To become a musician you need passion, dedication and determination.
Musicians come in various forms and cover all genres of music. You might become a singer, a composer or an instrumentalist.
It could be that you work mostly alone as a freelance artist or as part of a salaried ensemble in an orchestra, opera company or choir.
The music industry is fiercely competitive so whatever your field, you need the dedication and borderline obsession to commit to regular hours of practice.
Some musicians learn to play music from a very early age, but you can take part-time classes at colleges, adult education centres, or with private music teachers. This can lead to qualifications and music graded exams.
At City, University of London we have exceptional facilities for performance, sound recording and composition.
You can take private instrumental and vocal lessons from our team of visiting professional musicians and workshops with high profile music industry professionals.
What can I expect from a career as a musician?
Your activities as a musician will depend largely on your speciality. Typically, you will have to:
- Perform at concerts, festivals, theatres and other music venues
- Take part in recording sessions
- Attend rehearsals
- Prepare for auditions
- Manage and maintain your instrument and/or voice
- Compose new music
- Manage business administration around advertising, fees and distribution
- Arrange gigs and tours and research new venues.
At the start of your career you may combine music with other types of work. This could include teaching music privately to individuals or in schools and colleges.
You may need expand into other styles to improve your chances of employability or profitability.
You should be prepared for a level of stress that comes with regular performance and auditioning. Repetitive strain injuries can happen regularly.
Flexibility in where you work will be helpful, as musicians often spend long periods away from home when touring.
Related courses at City
Whatever your level of interest in becoming a musician, City's courses can help you take one step closer to a career as a musician, develop specialisms that'll set you apart from the field or broaden your horizons with study in related subjects.
Who can I work for as a musician?
Most professional musicians are self-employed, regardless of their specialism, except for some classical musicians who may be employed as a member of a specific orchestra.
The UK is home to a diverse set of orchestras and ensembles. You can find employers including ballet, symphony, opera and chamber orchestras. While they range in size, a number are large enough to employ musicians full time.
Work is sometimes offered to freelance musicians for recording sessions and outdoor performances. Other potential employers include holiday camps, cruise ships, theatre companies and the armed forces.
Probably the most common way to find vacancies is via word of mouth, so it can pay to spend time expanding your network. You might also consider seeking work through an agent or manager.
What about work experience as a musician?
Practical experience is compulsory to become a musician. It is a key way of developing and learning your profession. You can get involved with orchestras, choirs, music societies, bands or other solo musicians either at university or in your local area.
Introducing yourself to as many musicians or music industry professionals as possible could pay off in the long term.
Take any chance that is offered to gain experience, even if it means performing to small audiences. It is all part of your journey towards greater confidence, more connections and a wider repertoire.
You might gain experience at summer festivals, award ceremonies, auditions, competitions or amateur orchestras.
What are my prospects as a musician?
Progression within the orchestral profession can be slow and switching to a different orchestra can be the only way to advance or change a situation.
You may become a principal player or section leader after a period of experience. This could bring duties like organising a section of the orchestra, editing music and collaborating with conductors.
As a solo performer you might begin with an amateur choir or orchestra before progressing to become a dedicated soloist. Or you might start as a solo performer and undertake a combination of freelance solo work and teaching while building your profile.
You might shape your own career as a composer or conductor by forming your own ensemble or look at alternative paths in music education or community arts work.
After gaining experience in the pop music industry, you might move towards the business side as a producer or manager, or consider working for a record company.