Professional Musician Careers: Average Musician Salary

Name: Stefano Capobianco
Job Title: Musician (Singer/Songwriter/Producer)
Where: Los Angeles, CA
Employer: Self-Employed (
Years of Experience: 18
Education: Bachelor of Arts
Salary: $50K (See PayScale’s Research Center for the average musician salary by years of experience)

Professional Musician Careers: Average Musician Salary

Since a musician’s salary can vary as much as music itself, the average musician salary may seem elusive. During our interview with professional musician Stefano Capobianco, we learned that the average musician salary is shaped by many factors, including the size of venues that one plays, types of music (covers or original) and income earned from TV or films. We asked this veteran player about his professional musician career and musical influences, the average musician salary, educational requirements for a musician, what advice he has for anyone interested in professional musician careers, and that all important question: why musicians get the girls.

Many people dream about being rockstars, but professional musician careers require hard work. If you’re wondering how to make your dreams come true, whether you just finished your first guitar lesson or you’re about to take your band on the road, don’t miss this success story about one professional musician career.

Musician Job Description:

I am a working guitarist, songwriter, singer and producer. I play guitar for anyone who needs a guitarist on an original project, live or studio session, or for touring artists. I write, sing and perform my own music which I also license for television and film. I also record and produce other artists at my own studio.

Can you describe the steps in your professional musician career?

I was originally inspired by Kiss to be a drummer. I signed up in 3rd grade and realized quickly that you don’t get to play a drum kit immediately, so I quit. I also had a cousin who would play piano at the house during parties and everyone would sing songs like Moon River. His name was Al Bundy, for real. He showed me my first tunes on piano. A few years later I wanted to take up the guitar, so I started teaching myself some stuff but then realized I needed to take lessons. I took guitar lessons until I was seventeen, and fiddled around with other guitar players learning stuff from them and trading licks and things we had learned.

Soon, I started trying to put bands together, hooking up with local musicians and developing band leader skills. As the guitarist, it always fell to me to pick the songs, teach them to the band and then sing. There was a band in High School, but they already had two guitar players and so I offered to be the lead singer and “occasional” 3rd guitar player. We experimented and learned how to write songs and played a lot of covers so we could play parties. Once we had enough original songs, I booked our first original show. From there, I started writing and developing my own songs.

At this point it was the end of high school and I thought, “Well, why not go to a music college or study music.” I went to a local college and took courses while trying to figure out what to do next. I fell into a couple of situations. One was playing covers in bars for money and the other was starting an original band. One thing led to another and the next thing you know I’m playing in clubs every night, sometimes for money (with covers) and sometimes originals for nothing. I began to support myself solely as a musician.

What do you enjoy about your musician career?

There’s a freedom in being able to follow my own muse. For the most part I am able to take jobs that I want to take, and say “no” to others. Sometimes you just take a gig for the money. Sometimes you can do one just for the fun of it, but having the ability to call my own shots would be one of the greatest perks. Playing with a lot of other really good musicians is probably the most rewarding part of it all.

When you are really all together on the same page, it is absolutely heaven; it’s a shame that it has to end on any given song. When you’re all really grooving and the audience is with you, there is nothing more satisfying then playing a great song and the band knows it, and the audience responds with a roar. The sharing of musical ideas and moments on stage with three, or four other guys, is like a mental ESP. That is sometimes hilariously amusing.

During your professional musician career, have there been any memorable moments?

Memorable things always happen. I can remember the first time my cousin Al Bundy, the piano player, came to see me perform. He played at a venue in Greenwich Village NYC. I had gotten a gig around the corner when I was in college. He came around to see me after his gig. It made him very proud to see that he had had an influence on me and my career. It was really a touching moment because through his pride I could acknowledge for the first time how much he had inspired me and I hadn’t realized it yet.

Why do girls like musicians so much? Has your musician career helped your love life?

Yes and no! Sometimes it is really quite an aphrodisiac. Some women just get turned on completely watching us up there. There must be something about the way we are grooving, we have a power to get girls on their feet moving. Other times it can be a deterrent, because apparently a lot of women have had bad experiences dating musicians, so as soon as you say you’re a musician, it’s like a repellent: “Oh, a musician, stop being a dreamer,” or “Great, do you even have a car or a job?” Or, “You must be lazy.”

I think it goes back to the freedom part. When you live your life on your own terms, sometimes women don’t like not being able to control their man. With a lot of artists, writers and musicians, the music comes first, the ladies come second. On the other hand, I have seen some of the ugliest guys get hot girls, just through sheer attitude. You know what you’re doing and people really wish they could do it, so they are attracted to the power, or prowess; and lest we forget the bad boy image that comes with being a musician.

What is the average musician salary?

For an average person playing in cover bands and or wedding bands as a player you can make anywhere from $50 to $1000 a night depending on what kind of gig it is; a local songwriter playing for a few fans, if the budget is tight, $50, $100, $250, depending on the artist. Is it at a resort, beach bar, nightclub, New York, Miami or Venice? It really all depends, maybe it’s $250 night. A wedding band or corporate gig could be $2500.

If you’re nobody playing in Hollywood, it is completely up to you to bring in a crowd. This means if I get 100 people to come, and the cover is $10 and the club takes $6, I get $4. If I’m Aerosmith and I can get 30,000 people and the tickets are $100, who knows what the percentage is for the promoter, but even if they only get half, it would be $1.5 million. So there’s a huge pay range depending on how successful you are at getting people to notice you.

How much can licensing songs to TV/movies affect the average musician salary?

There is a lot of money in this. The best thing to do is to try and have as many income streams as possible to continue to have the freedom you want. So overall you easily could make a living 25,000 to 50,000 or more a year, depending on how many streams of income you can generate.

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