What Is a Professional Musician?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 18 March 2020
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A professional musician is a person with musical training who is involved in some aspect of the music industry, such as performance or education. Career prospects for musicians can vary, depending on the kind of music they play, their level of training, and their abilities. Work in this field is diverse and may include opportunities to travel, meet leading musicians in the field, and perform or work in notable venues.

Many professional musicians express an interest in music early, and may start learning instruments as children. As they develop skills, they may develop a preference for a particular musical genre and could seek advanced training. Colleges of music may offer training in a variety of areas, and musicians can also be trained at a conventional college or university with a music department.

Performers may work in a variety of genres and can also be involved in songwriting and music composition. Their work may include live and recorded performance in venues ranging from private parties to massive rock concerts. Pay for a professional musician who performs can be highly variable. Some musicians make substantial money per performance because of their talent and reputations, while others may perform for very low fees.


Other professional musicians may work with sound engineering, recording, and related activities. These musicians can make music sound as good as possible, whether live or recorded, and can also work on tasks like selecting music for films, negotiating rights for performance or use of copyrighted pieces, and so forth. A professional musician can also involved in film and television scoring.

Music management is another potential career path for a professional musician. Managers may handle one or multiple musicians, and they deal with booking, contract negotiations, promotions, and many other responsibilities. Other musicians are instructors and provide music lessons as well as coaching to other professional musicians who want to hone their skills. A talented singer, for example, may work with opera stars to widen her range and develop her voice.

Another occupation for a professional musician is music therapy. Music therapists work with patients who find music a comfortable medium for expression to help them work through emotional trauma and distress. They may play instruments with their clients or play music for them and use it as a bridge for communication. Talking about a recorded piece of music, for example, may provide an opening for a discussion about the patient's feelings.



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