Careers in music | (2024)

Whether you dream of becoming a professional singer, songwriter, musician, record producer or sound technician, there are many careers on offer in the vast UK music industry

The latest report by UK Music, the UK music industry body, has revealed that the industry is now starting to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The findings from This Is Music 2022 showed that the industry's contribution to the economy in 2021 had risen by 26% to £4billion. However, this was still 31% down on the record-breaking pre-pandemic high of £5.8billion in 2019.

Employment also increased by 14% - from 128,000 music jobs in the previous year to 145,000, as music festivals and live events returned, and studios and venues reopened. Again, this was down on 2019 figures, with the workforce having reached 197,000.

While this has undoubtedly been a tough time for those working in the industry, those with the talent, tenacity and drive to forge music careers still have cause to be optimistic about the future.

In terms of career options, singers and musicians may be the most visible jobs in music, but you could carve out a career in a number of areas including performing, songwriting, composing, live music entertainment, music education, music production, artist management, marketing and PR or music journalism.

You'll also find that social media has opened up a route that wasn't available a decade ago. Singers and musicians are now being signed after being spotted on YouTube. And music journalists are securing jobs off the back of blogging.

Despite this, you still require the relevant qualifications and work experience, whether that's achieved through a music degree, apprenticeship or internship.

Music degrees

With outstanding talent as a singer, songwriter, dancer or musician you may be able to enter the industry directly - whereas if you're interested in business, educational or technical music-related jobs you'll likely need a degree.

However, in this competitive industry, no matter your end goal, studying for a music degree can be beneficial in more ways than one. Courses give you in-depth practical and theoretical knowledge and the chance to develop transferable skills, make industry contacts and find industry work placements. Discover what you can do with a music degree.

A degree in music is usually referred to as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Music (BMus), as there's no clear distinction between the two. Check the details of individual courses carefully to ensure they match what you're looking for. Some universities run performance-focused degrees while others are more academic.

At undergraduate level you can also study more specific subjects such as:

  • composition
  • digital music
  • live events production
  • popular music performance
  • media and communication (music industries)
  • music business
  • music journalism
  • music management
  • music production
  • music technology
  • musical theatre
  • songwriting
  • sound engineering
  • sound technology
  • stage management.

When it comes to choosing where to study, it's useful to check subject-specific rankings and league tables.

You'll find that the best performers are a mix of traditional universities and specialist institutions, such as the Royal College of Music (RCM) and Guildhall School of Music and Drama. These provide different study environments and deciding which you prefer is another important thing to think about as you do your research.

You'll usually need good passes at GCSE and a set number of UCAS points. Many courses ask for an A-level in music, or alternatively Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) Grade 5 in Music Theory and Grade 8 in Performance. Depending on the course, you may also need to demonstrate performance skills. Entry requirements vary so always check with your selected university.

Masters in Music

Meanwhile, there are a variety of postgraduate options to consider, with taught and research-based options available from the following institutions:

  • Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Kingston University London
  • RCM London
  • Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM)
  • The University of Manchester

As well as the Masters in Music, you can also choose to specialise in a particular area of music, including:

  • composition
  • composition of music for film and television
  • community music
  • electronic and computer music
  • history of art and history of music
  • music education
  • music for the moving image
  • music production
  • music psychology
  • music and sonic media
  • musical theatre
  • performance.

For instance, the University of Bristol offers the one-year, full-time MA Composition of Music for Film and Television. For entry onto the course, which costs £12,200 (UK students) or £25,300 (international students) in 2023/24, you'll typically require a 2:1 degree in music, plus some experience as a composer, as demonstrated through a portfolio.

Search for postgraduate courses in music.

Music jobs

While jobs in the music industry are undoubtedly competitive, they're by no means out of reach for those with the right qualifications and experience.

Here are some of the music jobs you can do:

  • A&R (artists and repertoire) manager - as a form of talent agent, you'll be responsible for finding fresh talent, signing them up to record labels and overseeing the completion of recordings. You'll help new artists develop and grow and to do this you'll need a solid understanding of the music scene and strong business skills.
  • Concert promoter - you'll need a love of live music and excellent communication skills. It's your job to spread the word about live music events and ensure this results in strong ticket sales. You'll liaise with agents/artist managers, recording artists and club/concert venues to book shows, publicise events to media and set up advertising campaigns.
  • Music magazine journalist - exceptional writing skills and an interest in all things music are a must. You'll report on music industry news, interview artists and musicians, and review albums and concerts - either for a specialist print or online publication or the music section of a general news outlet.
  • Music producer - producers write, arrange, produce and record songs for artists or for their own personal projects. The hours can be long, and you'll spend the majority of your time in a studio setting. You'll collaborate with recording artists, recording/sound engineers, session musicians and singers, as well as A&R managers and record company executives.

You could also become a:

  • background singer
  • blogger
  • booking agent
  • composer
  • DJ
  • event manager
  • instrument technician
  • live sound technician
  • music PR
  • music therapist
  • musical director
  • musician
  • radio producer
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • sound engineer
  • tour manager.

Portfolio careers are common in the music business. This means having several streams of income at the same time, often combining jobs with freelance work.

For example, session musicians could also make money as private music teachers, and with the right knowledge and experience, DJs and recording engineers can move into music production. Concert promoters can move into marketing and PR roles.

Read more about putting together a creative portfolio.

Explore the full range of music career resources at UK Music.

Music industry internships

To stand out from the crowd and demonstrate your passion and dedication to employers, work experience and internships are essential.

Wherever possible, try to gain relevant experience - for example, in a recording studio for aspiring music producers or recording engineers, or at a record label if you're aiming to get into A&R, artist management or marketing and PR. However, keep in mind that any music-related experience will be useful.

A number of organisations provide music internships but beware of unpaid opportunities. Internships should pay at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW) - see GOV.UK - NMW rates.

Major music companies such as Sony Music, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group all offer industry placements or internships in a variety of functions such as administration, marketing, promotions, digital, communication and artist relations and commercial sales.

If you've set your sights on a career as a music journalist, look for internship opportunities at music magazines, blogs and websites. Get in touch with your local radio station if you'd like to become a radio producer or DJ.

Any volunteering experience can be incredibly beneficial. If you'd like to get into teaching, volunteer at a school or youth club and teach young people how to play an instrument. If you dream of becoming a DJ, create your own set and volunteer at local club nights.

For more general experience, look into volunteering at music festivals, get a part-time job in a record shop or start your own music blog. Do your research to find out if there are any music-related events happening in your community at which you could lend a hand.

Internships and voluntary work are an excellent way to develop your knowledge and skills, learn about the industry and make useful contacts. Including it on your CV shows employers that you're passionate, resourceful, committed and able to use your initiative.

Discover our 5 tips for getting media work experience.

Music apprenticeships

The apprenticeship route is a great alternative to university study. Working towards an apprenticeship enables you to gain industry qualifications while actually doing the job and earning a wage.

To find out more about what they involve, see what is an apprenticeship?

Music apprenticeships are becoming more widespread, but you'll still need to do your research to uncover opportunities. Record companies, talent agencies and PR agencies all offer apprenticeship schemes in the music business. You can work in international promotions, communications, music publishing, marketing and business administration. You can also work as a music assistant or digital media apprentice.

The BRITs Apprentice Scheme, created by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and run by recruitment specialists DiVA, gives ten people from all backgrounds across the UK the unique opportunity to work at a top independent record label or music company.

Apprentices receive specialist training in either administration, A&R, business affairs, digital media, licencing or marketing. The scheme is open to those aged 18 or over and lasts for 15 months.

To search for music apprenticeships, see:

You can also read about how to apply for an apprenticeship.

Find out more

  • Discover the 7 skills you need to succeed in performing arts.
  • Consider other creative jobs.
  • Explore careers in the UK's media industry.

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Careers in music | (2024)


Is it hard to get a job in the music industry? ›

The music industry is very competitive and one of the more difficult industries to break into, but that doesn't mean it's impossible.

What is the hardest job in the music industry? ›

“Give them the most information possible,” Elijah, who manages Royal-T, DJ Q, Flava D and Swindle, explained. “Help them to make decisions; lay things out in most transparent way.” Artist management, he added, “is the hardest job in the music industry.

How do I get into the UK music industry? ›

Seven top tips on breaking into the music industry:
  1. Get work experience. These professionals say getting work experience is a great way in. ...
  2. Write your own blog. ...
  3. Consider practical study courses. ...
  4. Find a way in. ...
  5. Know what makes you tick. ...
  6. Be passionate about what you do. ...
  7. Don't be afraid to ask for advice.

What is the success rate of music careers? ›

Of those surveyed, only 2.3% of Music Performance majors reported being unemployed and looking for work. Music Performance majors are among the most likely to work either full- or part-time as artists. 82% of Music Performance, Dance and Theater majors have worked as professional artists.

Why I quit the music industry? ›

Many musicians quit because they feel like they don't have the support they need to succeed. This can be especially tough when you're just starting out and don't have a strong network of industry connections or fans.

Is it ever too late to get into the music industry? ›

But many performers have proved that with dedication, commitment and hard work they can achieve their goals. No matter how old they are when they get started. Age is not a barrier to being a good singer.

How many people fail in the music industry? ›

90% of ALL artists fail. Yes, even the talented ones. This is because your success as a musician isn't down to talent. Mindset, hard work, patience, consistency... all of these and more are what shape successful artists.

How stressful is the music industry? ›

According to a recent study by the Music Industry Research Association (MIRA) musicians working in the music industry experience higher rates of depression, suicidal thoughts and substance use than the average American.

Is a career in music stable? ›

It is possible to earn a sustainable living from your passion of music. One of the biggest things to remember is that there is no guarantee. You always have to stay a step ahead of the curve and remember that holding on to a job in the music business can be just as difficult as obtaining one in the first place.

Is London a good place to start a music career? ›

If you are serious about a musical career, there's no isn't better destination than London to inspire and settle you as a musician. You can also explore other career paths in the music industry, like music management or music entrepreneurship, if you don't fancy working as an artist.

Why does the UK dominate the music industry? ›

Britain has influenced popular music disproportionately to its size, due to its linguistic and cultural links with many countries, particularly the United States and many of its former colonies like Australia, South Africa, and Canada, and its capacity for invention, innovation and fusion, which has led to the ...

What qualifications do you need to be a musician UK? ›

You'll usually need:
  • 2 or 3 A levels including music, or equivalent qualifications.
  • grade 8 in your main instrument.
  • to pass an audition.
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study.

Is pursuing a music career worth it? ›

Being a music major is worth it if you have a passion for this art and can commit to completing your degree. There are many disciplines you can pursue as a music major, including performance-based professions and operational roles.

Are musicians in high demand? ›

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. About 20,800 openings for musicians and singers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Is there a high demand for musicians? ›

Job Outlook

Employment of musicians and singers is projected to show little or no change from 2022 to 2032. Despite limited employment growth, about 22,600 openings for musicians and singers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

How do you get hired in the music industry? ›

Follow these steps to increase your chances of breaking into the music industry:
  1. Consider your choices. ...
  2. Make connections. ...
  3. Prepare for the process. ...
  4. Create an online presence. ...
  5. Perform often. ...
  6. Find a mentor. ...
  7. Gain internship experience. ...
  8. Embrace your passion.
Jul 21, 2022

Is music industry a good career? ›

Jobs in the music industry are some of the most creatively fulfilling you can pursue. Although musicians are at the forefront of the field, the industry is broad. If you're interested in working in music, there are opportunities to suit both your career goals and talents.

What are the odds of becoming a professional musician? ›

Meaning you're probably going to have get one of those "job" things you were trying to avoid in the first place by becoming a musician. In many ways it's a crapshoot, but if you're super-talented, charismatic, and driven, your odds go up. From 0.000001% to about 0.000002%.


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