There are many types of musical work besides performing careers. Many people have careers in music education, arts management or other aspects of the music industry, and the benefits vary greatly.
Public School Music Educators
A large number of successful musicians teach in the public schools. Band director, choir director or district-wide elementary music instructor are common positions. These jobs are usually full-time positions with benefits. These positions require a bachelor’s degree in music education and also teaching certification.
Musical Careers in Higher Education
College or university music professors work in diverse fields such as music education, performance, research or administration. These jobs usually have full retirement and health benefits, but an advanced degree, usually a doctorate, is required.
The only performing musicians in the U.S. who enjoy full-time employment with benefits are members of large organizations, most often unionized with collective bargaining and multi-year contracts, such as symphony orchestras and opera or ballet companies. Some church music directors and soloists are employed full-time, but these are typically part-time positions.
This is a very large category that exists in every genre: classical, studio, popular and church music. Freelancers work part-time performing, teaching, audio recording, and repairing and manufacturing instruments. They rarely have any benefits directly from their employment.
Popular Music Careers
Aside from the question of talent and finding the right collaborators, a pop musician’s income depends on entrepreneurial ability, smarts, relentless drive to succeed, and a certain amount of luck and timing. Pop musicians rely on their own funds for benefits.
Most musical careers are distinguished by variety. If you are a performer, no two weeks are alike. Every "gig" brings new experiences, new professional friendships and new chances to connect with listeners.
Opportunity for Personal Expression
Above all, professional musicians enjoy the opportunity to be creative, to collaborate, to express emotion and to communicate with an audience.