As with many careers in the music industry, pianists must face stiff competition in the job market and the possibility of many short-term, temporary positions. Because of this, many piano players don’t work full time tickling the ivories, and must turn to other skills to support themselves. Pianists’ earnings also vary widely by their abilities and the setting in which they prefer to play--classical concert pianists typically earn more than the guys pounding the keys at dueling piano bars.
The average piano player earns between $15,000 and $18,000 as a musician each year as of January 2011, according to CareerBliss, although most of these piano players are not working in full-time, year-round positions. The average hourly wage for pianists falls between $20.15 and $50 as of January 2011, according to PayScale; these wages translate to annual earnings between $24,165 and $94,476, depending upon the amount of work a pianist secures.
Concert Pianist Salaries
With talents polished by years of practice, concert pianists are the most elite piano players performing, and those abilities often translate into more secure employment positions that typically pay some of the highest salaries in the live music world. Concert pianists’ earnings vary widely around the country, from $83,784 in New York to $25,884 in Houston as of January 2011, according to Salary Expert. Cities reporting average annual salaries in the middle of the range surveyed by Salary Expert were Indianapolis, with average salaries of $46,469, and Boston, where pianists earn $57,355 each year.
Earnings by Experience
Perseverance is critical for pianists who hope to earn top wages in the industry, with average hourly earnings potentially low for many players. The average hourly wage for pianists with less than 10 years of professional experience earning average hourly wages between $9 and $45 per hour. Pianists with 10 or more years on the piano bench earn much higher hourly wages, falling between $24.50 and $70 per hour.
Comparison to All Musicians' Wages
A pianist’s wages are slightly higher than those of other professional musicians. The average hourly wage for musicians and singers is $29.10 as of May 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The hourly rate in the middle of PayScale’s wage range, $35.08 an hour, is 121 percent that of the national average for singers and musicians.