How Much Money Does a Guitarist Make?

by Wanda Thibodeaux; Updated September 26, 2017
.| Outdoor |.

Love of music and just that desire to be in a band are the usual reasons for wanting to become a guitarist. That's a good thing, too, because anyone in it for the money should know that it takes years of practice to become a serious, paid musician. However, there is virtually no limit to the amount you can make, as the most popular guitarists make many millions per year.

Gig to Gig Arrangements

The Bureau of Labor Statistics places guitarists in the general "Musicians and Singers" category. In 2012, their average hourly pay was $23.50. Annual salaries are unavailable from the BLS because guitarists and other musicians generally work gig to gig, with jobs having inconsistent rates and availability. The jobs website Indeed, however, estimates that the average annual pay for a guitarist was $43,000 in July 2014.

Fame and Fortune

Some guitarists concentrate on live performances, playing solo or with a band or other ensemble. These guitarists may earn up to $800 per night in a venue such as a bar, according to David J. Hahn of the Musician Wages website. Rates of $100 per night are more common. If you are just starting out as a guitarist, it's not unusual to arrange no-pay gigs to build your fan base and establish a reputation. Starting guitarists sometimes even lose money when starting out, as they may have peripheral expenses such as amplifiers to cover. However, if you are fortunate to hit it big, you can earn tens of millions of dollars per year. According to "Forbes," in 2011, U2's guitarist, Edge, was the highest paid, with his share of the band's $195 million earnings.

Teaching in High School

Some guitarists prefer to teach guitar technique to other people, as the concert and tour lifestyle does not appeal to all professional musicians. Private guitar teachers may make anywhere from $18 to $150 per hour, depending on their skill level. In a school system, high school guitar teachers made an average annual salary of $55,050.

Other Sources of Income

Some guitarists earn additional income from the sale of sheet music, recordings and memorabilia such as T-shirts. Additionally, guitarists often are able to play other plucked stringed instruments such as the ukelele or banjo. They may give additional performances or lessons on those instruments. Guitarists usually stick with one or two genres, particularly if they are members of a band, but they may have more gig options if they are versatile enough to switch between many different musical styles. Guitarists also may combine income sources, teaching during the day and doing concerts during the evening.

About the Author

Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.

Photo Credits

  • Rodolfo Goulart sabatino/Hemera/Getty Images