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What is this job like?

Musicians, singers, and related workers may compose, arrange, sing, and play music. This can be done either alone or as part of a group. They perform in record studios and on stage. They also perform on television and in movies.

Not all their work is performing for audiences. They also make records and CDs. All musicians, singers, and related workers spend a lot of time practicing and rehearsing.

Musicians, singers, and related workers record songs and music videos in sound studios. They also appear "live" on radio and television. They go on concert tours to big cities in the U.S. They also sometimes perform in major cities around the world. This requires a lot of travel. They often perform at night and on weekends. All this can be tiring.

Musicians, singers, and related workers work with a lot of different people. These include people in the music business, such as other musicians and singers, and crews who help them with equipment. They have to deal with sponsors who give them money to pay their expenses. They depend on agents to find them jobs. They also work with movie stars and other famous people.

Most musicians and singers work indoors, but some may perform in outdoor concerts. The hot lights used on stage can be uncomfortable. Music is very loud and can cause hearing loss. There can be danger from fans that become excited.

Many musicians find only part-time work or are unemployed between performances. They often work other jobs while waiting for their next performance.

The life of a musician is not a quiet one. Many jobs are in New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville. These cities are where entertainment and record studios are most often found.

How do you get ready?

To be a musician or singer you must have natural music talent. People who become musicians often learn an instrument at an early age. Some of the most popular instruments are the guitar, piano, and drums. It helps any musician to learn to play more than one instrument. Many songwriters now write music on computers, so these skills might be handy. Also, skills in song writing, singing, or dancing may help to make your band popular.

School choirs and musicals provide good early vocal training. Also, musicians, singers and related workers can gain good practice playing in a school community band, or with a group of friends. It helps to grab every chance to appear in front of others. You may be able to perform at parties or other events.

Although voice training helps most singers, creating or copying a popular style of music is likely to determine the success of a band. Musicians, singers, and related workers have to be able to go on stage in front of lots of people.

How much does this job pay?

Earnings depend on how popular a performer is. The middle half of all musicians earned between $18,660 and $59,970 a year in 2002. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $13,040. The highest-paid 10 percent made more than $96,250. But musicians often have to hold down other jobs (called "day jobs") while they're building up their careers. The most successful musical stars can make much more than the earnings listed here.

How many jobs are there?

Musicians, singers, and related workers held about 215,000 jobs in 2002. However, rock musicians made up only a tiny portion of all musicians.

Musicians and singers work for orchestras and other music groups, ballet companies, and religious organizations. Some perform in restaurants and nightclubs and for weddings and other special events.

What about the future?

Competition for jobs as a musician or singer is keen. Talent alone is no guarantee of success. The glamour and very high earnings in this job attract many people. You need a lot of motivation. You must also have good luck. Very few people earn enough money to support themselves as musicians, singers, and related workers.

The number of jobs for musicians should grow about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2012. Many jobs will be to replace others who leave because they cannot earn enough.

Are there other jobs like this?

  • Actors
  • Agents and business managers of artists, performers, and athletes
  • Broadcast and sound engineering technicians and radio operators
  • Choreographers
  • Dancers
  • Directors
  • Disc Jockeys
  • Librarians (music librarians)
  • Precision instrument and equipment repairers (musical instrument repairers and tuners)
  • Producers
  • Teachers (music teachers)
Where can you find more information?

More information about musicians, singers, and related workers can be found in the Careers Database.

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

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