Musicians and Singers

Unit Group 5133

Skill Type: Occupations in Art, Culture, Recreation and Sport

Type of work

This unit group includes musicians, singers and teachers of vocal and instrumental music.

For the full and official description of this occupation according to the National Occupational Classification, visit the NOC site.

Examples of Occupational Titles

  • accompanist
  • church organist
  • guitar player
  • instrumentalist
  • musician
  • music teacher
  • opera singer
  • percussionist
  • recording artist
  • rock singer
  • singer
  • vocalist


Job prospects in this occupation are fair.

(Update: June 2015)

Over the last few years, the number of musicians and singers has increased significantly. This increase is attributable to the rise in consumer spending, the growing popularity of music and singing lessons, and the introduction of new modes of distribution. Noting a cap on this trend, it is expected that the number of musicians and singers will increase only slightly in the coming years.

Sources of employment

Job opportunities will result mainly from the relatively high turnover rate in this occupation. Although the positions for teachers and salaried musicians are quite stable, the number of musicians and singers who leave this occupation because of job insecurity is nevertheless high. Other jobs will also become available because of the need to replace musicians and singers who will be retiring and, to a far lesser extent, from employment increase.

Like many other occupations in the arts, multiple employment is common. In fact, many people hold a variety of jobs during quiet periods, and their income from activities in this occupation alone is often not enough to make ends meet. Finally, some musicians and singers will leave this occupation for other occupations in the arts, such as administrative positions, or to become producers (see 5131), arrangers, composers and conductors (see 5132), or managers in the performing arts (see 0512). People who have the right training can also access jobs as college instructors (see 4131) or university professors (see 4121). Note also that multiple employment is frequent within the occupation as well. For example, a salaried musician for an orchestra may also work as a freelance musician for receptions or shows, and teach music privately or at a school.

Labour pool

A number of jobs will be available for graduates of college music programs, and university programs in particular. For example, a university degree in music is usually essential for people applying as professional musicians for symphony orchestras, and is often required for teaching positions in music schools. Other jobs will be filled by experienced musicians and singers from the relatively high number of unemployed in this field, or by those holding temporary jobs until they land jobs or contracts as musicians or singers. Other positions will be filled by immigrants who meet the occupational requirements. In 2011, the percentage of immigrants in this occupation was similar to that observed in all occupations (13% compared with 14% according to National Household Survey data). Finally, some jobs will be filled by self-taught musicians and singers who may have taken private training that does not necessarily lead to a recognized diploma. An indication of this phenomenon is only 54% of the people in this occupation held a post-secondary degree in the visual and performing arts (including music and voice) in 2011, according to National Household Survey data.

As can be seen, this occupation attracts many candidates. It is an occupation that conveys a positive image while also providing creative satisfaction. Competition is nevertheless fierce, and can be seen in many different aspects. For example, according to 2011 National Household Survey data, approximately 46% of all musicians and singers earned an employment income of less than $10,000 in 2010, a proportion that is three times higher as that for all occupations (15%), despite a much higher level of schooling.

The labour market situation for graduates of college and university programs also reveals the high degree of competition in this occupation. According to the provincial government Relance survey, most graduates with a diploma of collegial studies (DEC) in professionnal music and song techniques usually decide to continue their university education. The small minority who find education-related jobs must get by on a salary that is much lower than the average salary of graduates of technical programs. In fact, this training appears to be used more as a way to access university music programs than to access jobs as musicians and singers. Despite these misleading results, the number of new students in this program increased by appriximately 75% between 2000-2001 and 2006-2007, going from approximately 160 to 280, before declining gradually to 210 in 2013-2014.

According to the same survey, the labour market situation for university graduates in music is better, but is still not as bright as the situation for the average university graduate, with respect to both the education-related job placement rate and salary. Moreover, a high proportion of these related jobs are in instructing or teaching positions. This observation is not very surprising since this program allows students to obtain a teaching license.


According to National Household Survey data, in 2011 approximately 53% of musicians and singers worked in the performing arts, spectator sports and related industries, divided in performing arts companies (37%) and independent performers (14%). About 30% of them worked in fine arts schools, including voice and music teachers, own account.


The pattern of employment in this occupation depends on trends that influence performing arts, spectator sports and related industries, the number of performances of music and French song, voice and music teaching and technological change.

Performing arts

Until 2005, employment in this occupation benefited from the growth in consumer spending in the recreation sector. The share of consumer spending in recreation (after taxation) rose from 5.4% in 1982 to 8.3% in 2005, then edged down to 6.6% in 2013. A large portion of this spending has helped employment in the performing arts industries. Note that this is the largest occupation in this industry. According to 2011 National Household Survey data, almost 15% of the jobs in this industry were held by musicians and singers.

Despite the growing competition from different types of home entertainment (video games, proliferation of specialty channels, videos, etc), the performing arts industry has seen definite growth over the last few years. The huge popularity of the many festivals held in Quebec has definitely contributed to this rise. This trend is expected to continue in the next few years.

Performances of music and French song

According to a study on the performing arts in 1989-1990, 1993-1994 and 1997-1998 conducted by the Quebec Department of Culture and Communications, the number of performances of music and French songs and has increased slightly during this period. More recent data from the Institut de la statistique du Québec indicated that this trend continued from this period to 2007, but was reversed between 2007 and 2011 with a significant decrease, before rising between 2011 and 2013. If the assistance of live music was almost maintained during this period, attending live performances of French songs has declined by close to 25% from its peak in 2006 and 2012. However, musicians and singers in Quebec face fierce competition from foreign artists in this area and in record sales

Voice and music teaching

If there was no growth in the number of concerts in the last few years, there has been a very clear increase in the number of musicians and singers who teach, according to Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey data. Thus, the proportion of them working mainly in the education sector increased from about 30% at the beginning of the century about 50% from 2010 to 2014. These teaching jobs include positions in music schools, as well as musicians and singers who give private lessons, but not positions as music and voice teachers with school boards, CEGEPs and universities (see 4141, 4131 and 4121, respectively). This trend in the education sector should continue to benefit musicians and singers over the next few years.

Technological change

The use of electronic means to produce music tends to decrease the demand for both studio and live musicians. The decreased demand for studio musicians is explained primarily by the digitalization of music; the increasing use of synthesizers and pre-recorded music is the main reason for the decline in demand for live musicians.

Distribution of music over the Internet

The growing distribution of music over the Internet has opposing effects. On the one hand, it is more difficult to collect royalties, historically the main source of income for musicians and singers. This is a growing medium, and that growth has caused sales of recordings on physical media (CDs, cassettes, vinyl records and videos) to plummet, yet there is no offsetting growth in the sale of digital albums. According to data from the Institut de la statistique du Québec, the number of digital recordings sold was about 25 times higher in 2014 than in 2005, whereas the number of recordings on physical media was down more than 55%. The total number of albums on physical media and digital album equivalents (in our calculations, 10 unit sales constitute one album equivalent) decreased more than 30% during the period.

Meanwhile, distribution of music over the Internet makes albums - especially albums by new artists - far more accessible. Many artists now rely more on tour revenue and especially sales of tour merchandise (t-shirts, caps, etc.) than on sales of CDs and digital recordings to pursue their craft. However, it is difficult to provide an accurate evaluation of the long-term impact of these opposing trends.

Considering all these factors, the number of musicians and singers is expected to increase only slightly over the next few years.

Employment characteristics

Since many musicians and singers must hold several jobs at once to make ends meet, it should be noted that the "Characteristics" section of the "Statistics" figures cover only persons who worked mainly as musicians or singers in the 2011 National Household Survey week or during the reference weeks of the (monthly) Labour Force Survey (LFS). They do not pertain to the many musicians and singers who worked in other occupations at this time. The data for these people are included in the occupations that they held at the time.

In addition, the data on annual employment income ($24,059) covers only the 21% of the people in this occupation who worked full-time and full-year in 2010. The average employment income of those who did not work full-time and full-year came to $14,770. Note that this income includes amounts earned from jobs in other occupations in the year before the National Household Survey. Furthermore, they are often paid fees, which makes them ineligible for employment insurance benefits when they are not working. Moreover, more than half (58%) of musicians and singers were self-employed in 2011, a proportion that is five times higher than for all occupations (11%).

Another indication of the job instability in this occupation is that approximately 56% of musicians and singers worked mainly part-time in 2010 compared with 19% for all occupations. Also, women held approximately 38% of the jobs in this occupation in 2011, a proportion that has declined slightly since 1991 (43%). Among salaried teachers, some seasonal unemployment exists from June to August. Thus, the number of employment insurance claimants is between four and ten times higher in August than between September and May.

Education and Training

To enter this occupation, music training at the college or university level or private lessons is a major asset. The Diploma of College Studies (DEC) in Professional Music and Song Techniques and especially a bachelor's or master's degree in music are the most applicable training programs.

Professional classical musicians and singers usually require a university degree in music. This degree is often also required for teachers at music schools.

Musical talent and ability, as demonstrated during an audition, are important hiring criteria, and can in some cases compensate for academic training..

Useful References

Important Considerations

It is expected that the number of musicians and singers should increase only slightly in the coming years.

This occupation attracts a large number of candidates. Consequently, many musicians and singers must get by on a very modest income and hold more than one job to make ends meet.

Statistics 5133 - Musicians and Singers

Main Labour Market Indicators

In the following table, indicators such as the growth rate, yearly variation in employment, yearly attrition and total annual requirements are forecasts generated by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source for employment is Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey. The volumes of unemployment insurance beneficiaries come from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)’s administrative data. All of the data are rounded.

  Unit Group 5133 All occupations
Employment, average 2011-2013 7,550 3,990,050
Employment Insurance claimants in 2013 10 80,700
Average Annual Growth Rate 2014-2018 0.4% 0.7%
Annual Employment Variation 2014-2018 30 26,500
Annual Attrition 2014-2018 150 74,300
Total Annual Needs 2014-2018 180 100,800

Employment Distribution

The data from the following employment distribution tables come from Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

  Unit Group 5133 All occupations
Employment by Gender
Males 61.9% 51.9%
Females 38.1% 48.1%
Employment by Age
15 - 24 years 13.3% 13.3%
25 - 44 years 50.2% 42.7%
45 - 64 years 32.7% 41.1%
65 years and over 3.8% 2.8%
Employment by Status
Full-time 43.9% 81.2%
Part-time 56.1% 18.8%
Employment by Annual Income
Full-time, full-year 21.4% 54.8%
Annual Average Income $24,100 $50,300
$0 - $19,999 64.2% 13.3%
$20,000 - $49,999 28.8% 48.0%
$50,000 and over 7.0% 38.8%
Employment by Highest Level of Schooling
Less than high-school 4.1% 12.1%
High-school 18.0% 20.3%
Post-secondary 30.0% 44.2%
Bachelors 47.9% 23.4%
Others Employment Distribution
Self-employment 58.2% 10.7%
Immigration 13.2% 13.7%
Employment by Region
Region Unit Group 5133 All occupations
Abitibi-Témiscamingue 0.2% 1.8%
Bas-Saint-Laurent 1.6% 2.3%
Capitale-Nationale 10.5% 9.4%
Centre-du-Québec 2.3% 2.9%
Chaudière-Appalaches 1.8% 5.5%
Côte-Nord / Nord-du-Québec 0.2% 1.6%
Estrie 2.8% 3.8%
Gaspésie–îles-de-la-Madeleine 0.9% 0.9%
Lanaudière 4.2% 6.1%
Laurentides 6.1% 7.3%
Laval 3.7% 5.2%
Mauricie 1.7% 3.0%
Montérégie 11.8% 19.2%
Montréal 47.2% 22.9%
Outaouais 3.9% 4.9%
Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean 1.2% 3.3%

Main Sectors of Employment

The data of the following table were prepared by economists from Service Canada, Quebec region. The data source is Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

Sector Unit Group 5133
Independent Artists, Writers and Performers, and Performing Arts Companies 52.6%
Other Schools and Instruction (Music and Singing Schools included) 30.9%