Recording Artist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a recording artist career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook information and salary statistics to decide if a recording artist career is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Recording Artist Career

Musicians and singers work and perform for audiences. To learn a bit more about the pros and cons of a career as a recording artist, keep reading.

Pros of a Recording Artist Career
Ability to indulge your creativity*
Number of attendants at musical performances was expected to increase from 2012 to 2022**
Flexibility of job location**
No formalized education requirements for many positions**

Cons of a Recording Artist Career
Career instability**
Extensive travel often necessary**
Late nights and long hours a frequent requirement**
Though rewarding, potentially very stressful*

Sources: *O*NET OnLine, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Duties

As a professional musician or recording artist, you'll spend much of your time rehearsing and preparing for performances. You may perform for live audiences or recordings in a variety of settings. Practicing playing instruments or singing will also occupy much of your time working as a musician. Auditioning for positions in musical groups or performing companies is also a common duty for professional musicians and recording artists.

Promoting yourself is another key responsibility of a professional musician or recording artist. You might utilize social media, photo shoots and interviews to build and maintain a public profile. You also might have to find locations for performances or rehearsals, although an agent or manager could help with these types of tasks.

Salary and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects average job growth for musicians and singers in the coming years, with overall employment expected to increase five percent from 2012-2022. The BLS notes an expected increase in the number of people attending musical performances and the demand for session musicians in the production of films and television as reasons for job growth. Competition for musician jobs is expected to be very strong. As of May 2014, the BLS reported a median hourly wage of about $24.00 for musicians and singers.


While there are no formal education requirements for many professional musician and recording artist positions, specific training is needed to work as a classical musician or singer. A bachelor's degree in music theory or music performance is often required for those interested in performing classical music or opera. Music programs generally require applicants to submit recordings or audition in person.

Musicians and singers interested in performing popular music and pursuing a career as a recording artist frequently seek out an agent or manager to help them find jobs and performance venues. Having such representation can help a musician or singer enhance his or her public profile. With no formal education or training requirements, musicians or singers who want to become popular recording artists generally submit themselves to long-term training that may involve rigorous practice or private coaching.

What Are Employers Looking For?

As of 2010, the BLS reported that 43% of musicians and singers were self-employed. Particularly for musicians who want to become popular recording artists, self-employed or freelance positions seem to be the most appropriate options. Some job postings from April 2012 offer a glimpse at some of the opportunities available to musicians and singers.

  • A music venue in New York City was seeking male and female singers for a new production. Artists had to be between the ages of 18-32 and able to sing in a range of styles. Three or more years of professional singing experience was required, and music/nightclub industry experience was preferred.
  • A college in Florida was looking for part-time musical accompaniment to support its arts and philosophy department. The position called for accompanying faculty members in solo voice, instrumental, jazz and choral ensemble performances. Demonstrated experience as a professional musician or an educational credential in musical accompaniment was required.
  • A church in Tennessee was seeking a pianist/choir director proficient in gospel music. Candidates needed to be able to read music and have experience with choirs. A high school education was required.

Standing Out in the Field

The BLS expects a very competitive job market for musicians and singers in the near future, and those with exceptional talent should have the best opportunities. While it's always advisable for musicians and singers to practice and rehearse as much as possible, it will be increasingly important to stay sharp in a crowded field of job seekers. Your career as a musician can benefit significantly from a disciplined, focused approach to practice and rehearsal.

Another good way for musicians and singers to make themselves stand out in a competitive job market is to be proficient in a range of styles and/or instruments. This is a good way to adapt your talents to different performance settings. Diversifying your musical skill set could lead to work as a backup performer or session musician in recording studios and performance venues.

Alternative Career Options

If you think your musical skills would be better suited to work outside a recording studio or stage, there are quite a few careers in which you can apply your talents. If you'd prefer to focus on writing and directing music, you might want to consider a career as a music director or composer. Many positions in this field require a bachelor's degree, and symphony orchestra conductors usually need a master's degree. The BLS projects ten percent job growth for music directors and composers from 2010-2020 and reported a median annual salary of about $47,000 as of May 2011.

If using your musical knowledge and talent to teach others sounds appealing, you might consider a career as a music teacher. Teaching experience may be required by some employers, but there generally aren't any formal education requirements for music teachers. The BLS predicts faster than average job growth for self-enrichment teachers in the coming years, with overall employment expected to increase by 21% from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, the BLS reported a median annual salary of $36,000 for self-enrichment teachers.

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