Chances are, if you’ve clicked on this article, you already have an interest in singing. Maybe your idea of a fun Friday night almost always includes a karaoke party (even if it’s just you and backing tracks you find on YouTube). Or maybe your friends and family members have pointed out that you have a talent for singing and should consider pursuing it as a career.
No matter how little experience you have with singing, it’s possible to train yourself as a singer and make a living from it. There are countless jobs for singers, and no, they don’t all require you to be Adele and sell out world stages. Many are much more attainable, quite lucrative, and most importantly, tons of fun.
If you’re ready to become a singer and turn your passion into a career, read on to discover how to get the necessary training, what kinds of jobs are out there, and how to go about getting them.
Learn to Sing
The first step in starting a career as a singer is learning how to sing. You may already have a knack for singing—you have a beautiful voice and can hold a tune—but it’s still important to nurture your natural talent and prepare your voice for all the work it will be doing.
To learn how to sing, consider taking singing classes, either in person with a voice teacher, or by watching online classes on your own. You’ll also need to dedicate time to practicing what you’ve learned, as well as performing in public.
Take Singing Classes
Even experienced and accomplished singers take singing lessons to improve their technique and take care of their voice. It’s not enough to simply hold a tune—you also need to learn how to warm up your voice properly, how to breathe during singing, how to expand your vocal range, and how to support your voice.
Most importantly, you need to recognize that there’s a healthy and an unhealthy way to sing. Many singers who never learned proper technique put undue pressure and stress on their vocal chords. After years of singing this way—even if they sound great doing it—they end up with damaged vocal chords or even a complete loss of their voice.
The saying “practice makes perfect” could not be more applicable when it comes to singing. Try setting aside an hour every day to practice, and you’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make in just a few weeks or months.
Whenever you practice, be sure to start with a warm-up. Dedicate time to practicing toward specific goals, such as singing a high note or singing a particular riff. Don’t forget to also spend some time singing your favorite songs just for fun—what’s the point in practicing anything if you don’t enjoy it, right?
When you get to a place where you’re ready to take on a new challenge, listen to your favorite singers for inspiration. Ariana Grande says she learned how to sing simply by imitating her idols, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. That being said, practicing should also be about developing your own style, so while it’s great to try new techniques you hear from someone else, the goal isn’t to sound just like them.
A career as a singer involves performing for other people, so if you’re not already comfortable with that, it’s a skill you need to develop. You may sound amazing at home, but you won’t be able to recreate that sound on the stage if you freeze at the sight of an audience.
Before you start taking on paid jobs as a singer, see if you can practice performing at local open mics and small events. They’ll help you grow your confidence, find your performance style, and get comfortable using professional audio equipment.
How to Be a Singer
Taking singing lessons, practicing, and performing doesn’t really ever end for singers—you need to regularly do all three to keep yourself and your voice in shape. However, at some point, you may be ready to start taking on paid jobs. How you go about doing this will depend largely on what kind of job you’re looking for. Some may be posted on job boards or social media, while others will simply require you to network and keep your eyes open for opportunities.
Singers also tend to do a few different jobs at the same time. They may teach a class in the morning, record something in the studio in the evening, and perform at a wedding on the weekend. Truly full-time jobs are highly competitive, but many singers make a decent living juggling a few different gigs.
Do I Need Formal Education?
If you’re looking to be an opera or classical singer, then yes, a bachelor’s degree in music is a requirement. If you’re looking to get into musical theater, a degree is highly recommended. However, for any other jobs, it’s usually your skills and experience that will help you land the gig.
How Much Does a Singer Make?
There’s really no typical singer salary. Some singers make a few hundred dollars a week, while others earn thousands just for one performance. How much you earn depends on many factors, such as the type of work you do, how much you work, and how in-demand your performances are.
Essentially, singing for a living is like running a business. When you market yourself well and take advantage of the right opportunities, there’s no limit to how much you can earn.
Most of the jobs available to signers are contract-based, meaning you may only be needed for one performance or one night a week for a set period of time. While some jobs may be posted for the public, most of them will be advertised within very small networks, so get ready to make lots of friends in the industry. Once you establish yourself as a singer and word gets around about what you can offer, it will get easier and easier to land new opportunities.
Now, let’s take a look at what kinds of jobs are available to professional singers.
Special Events Singer
Many private events hire musicians and singers to provide entertainment for their guests. This includes things like weddings, corporate events, and parties. Event planners typically look for complete bands with members who play various instruments and 1-3 singers. If you’re interested in taking this route, it would help to associate yourself with a band or even a few different ones. Get ready to sing a lot of cover songs and maybe even take requests from the audience.
You can also offer services as a singagram—a singing telegram. Essentially, you’d be hired to surprise someone with a special song, sometimes dressed in character. It’s a fun and easy gig, but it can pay quite well.
Venues like bars, pubs, restaurants, clubs, and hotel lounges often have live music to entertain their guests. Once again, it would help greatly to connect with other musicians and perform as part of a band. That being said, many venues are quite small and intimate, so they actually prefer to have solo acts with an acoustic set. If you play guitar or piano, you could easily perform at a venue like this.
Venue gigs provide a little more stability, since they often require you to enter into some sort of agreement (for example, performing every Friday night for the next six months). They also sometimes pay a percentage of the money they make that night through selling food and drinks, so if people come to the venue just to see you play, it definitely pays off.
Singing on a cruise ship also falls under this category. If you can land a job like this, you’ll get to travel the world while doing something you love and getting free food and accommodation.
Becoming an opera singer takes years of education, training, and practice. You have to be committed to this career path and slowly work your way up, starting with apprenticeship and small roles that don’t pay very much. It’s also a very competitive field, so get ready to do a lot of auditioning.
Musical Theater Singer
Getting jobs in musical theater is all about starting small and working your way up. You can get an agent to help you book auditions, though some shows allow any member of the public to audition. If you’re serious about performing musical theater, it’s essential to learn dancing and acting in addition to singing.
A less competitive option might be to pursue character acting, such as playing the role of a Disney princess at Disneyland or local birthday parties. It’s fun and an absolute delight for little kids.
When people think of singers, they usually think of original artists, who write, record, and sell their own music. The artist journey is a long one and requires a substantial investment of time, energy, and money. While there are thousands of original artists out there, not everyone can make a decent living from this alone. In fact, many supplement their income with other types of singing and music related jobs while working on their original music in the background.
Backup singers support bigger acts by providing background vocals during live performances. It’s a great way to get into the music industry, meet accomplished artists, and perform for large audiences. Some backup singers start their careers this way and go on to become lead performers themselves.
Session singers are hired to record vocals on a project-by-project basis. This can be to help record a demo, background vocals, a song for a movie or TV show, a commercial, or a radio jingle. To be a successful session singer, you have to be willing to follow someone else’s creative vision and sing in a variety of styles and genres.
Once you’ve mastered proper singing technique and gained plenty of experience in the industry, you can teach others how to sing. You can do this by opening your own private practice or working at a music school. If you work privately, you can even offer lessons remotely via online video calls.
Start Singing Today
A career as a singer can take some time to get off the ground. Why not start as soon as you can? Dedicate some time to watching online classes and practicing.
At the same time, think about what kinds of jobs you would eventually like to do and see if you can start networking and building the relationships that will help get you there. If you see yourself becoming an original artist one day, it’s never too early to start developing your sound and building your audience.
Best of luck with your singing career!
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