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Pop musician

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Pop musicians perform and record different styles of music.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: Variable average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set requirements.

You'll often need a good level of musical ability on your chosen instrument or as a singer. It can help if you can read music but it’s not always essential.

You can get practical experience, make industry contacts and get noticed by performing.

You could also showcase your talents through social media or initiatives like BBC Introducing.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • musical skills
  • the ability to accept criticism and rejection
  • business skills

3. What you'll do

Your daily tasks may include:

  • practising and rehearsing
  • playing live in front of an audience
  • composing music
  • taking part in recording sessions
  • promoting your music by contacting agents and record companies, using social media, sending people demonstration ('demo') recordings, setting up a website
  • arranging gigs and tours (or dealing with a manager or agent who does this for you)

You'll often need to combine music with other types of work, particularly at the start of your career.

4. Salary

Your income will vary depending on how successful you are.

The trade union for professional performers and creative practitioners, Equity, has information on recommended rates of pay for session musicians and live performers.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You may play in a range of places like pubs and clubs, recording studios or theatres and music festivals.

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'd be expected to have your own instruments and possibly also stage and studio equipment.

6. Career path and progression

With experience you could go into the business side of music as a manager, producer, writer or working for a record company.

You could become a member of a professional organisation like The Musicians' Union or the Incorporated Society of Musicians for access to training, events and networking opportunities.

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Last updated: 13 September 2018