Pop musician

pop singer rock musician
Performing arts and media

Career outlook for pop 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?

You would use your talent, individual style and creativity to write and arrange music and songs.

You’d play and sing in live shows to entertain and move audiences. And you could make recordings either as an individual performer, with your own band or providing backing music or vocals.

You could perform music of any style from rock, pop or indie to jazz or folk. You might work as part of a band or choir, as a solo artist, or as a session or backing musician.

You would:

  • Practise and rehearse
  • Play in front of an audience
  • Compose songs and music to perform or learn covers of other artists' music
  • Take part in recording sessions.

You’d promote your act in different ways, such as contacting agents and record companies, setting up a website and making demo recordings.

You would also arrange gigs and tours or deal with a manager or agent who does this for you.

This is a job where you’d need determination and the ability to cope with criticism and rejection. It's a very competitive line of work, and only a relatively small number of people are able to live on their earnings as a pop musician. 

Working conditions


You might play one-off gigs, regular weekly or monthly slots, or you could be booked for a whole season if touring as a session musician or appearing at a holiday park or on a cruise ship. Most of your gigs would take place in the evening. Studio recording can run until late at night


You could play in a wide range of places, such as pubs, clubs, larger music venues, recording studios, theatres, hotels and restaurants, and outdoor music festivals. You would be expected to have your own instruments, and possibly other equipment like mics and amplifiers, which you would bring to the venue.


You would have to travel to different venues to perform. If you become well-known, you would go on international tours which would involve long stays away from home.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Persevering
  • Time management
  • Taking initiative
  • Self esteem
  • Verbal communication
  • Written communication
  • Building relationships
  • Creative

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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.


There are many different ways to get into this role. You do not need formal qualifications to enter this job but most musicians start learning to play an instrument from an early age and work toward graded music exams through ABRSM or Trinity College.

You can enter some performing arts or music National Certificate or National Qualification courses (SCQF levels 2-6) through an audition but most courses also ask for National 4/5 qualifications (SCQF level 4/5).

You can enter Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma courses (SCQF level 8) with National 4/5 qualifications and one to two Highers or equivalent qualifications.  

To enter a degree in commercial or popular music or musical theatre (SCQF level 9/10) usually requires National 5 qualifications and a minimum of three Highers or a relevant HNC/HND.

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

Entry for most courses will involved an audition and interview.

Useful subjects

  • Music (required by many courses) 
  • Music technology
  • Drama
  • Dance
  • Media

You will also need

  • Musical talent and skills
  • Contacts within the industry

Helpful to have

Experience within the industry, including paid and voluntary experience.