Paul Payan attended the Paris Conservatory from 1904–1906. There, he studied with Jacques Isnardon (opéra-comique), Léon Melchissédec (opera) and Auguste de Martini (singing). Albert Carré, Director of the Opéra-Comique, engaged Payan and he made his debut there on 6 September 1907 as the First Philosopher in Louise. His lengthy career at the Comique encompassed dozens of secondary roles including 16 creations. Less regularly, he appeared in important roles such as Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte), Lothario (Mignon), Vulcain (Philémon et Baucis), and Basilio (Il Barbiere di Siviglia). Payan also sang at many French prvincial opera houses where he had great success. His work outside of France included the Chicago Opera (1921–1922), the Colón (1924), and Covent Garden (1928–1929). His extensive discography includes acoustic recordings for French HMV, Aerophone, Perfectaphone, and Odeon; nine four-minute Edison cylinders; and 16 electric sides for French Odeon.