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Musician: Salary and conditions

  • The majority of musicians are self-employed. Freelance work is also very common.
  • Salary will vary greatly amongst musicians and depends on whether you are a salaried member of a group or are self-employed/freelance.
  • Solo instrumentalists can earn between £42 and £600 per concert. According to a fees survey from the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) , most solo instrumentalists who took part in the survey charged a highest fee of between £244 and £600 (midpoint £400), and most charged a lowest fee of between £42 and £200 (midpoint £100). See the ISM Fees Surveys  for more information.
  • Employed musicians in orchestras can earn a yearly salary of £25,000-£50,000. Leaders and some principals will earn more.
  • For musicians, earning power depends on musical ability, reputation and mobility. Some soloists and groups earn high salaries but they are relatively few in number. Extra payments can be made for overtime, concert fees, recordings, porterage of large instruments and travel.
  • Royalties are an additional source of income if the relevant piece of music or performance has been registered with the PPL  or the PRS for Music .
  • Instability in employment can be stressful. Many musicians take on work in related areas such as teaching to increase their income.
  • Musicians do not work standard nine to five hours. Work can be during the day for rehearsals and recordings, while evenings and weekends are when performances usually take place. Times of work can vary within this structure; for example, there can be many daytime rehearsals leading to a series of evening performances, which can resemble working on a shift-pattern.
  • Opportunities for employment in orchestras exist mainly in big cities and cultural centres, though there are limited numbers of full-time orchestras and limited numbers of posts in each orchestra.
  • For rehearsals and recordings dress code is usually relaxed and this is often the case for performances in some situations. However, in classical performances dress can be very formal and in other areas dress code may be prescribed.
  • Performance can be a stressful experience for some musicians and physical injuries of a repetitive strain nature are an occupational hazard (back ache and neck ache in particular).
  • Touring in the UK and abroad can also be a regular part of the work, which can involve prolonged absence from home or extensive daily commuting.
  • Due to the travel involved and transportation of instruments and other equipment, having a driving licence is beneficial.

Salary data from the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) , the Musicians' Union (MU)  and the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) . Figures are intended as a guide only.

Written by AGCAS editors
March 2012

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