What a Musician Does
It’s often said that music is a universal language. It can be used to tell stories, convey emotions, unite people, and offers amazing opportunities for those with immense skill. The term is broad, but it generally refers to anyone who creates music or performs. The field of music is broad and includes a number of variants including:
Conductor: A person who directs a group of people who are playing instruments or singing.
Composer: A person who writes songs.
Instrumentalist: A person who plays an instrument.
Vocalist: A singer.
Who would enjoy a career in Music?
People who love music, are skilled in one of the fields listed above, enjoy performing, and are dedicated to practicing continuously, may do well in a career as a musician.
Who mightn't like the career?
People who require steady and reliable income often have trouble getting into and staying in the career, as even those with immense talent are not guaranteed positions. Those who have difficulty applying themselves and staying motivated will also struggle.
In today’s modern age of TV talent searches, even people with no formal training or experience can become overnight stars. However, this is very rare, as most musicians dedicate themselves passionately starting at a young age, be it through school or church programs and even secondary schools or university programs dedicated to the craft. This is true of most musicians, ranging from an instrumentalist in the symphony through modern-day rock stars.
Rather than going through a traditional interview process, musicians are asked to audition for a position. It’s important to outshine all other hopefuls during an audition, as even the slightest slipup could cost a person the position.
Role: Entry level orchestral musicians play all sorts of instruments. Because most major cities across the globe offer a local symphony, musicians don’t usually travel far to perform. Each symphony has a different level of distinction and budget and working conditions will vary greatly.
However, it’s common for a musician to spend 5-15 hours practicing with the symphony each week and perform several times as well. Sometimes the musicians will be involved in a TV special or will be involved in a recording too. The season length will vary, but 30-40 weeks of work per year is normal. Musicians are expected to practice several hours per day independently and continue practicing during the off-season to keep their skills sharp.
Role: Principal positions only become available when a principal musician playing the same instrument leaves the symphony. Most symphonies do not offer many principal positions to begin with and those who attain the position rarely leave before retirement. Therefore, many people will never reach this stage until late in their careers, if at all.
Travel varies based on the position, but an individual’s skill and experience make it possible to work anywhere in the world.
Beginning: The biggest determining factor in salary is not necessarily skill or experience, but getting in with a prestigious symphony. For example, the StarTribune reports that a musician with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Symphony in the United States may start out at USD$140,000 per year, while a similar caliber musician in the Alabama Symphony would make just USD$35,000. PayScale places American salaries for budding musicians at USD$44,000, at ₤31,500 in the UK, AU$95,680 in Australia, and CA$35,550 in Canada.
Principal: In America, an average experienced orchestral musician will earn USD$69,000, while ₤102,900 is the average in the UK, AU$139,360 in Australia, and CA$61,650 in Canada.
Why a Musician moves on
There isn’t much room for advancement when working with an orchestra and most individual bands or singers don’t ever make it big. This can be very disenchanting, plus salaries with organizations aren’t always enough for a musician to pay his bills without taking on a secondary career.