Become a Rap Artist: Training & Career Info

Ever fantasized about moving a crowd with a microphone? Here you can learn what it takes to become a rapper, from the training to the key skills and the salary. Schools offering Ethnomusicology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Rappers meld poetry with melodies and beats to create auditory works of art. Some do it to bring attention to social causes while others do it to make everyone in the room dance. Take a look at the chart below for a brief overview of rapping as a career.

Training Recommended Practice, performance
Key Skills Musical talent, discipline, self-promotion
Job Growth (2016-2026) 6% (for all musicians and singers)*
Median Pay (2017) $26.96 per hour (for all musicians and singers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Rappers Do?

Rappers take complex musical beats and use them as a bed for linguistic acrobatics and self expression. Some tour the world and perform their music to hundreds of thousands of people in stadiums, while others work locally in smaller clubs. Like the troubadours and folk singers of the past, rappers can sometimes be the voice of their generation, directing and influencing trends in music, fashion and even culture as a whole.

How Do You Become a Professional Rapper?

Making it as a rap artist can be tough. You need talent, work ethic and an entrepreneurial spirit. Thankfully, the internet has democratized the industry to a degree. Artists can create music on their laptops, upload it online and sell it, using social media to market themselves. Educating yourself about the music industry, creating small, achievable goals and producing content regularly are ways to increase your chances of success.

How Much Can You Make as a Rapper?

Coming up with a figure for how much rappers make is difficult. Some artists struggle to make any money, while some have turned it into a multi-million dollar career. According to Forbes, the biggest rappers in the game brought in an average of $44 million in 2018 thanks to touring, endorsements and investments. Artist Jay-Z earned the most in 2018 at $76.5 million, with rappers Diddy and Kendrick Lamar taking the second and third spots, respectively.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't provide a median salary for rappers but the BLS did post the median salary of all musicians and singers in May 2017 -- $29.96 per hour.

What Skills Do You Need to Rap?

Rappers usually have musical talent and an instinct for what sounds good and what doesn't. This instinct can be honed by years of listening to the genre and experimenting with different things. Rappers must also be proficient writers and develop diverse vocabularies. They must understand how to create lines that not only rhyme but also match the beat and work together syllabically (though not all rap songs have to rhyme).

Aside from musical ability, rappers often have skills in self-promotion and performance. As a rapper, you are your own one-person business -- you may have to hustle to get gigs, get your name out there and find ways to sell your music.

What's the Outlook for Rapping as a Career?

There aren't numbers out there for the rise or fall of rap as a profession over the coming years. However, the BLS reports the job outlook (percent increase in employment) for all singers and musicians will be 6% between 2016 and 2026, which is about the same as the average for all occupations in the U.S.

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