The Arts is broad, covering anything from performance, to writing or creating, providing technical or administrative support or community arts and education. You may be a singer, actor or dancer (or all three!), a budding painter, sculptor, photographer, or express yourself through some other medium. Most artists already have a natural flair for their chosen field and study to perfect and strengthen their art in order to make a career out of their passion. If you’d prefer to work behind the scenes, you might work as a stage manager, producer, sound engineer or director.
Some drama or dance schools ask for A levels or Highers (such as a BTEC National Diploma in Performing Arts), although academic qualifications may not be essential if you show enough talent at audition. Some degrees can be more academic than practical, so make sure that the course content is right for you. NCDT-approved courses can give you the opportunity to ‘showcase’ in front of agents and casting directors and lead to full membership of Equity. You may be able to get funding for accredited courses through the Dance and Drama Award Scheme.
Musicians could take a full or part-time college or university course in popular music or music technology, although this is not essential. You will need a good level of musical ability and although it's not essential that you know how to read music, it can be an advantage, especially if you want to work as a session musician.
You could join an amateur, community or youth theatre, college and university drama societies or take part in drama festivals and competitions. There are also plenty of open mic nights or talent showcases that will give you an opportunity to get more experience of performing. When trying to break into the music business, you can approach record companies with a ‘demo’ CD or MP3 of your music (make it catch their ear within 30 seconds though – they get loads!). It’s now also essential for bands and solo artists to showcase their music on social networking sites and build up a following.
As a performer hours can be long and irregular with rehearsals and classes during the day and performances in the evening. You would need to practice and keep yourself fit even when not performing. Travel around the UK and overseas is common and you may need to spend long periods away from home if touring. In film and TV, days can be long and involve waiting around between scenes. Writers may write for long hours, or to meet deadlines.
You would often be freelance and be paid a fee for each contract or performance. The Independent Theatre Council (ITC) recommends that performers are paid at least £400 a week. Equity also recommends rates of pay for performers and other professionals. The majority of actors will make less than £30,000 a year from their profession and the earnings of many will be below £10,000. Freelance writers either negotiate a set fee for each piece of work or royalties.
Most performers sign up with an agent who will put you forward for auditions and castings but will take a fee of about 10-25 per cent from your earnings. You can also list your details in casting directories and look for audition notices and jobs in The Stage and other trade press although networking, word of mouth and contacts may also help to get work.