Become a Recording Artist: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a recording artist. Research the education, career requirements and experience required for starting a career as a recording artist.

Do I Want to Be a Recording Artist?

A recording artist is a musician who records music in a studio. Recording artists may sing or play an instrument, and the recordings are transferred onto a CD or computer file. In addition to recording in studios, these artists will also perform on the road in front of an audience, promoting their music. Work in the recording industry is competitive and often just part-time. The need to constantly pursue leads for further work may be stressful.

Job Requirements

While there are no educational requirements to become a recording artist, enrolling in a music-related degree program may be beneficial. Recording artists often begin playing music at a young age with lessons and must be diligent at practicing their craft. The table below includes the requirements to become a recording artist from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Common Requirements
Degree Required None, though postsecondary training is helpful
Degree Field Music, music performance, composition, recording arts
Experience Experience performing music is required
Key Skills In addition to musical talent, recording artists need the discipline to practice and the perseverance to land gigs
Additional Skills Recording artists need to have strong communication skills and may need to network with agents and managers

Step 1: Study at a Young Age

According to the BLS, aspiring musicians often begin to gain familiarity with their craft at a young age. Adolescent musicians have a number of options open to them regardless of the type of music they want to record. For example, those drawn to musical instruments can begin practicing in grade school or junior high, while potential vocalists can sing in glee clubs or choirs.

Success Tips:

  • Take private lessons. Young musicians often develop their abilities through private lessons with experienced teachers. Lessons may be offered through local colleges, music stores or other private tutors.
  • Learn different musical styles. The BLS notes that, in general, a familiarity with a wide range of musical styles proves helpful in finding opportunities for work, and prospective recording artists can begin to develop this wide musical base in their youth.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Music

A number of colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in music. These programs allow students to hone their musical craft in a collegiate setting while giving them a solid background in music fundamentals, such as theory, composition and history. The National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) accredits music schools throughout the country and can assist interested parties in deciding which schools may best suit their needs.

Success Tip:

  • Gain exposure for your work. As with many artists, musicians must find an audience for their work in order to advance their career. For a prospective recording artist, specific ways to find that audience vary depending on music preference and skill. However, in general, playing in live settings such as clubs or theaters, as well as working on projects can attract positive attention.

Step 3: Find Career Opportunities

Once a musician has significant exposure, it should be easier to find higher-profile gigs. Professional musicians may also consider signing with talent agents or managers, who find work for their clients. However, competition for musical jobs is fierce, and recording artists may need to take steadier non-industry jobs for supplemental income.

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