pop musician classical musician rock musician pop singer
Performing arts and media

Career outlook for musician

Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

Musicians write, arrange and play songs to entertain and move audiences. You might play an instrument, sing or do both to create music. 

You could also produce music electronically using a digital audio workstation (DAW). This is a piece of software that lets you create music from a computer, tablet or even a smartphone. 

You might work as part of a band, choir or orchestra, as a solo artist, or as a session or backing musician. 

You might make money by performing paid gigs or ticketed live streams. You might sell physical or digital copies of your music. Some musicians earn royalties when their music is played on radio, tv or film. 


  • practise and rehearse 
  • look after your voice or instrument 
  • perform in live shows in front of an audience 
  • compose songs and music to perform or learn other artists' music 
  • take part in recording sessions 

You could perform music of any style, including: 

  • rock 
  • classical 
  • pop 
  • indie 
  • jazz 
  • folk  

You’d promote your act in different ways, such as contacting agents and record companies, setting up a website and making demo recordings. Building an online presence for your act can help and you might need to engage with fans on social media. 

You would also arrange gigs and tours or deal with a manager or agent who does this for you. You can also audition for places in bands or orchestras to find work. 

There are other ways to make money from music, such as teaching others. There might be opportunities unique to the type of music you play. For example, in classical music you can also be a conductor of an orchestra. 

This is a job where you’d need determination and the ability to cope with criticism and rejection. It's a competitive line of work, it might be difficult to make a steady living depending on the type of music you make. 

Working conditions


Working hours can be long and include evenings and weekends. Your work might be at regular times each week or month, or it could be one-off gigs. Studio recording sessions can often take many hours and run until late at night. You’d also need to spend hours practising and rehearsing. You might also work in a related area, such as community arts or arts administration.


You could perform in a wide range of locations. From cosy pubs and small recording studios to grand theatres and stadiums. You might need to have your own instruments, and possibly other equipment like mics and amplifiers, to bring to the venue.


You'd have to travel to different venues to perform. This could mean playing gigs locally, going around the country or touring abroad.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Adaptability
  • Persevering
  • Building relationships
  • Cooperating
  • Networking
  • Verbal communication
  • Written communication
  • Creative
  • Self esteem
  • Taking initiative
  • Recalling

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


You do not need formal qualifications required to be a musician. Qualifications and experience that show your commitment to music and musical ability can be useful.

Many musicians choose to study music at college or university. For instance, it's more common in classical music to have a degree.

You can enter some National Certificate or National Qualification courses through an audition. Most courses also ask for qualifications at National 4 or 5.

You can enter Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma courses (HND) with both:

  • National 4 or 5 qualifications
  • one to two Highers or equivalent qualifications

To enter a degree course, you'll likely need both:

  • National 5 qualifications
  • at least 3 Highers or a relevant HNC or HND

Many universities look for grade 7 or 8 music exams as well as academic qualifications. 

Entry for most courses will involved an audition and interview.

Search for a course that suits you.

Useful subjects

  • music 
  • English
  • music technology
  • drama
  • dance
  • media
  • ICT
  • maths
  • social subjects such as history

You will also need

For such a competitive industry, you'll need to have a high level of musical talent or skills.

Who you know can also be very important for getting opportunities. You’ll need to network with other people in the industry who can help you. 

Helpful to have

If you play an instrument, it can help to pass graded music exams. You could do this through the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) or Trinity College.   

Any paid or voluntary experience within the industry could help build useful contacts. The experience might also help when applying for courses.