The Different Types of Performing Musicians

There are really three main types of musicians – the local musician, the touring musician and the studio musician. More than ever, musicians are choosing to do a combination of both, but we’ll try to break down the two options for you anyway. The career that you choose is based on your future goals. Here I will explain the difference between the local musician and the solo musician as well as the different variables that affect the career path that you choose.

The local musician is often what is sarcastically referred to as the “starving musician”. The local musician has regular gigs. They are in the bands that you find at weddings, parties, and they play in the same club every Friday night. Their gigs pay usually $50 to $200 on average, and the musicians usually work most nights of the week playing local gigs.

The touring musician is rarer than the local musician. It can be really hard to make it as a touring musician, and if you plan on becoming one, make sure you really practice. The touring musician spends the majority of the year out on the road in different states, different countries, etc. with different groups and artists.

If the touring musician has the opportunity to tour not only as a sideman, but as a headliner, they are always being featured and their names are the ones you see on headliners. Their schedules are always full and they are always getting called for bigger and better things.

Becoming a studio musician is also incredibly difficult. To perform as a studio musician, you usually have to play a variety of instruments at a very high level. You also have to be an expert in a variety of musical genres – everything from pop music to classical.

How to Choose What is Best for You

Your music career choices are greatly affected by your personal choices. You have to consider what you most enjoy about music – is it being on stage performing in front of people, is it being in the studio or “behind the scenes” or just getting out and playing because you enjoy it (and it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you’re playing). Sometimes, the career you have isn’t what you expect or planned, but it is also important to keep your musical goals and dreams in the back of your mind.

Want to learn more about the music business? Check out our popular FREE eBook – Advice for Young Musicians: From Established Music Professionals.

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Published by Shannon Kennedy

Shannon Kennedy is a vocalist and saxophonist living in Southern California. She is author of "The Album Checklist" and the founder of Teen Jazz. She has been contributing articles to music magaizines and websites since 2004.