Musician - Classical

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Classical musicians play a musical instrument as a soloist or as part of a musical ensemble or orchestra. They perform live to an audience or record music.

The Work

You could be:


The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary depending on:

Pay rates vary, depending on the orchestra or the venue (club, London theatre, regional theatre, TV or recording studio, for example).

There are agreed freelance rates between the Musicians’ Union and organisations such as the BBC and the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI). These cover live performances and recorded sessions. Information is available on the Equity website.

For example, a freelance musician working for the BBC Symphony Orchestra would earn £167.50 per concert as Tutti, £181.00 for Sub-Principal, and £191.00 for Principal. You would earn extra for overtime, for overnight trips and concert tours, or for playing more than one instrument.

You could earn more with other orchestras and those based in London, and perhaps at least twice as much in a major American orchestra.

Recording artists can earn much more. For the very few soloists that make it to the top, earnings can be very high.

Salary as a full time musician in the armed services varies depending on the individual service. An RAF musician earns £27,961 after 6 months basic training.


Workforce Employment Status

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Getting In

What Does it Take?

You need to be:


Classical musicians usually continue to take private classes throughout their careers to maintain and improve their performance.

Getting On

More Information

The Creative and Cultural Skills website has a careers section called Creative Choices which has information about working in the music industry.

Young Scot and Creative Scotland operate the 'Nurturing Talent - Time to Shine Fund', which aims to support young people aged 11-25 and interested in developing creative or artistic skills. Both individuals and groups can apply for funding up to £1,000. For more information see the Young Scot website.


Courtesy of English National Opera


The following organisations may be able to provide further information.

Creative and Cultural Skills
Tel: 020 7015 1800
Twitter: @CCskills

Creative and Cultural Skills is the Sector Skills Council for advertising, crafts, cultural heritage, design, music, performing, literary and visual arts.

Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM)
Tel: 020 7221 3499
Twitter: @ISM_music

Scottish Music Centre
Tel: 0141 552 5222
Twitter: @scottishmusic

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