Performing Arts

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The performing arts industry is ideal for you if you enjoy expressing your creative personality, such as dancing, drama or singing, or playing a musical instrument. However, this sector is not only about performing in front of an audience; there are also great opportunities for those who have creative practical skills who are key to staging entertainment events, such as stagehands, lighting technicians, arts administrators or community artists.

The UK Government is investing £1.57 billion as a rescue package to protect thousands of organisations across the sector including performing arts and theatres, museums, live music and independent cinema. £97 million will be made available to Scotland.

According to the latest figures (2018), there are around 296,000 people working in music, performing and visual arts in the UK.

What areas can I work in?

This career area includes working as a performer in dance, drama, music and other forms of entertainment, from stand-up comedy to circus acts. Jobs in arts administration, community arts, music technology and theatre technology are also included in this sector. You can also teach any of these subjects from secondary school through to university level.

To see the routes to getting into each of these sectors, take a look at our Career Pathway.


What kind of companies can I work for?

Working within the performing arts encompasses a wide range of organisations including:

What’s the job market like?

In the Scottish Budget for 2020/21 the Culture, Tourism and Events sector saw an increase in spending from £229.8 in 2019/20 to £231.4 million in 2020/21.

Despite the glamour of this career area, the harsh reality for performers is usually years of hard work in the face of tough competition, rejections at auditions and frequent periods of unemployment or working in temporary unrelated jobs. 25.4% of performing arts graduates that are in employment, are freelance. This is high compared to 4.9% for the general graduate population being in self-employment.

It is not always easy to get into the music industry. There are some full time classical music jobs, but most popular musicians do individual gigs for which they charge a fee.

In a Fiscal Update to the Scottish Budget published April 2020. The Scottish Government allocated an impact fund of £11 Million to Creative Scotland due to the effects of COVID-19.

Most performers, famous or not, are usually highly trained or qualified. The majority of actors have had formal training, almost all classical musicians have qualifications and a large proportion of popular musicians are trained to a high level. Dancers usually start their training at a very young age.

Competition for non-performance jobs such as arts administration, stage management and theatre technology is also fierce.

Facts and figures

Want to find out more?

The Creative and Cultural Skills website has information on getting into the arts – developing opportunities for young people to learn about careers in the sector. 



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Career Area

Performing Arts