue.

As a Musician you can expect to travel to venues locally, nationally and maybe internationally.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Musician, you need to have:

  • talent and creativity
  • a love of music
  • commitment and discipline
  • physical and mental stamina

Pay and Opportunities


Pay rates for Musicians vary widely depending on the type of venue you play, your level of skill, and other factors.

As a self-employed Musician, you will rely on individual performance payments and music sales. These can be very unpredictable.

As a successful Musician in a pop/rock band, you can make high earnings from live performances and royalties from record sales and merchandising.

As an employed Orchestral Musician you can expect to earn between £25,000 - £35,000 a year, and higher salaries are possible. Freelance Musicians' rates vary depending upon the type of contract agreed. A list of fees for different types of contracts is on the Incorporated Society of Musicians' (ISM) website (

The Musicians' Union and the ISM offer advice and information on fees to members.

You may face long periods without work. To help, you may be able to claim benefits. Take a look at our information article on Universal Credit to see if you might qualify.

Hours of work

Musicians work irregular hours - so you can expect to have early starts, late finishes as well as working at weekends and public holidays.

Where could I work?

Employment is available in fields such as performing (including session and freelance work), composing, conducting and teaching. Musicians perform at a variety of venues including clubs, pubs, parties, charity balls, theatres, festivals, cruise ships and recording studios.

Opportunities occur for Musicians to work in other countries, usually on tour or at festivals.


Many Musicians are self-employed.

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised on web sites such as The Stage (, StarNow and Arts Professional ( .

However, new entrants normally have to promote themselves by contacting promoters, agents, music clubs and concert organisers.

Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.

Take a look at our General Information Article 'Finding Work Online'.

Entry Routes and Training

Popular music

Many entrants to pop, rock and other styles of music are self-taught. They often start out by playing versions of other Artists' work before developing their own material and style.

On the whole, university degrees treat music as an academic subject. However, the foundation degree in popular music (available at a number of centres around the country) has a practical emphasis, and there are usually plenty of opportunities to gain experience in student and amateur performances.

Classical music

Classical Musicians usually start lessons between the ages of five and ten. Most young Musicians combine their normal school studies with music lessons, long hours of practice and participation in local music groups.

Classical Musicians usually take a specialist course at a music college, or a degree in music at university. Some take a degree in performing arts.

Students who reach the exceptional standard required to pursue a performing, composing or conducting career usually go on to a postgraduate/advanced course at music college.

Once full-time training is complete, they will continue to study under private tuition while building up a reputation in their particular field through, for example, solo and/or ensemble work. As many students will not reach this standard, music colleges also provide modules on preparation for teaching or other work in music-related fields.

Work Experience

Many successful entrants have gained skills and abilities over a considerable period of time. This could be in orchestras, giving church or charity concert performances, or in bands on the local club circuit, which could be really useful for this career.


For entry to a degree course in music, the usual requirement is:

  • 2/3 A levels, including music
  • GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in 3 other subjects

Other qualifications could be considered, such as:

  • BTEC Level 3 qualification in music
  • the International Baccalaureate Diploma could also be considered. Entry requirements for degree courses vary; check prospectuses carefully.

Degree applicants are usually expected to attend an audition before securing a place. However, entry requirements vary - check college/university prospectuses/websites for details.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

The usual upper age limits for entry to armed forces music services are 39 years for the RAF, 32 for the Royal Marines and 33 for the Army.


Many successful entrants have gained skills and abilities over a considerable period of time. This could be in orchestras, giving church or charity concert performances, or in bands on the local club circuit.


Many colleges and music schools relax the normal entrance requirements for applicants with substantial musical/performing experience, paid or unpaid.

Distance learning

Distance learning courses are offered by The Open University (MA in Music), and The Open College of the Arts.

Bath Spa University offers a Masters degree in Songwriting, which is available by distance learning.


Financial support for study is available from:

Further Information


Skills for the creative industries



Creative Choices

Publisher: Creative & Cultural Skills



Open University (OU)

Tel: 0845 3006090


Creative & Cultural Skills

Skills for craft, cultural heritage, design, literature, music, performing arts and visual arts



Creative Scotland

Scottish enquiries



Arts Council England

Tel: 0845 3006200


Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Tel: 028 9038 5200




Tel: 020 7379 6000



Equity (Scotland)

Scottish enquiries

Tel: 0141 2482472



BPI: British Recorded Music Industry

Tel: 020 7803 1300



Open College of the Arts

Tel: 0800 7312116



Musicians' Union (MU)

Tel: 020 7582 5566



Worshipful Company of Musicians

Tel: 020 7496 8980



Musicians Benevolent Fund

Tel: 020 7239 9100


EMI Music Sound Foundation

Tel: 020 7795 7000



Conservatoires Admissions Service UK (CUKAS)

Tel: 0871 4680470


Scottish Music Centre

Scottish enquiries

Tel: 0141 5525222



Royal Marines Bands


Corps of Army Music


Royal Air Force Music Services


Equity (Wales)

Address: Third Floor, 1 Cathedral Road, Cardiff, CF11 9SD

Tel: 029 2039 7971




Address: Rosehill, New Barn Lane, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL52 3LZ

Tel: 0871 4680468



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