Pop musician

Pop musicians perform and record different styles of music.

Annual Salary


Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours


Future employment

There will be 3% more Pop musician jobs in 2024.
In your local area

What's it all about?

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.


You'll need a high level of musical skill and talent. To develop these skills, you could get a degree or postgraduate award in:

  • popular music
  • music performance
  • popular and commercial music

You'll usually need:

  • 2 to 3 A levels for a degree


You could take a college course to get professional training and the opportunity to perform. Subjects available include:

  • Level 2 Award for Music Practitioners
  • Level 2 Diploma in Music for Practical Performance
  • Level 3 Diploma in Music Technology
  • Level 3 Extended Diploma in Music Performance & Production

You may need to pass an audition to get on to some courses.

You'll usually need:

  • 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) for a level 2 course
  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) for a level 3 course

Other Routes

It's important to get plenty of practical experience by performing and doing gigs. You could also get yourself noticed by entering talent competitions and attending festivals.

This can help you meet people in the music industry and make useful contacts.

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. 

Many musicians teach themselves and start learning an instrument from an early age. This might be with a private music teacher or training provider.

You can take graded music exams in instruments like:

  • guitar
  • drums
  • popular piano
  • vocals

The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and Rockschool offer qualifications and graded music exams.

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


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.


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.

The BBC Introducing programme could be a way to get your music heard on the radio, if you are an unsigned musician.

You can also showcase your music on networking websites, social media, music blogs or send a demo to recording companies. The Musicians' Union has more details on how to promote yourself.

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.

You can find out more about careers in music from Creative Choices.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • knowledge of the fine arts
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • ambition and a desire to succeed
  • persistence and determination
  • the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
  • the ability to work well with others
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • to be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device
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