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Wouldn’t it be great to earn a living doing something you love?
Singing careers may feel a little out of reach to most people.
You may think it’s hard to become a great singer. You may think it’s hard to get a singer job.
Truth is, you’d be right. It is hard.
But, learning to walk was hard. But not impossible.
Getting a singing career may be tough. But, it too, is far from impossible. Only 1% of the population is tone deaf. For everyone else, becoming a fantastic singer is just a matter of training.
And, earning a living singing? That, is easier than the training to sing part. It certainly takes less time to achieve.
If you can already sing well, this article will help you understand the sheer number of options open to you when pursuing a singing career.
For those still learning to sing, this article should encourage you that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
What is a professional singer career?
Simply, any work where you make the majority of your income from singing.
If you think the only people making a living singing are the big stars or people you see on TV, think again.
There are a lot of options to get paid to sing. I should know, I haven’t needed a “regular job” since 2007.
That said, singing for a living is definitely still a “job”. In fact it can be damn hard work. The competition can also be intense. But, if you love to sing, it’s a very rewarding career.
For a straightforward singer career, you could get a full time singer job in a hotel or on a cruise ship.
But, being a professional singer is often about tenacity. Being self employed and having your finger in many pies can also yield a well paid, interesting singing career.
Rather than one job, you could have a simultaneous mixture:
- Perform at weddings on Saturday nights
- Teach singing during weekday nights.
- Sell original music through a publishing deal
- Sell your album online
- Do sing-along kid’s parties on weekday afternoons
- Sing at festivals on sunday afternoons
Once you add up all those income streams, you may be earning a lot more than you would working in an office and it will be a lot more fun too.
The best thing is, you can choose how you try to earn money. If you hate teaching, skip that and get a few club/lounge gigs on weekday evenings instead.
The opportunities are almost limitless.
What Is a Typical Professional Singer Salary?
The short answer is, there is no typical professional singer salary. How much do you personally need to earn to live well? Aim for that salary.
From making $10 a day busking to earning thousands of dollars for a short performance at an important event. You could earn anything as a singer.
Ultimately, earning a living as a singer is about business. You have to be able to sing, of course – well, generally, though some famous singers are technically awful. But, the limit on your earnings has a lot more to do with how you make the most of opportunities rather than simply talent.
Singing careers / Singer Jobs / Paid Singing Jobs
The music industry is notoriously about “who you know”. If you are new to the industry it can be daunting. You may work for free. You might take months to make the right contacts to get paid work.
So, is there a fast-track?
The quickest route is to focus on less competitive jobs first. Rather than trying to be a session singer from day one, apply to sing with a band or in a lounge or club. Being fun and easy to work with will get you invited back for more gigs. Bands will often choose a slightly inferior singer over someone who is demanding and acts like a diva.
As you gain experience, you’ll also make more contacts. Moreover, you’ll have fun doing it and get paid too. Then you can branch out towards whatever area of the industry interests you the most.
There are so many ways to make money from singing. Below are all of the typical options but you are only limited by your imagination.
Cover Singer Jobs
Singing covers means singing other people’s songs. There is quite a high demand for talented singers to perform cover songs. Here are the main types of jobs where you can earn a living singing covers.
Wedding / Party Singer
Performing at private events can be quite lucrative. It can also be a lot of fun.
Your typical role is to perform cover songs in the style requested by the client. Either as part of a band, duo or as a solo singer. Enthusiasm is essential as is a good repertoire.
There are two ways to get into this job. Apply to join an already working group or start your own and build your reputation.
A combination of both of these options can be good too. Some bands are happy to share around singers, others are not. Just make sure you are up-front from the start if you are exclusive or not.
Private hire singers can charge anything from $100 a night to many thousands of dollars depending on the sort of event and the quality / popularity of your service.
Lounge Singer Jobs / Club Singer Jobs
Public and private venues often have entertainment. Some will have a resident singer who may perform from 1 to 7 nights per week. Others will hire singers / bands on rotation. It’s possible to fill your calendar with dates from multiple venues and sustain an income.
Depending on the quality of the venue, anything from $50 to $500 per performer per night is typical.
Some venues ask performers to put down a deposit and then payment is based on the amount of people through the door. These sorts of venues depend on artists bringing a troop of fans. If you don’t have a loyal following, avoid these venues.
Cruise Ship Singer Jobs
A singing career on the high seas can be a great way to get paid for singing whilst also seeing the world and having free food and accommodation.
Many of the jobs available on land are also available on cruise ships:
- You may join the cast of the production shows.
- You may be a lounge singer.
- You may perform as part of a show band.
- You may be a utility singer, switching roles to cover in multiple areas.
- You may sing as part of the entertainment staff – who work various duties, not just singing.
- You may be hired as a guest entertainer. This means you’ll head your own specialist show and possibly be moved from ship to ship rather than being resident.
Income varies. From $50 per day for a lounge singer on a budget cruise line to thousands of dollars per show for an established guest entertainer. You may be singing anything from a few hours per week up to 4 or 5 hours per day depending on the sort of job.
International Event Jobs
One off events such as product launches and big corporate parties. The same sort of events that occur at home also occur in countries abroad and they want a high quality, home grown singer or band to fly out and perform.
Often these gigs will be in countries where English is not the first language and the local singer pool is not of the quality needed to impress English speaking clients. Sometimes it is simply a matter of prestige to fly a band out from home.
One off events will typically involve one performance, all expenses paid and a lump sum payment of $500 per performer or more.
It’s important to negotiate a contract in advance. Be very cautious of bookings where you are asked to pay for your own flights
International Singer Residency Jobs
Just like lounge and club gigs at home. Many international venues, especially 5 star hotels, want international singers and bands to provide high quality entertainment for clients.
These jobs could involve staying at the hotel or in provided accommodation locally. They may involve working the same lounge for many months, or performing in multiple venues over a contract period.
Many venues, not just hotels, want international bands.
Typically flights, accommodation and food are included in the deal. Pay ranges from $50 a day and up, though some low quality venues are looking to pay much less.
A karaoke host will sing some songs but will also be responsible for encouraging others to come and sing, taking sign ups and managing the night.
Often you will have your own equipment and move from venue to venue over the course of a week. As well as public venues and bars you can promote yourself for corporate parties and other private events. $200 to $2,000 per event is possible.
Tribute Band Singer Jobs
You perform in full costume as a famous singer. Tributes are very popular, especially for bands that no longer perform like Abba, The Beatles and many more.
Aside from one off private events, tributes can find regular work touring tailor made venues and festivals. They can command higher fees than a regular cover band because of their specialisation, stage show and costumes.
A lot of singers perform as a famous solo artist, or as part of a duo, using backing tracks.
Entertainment Staff – Cruise / Holiday Camps
Working as entertainment staff is not a dedicated singing job. Holiday camps, cruise ships and other holiday venues often employ a one-size-fits all entertainment manager or staff. They’ll be responsible for organising fun events as well as other tasks like singing in shows, hosting karaoke and socialising with guests.
It may not be a conventional singing job, but it can be a good starting point to get experience which can then lead to just singing for a living.
Is this really a job? The “where are they now” list of TV singing competition competitors does not have a lot of people in the Rich & Famous category.
Sure, if you make it to the top 10 of a big competition you’ll probably get some work. If you win or are the biggest star of a show, you may even do really well.
Should you rely on x-factor as your way to become gainfully employed? Nope.
Original Music Jobs
Original music jobs can involve any job where you get paid working with original songs – Whether you write them or they are written by someone else.
Original Artist / Band
There are thousands of bands and singers writing songs, performing all over the world and barely making enough profit to pay for dinner. It’s a tough job. For those lucky few who break through, you could end up making a living. You could even end up super rich.
Some artists now prefer to sell all their own albums online. Doing there own promotion and bypassing the pitfalls of a record company deal. If you can sell 10 albums a day online you can make a comfortable living. You won’t be lounging by the pool in your multi-million dollar mansion but you’ll be doing ok.
If you do well online, you may be able to negotiate a good record company deal, like the arctic monkeys did.
How many albums do you need to sell to make a living (infographic).
Solo Singer / Songwriter
Similar to an original artist. But, your focus may be on writing and then selling your songs, rather than promoting yourself as the artist.
Opportunities include writing music for corporations and small companies, movies, TV, radio jingles or even becoming a resident songwriter for a record company (not an easy job to get!).
You can remain freelance but many successful songwriters will look to get a publishing deal or agent to keep track of their money and find them new work opportunities.
Music Publishing Jobs
As a singer songwriter you may try to directly sell or perform your songs or get a record contract. Another option is to get a publishing deal. Your publisher will promote your songs, maybe to computer games or movies, for example. Or other artists may re-record your songs and you’ll collect the money. Your publisher will collect royalties on your behalf.
The benefit of having a publisher is that they are very well connected and are likely to have the right contacts to get you paid. They will take a commission.
Your earnings will be based entirely on the deal you strike with the publisher and how much material you get published.
Classical and Music Theatre Singing Jobs
This section covers jobs that are specifically outside of the mainstream pop industry. That is not to say that jobs mentioned above like songwriting and music publishing could not also be applied in this section. Why not write your own musical?
Broadway in New York. The West End in London. It’s a dream for many to star in a hit musical. But, you don’t have to be the star to make a living. There are plenty of supporting roles, working in the chorus, touring companies and smaller productions that still pay.
If you ever want to hit the big time then local amateur (non paid) or semi professional (possibly pay for lead role) shows are one way to get your foot in the door. Proper vocal and dance training is normally essential to move up to the better paying jobs.
Jobs are often offered after an audition process. Some shows offer ‘cattle call’ auditions, where auditioning is open to the general public (you usually will need to register for a audition time), or more regularly they hold closed auditions. Closed auditions are by invitation only and you will need to be signed up to a talent agent, with the right connections, in order to secure an audition.
Theme Park Character Actor / Singer
Always loved singing along to your favourite Disney movie? Then perhaps you could consider becoming a character actor. One of the main prerequisite is that you have some similar features to the character you are auditioning for – but this is not always essential.
Jobs like these can take you to many exciting destinations like Tokyo, Singapore, Paris, Australia or the United States. And you can add big time companies like Universal Studios and Disney to your CV.
Keep an eye on the careers section of the companies website or signup to get alerts when the casting agents are coming to a town near you.
Choirs are not just for 10 year old boys. Gospel choirs, modern jazz choirs. Only the top ones make good money. But, if you love the idea of being part of a group, it’s worth looking into possibilities.
Opera Singer jobs
Top opera singers can earn over $100,000 per year. Entry level earning might be less than $20,000 per year. It’s a super competitive industry with far less jobs than pop music.
A serious amount of training and years of practice are usually essential for opera singer jobs. Working your way up, getting lucky breaks. It’s serious commitment and often from a young age too.
Read more about the life and earnings of an opera singer.
Join an Independent Travelling Show
Fancy running away with the circus? Joining a troupe of other artists and singers? Putting together your own show? Some jobs may have a fixed pay, others may be paid based on ticket sales.
You may end up living off tinned beans and sleeping in a caravan. You may also have a lot of fun and gain valuable experience.
Other Singer Jobs
Lots of other singer jobs that don’t specifically fit in the categories above.
Backup singers support larger function bands or name artists and often get paid a really solid salary whilst on contract. Work can vary from one off assignments singing backup on a studio recording (See “Session Singer” below) to being full time backup for all touring engagements of a top international artist or band.
Some backup singers even get to sing lead at big shows. Could you imagine being part of Stevie wonder’s backup team and getting to duet with him once a night to massive, sold out venues?
Getting to that level isn’t easy. But if you are talented, professional and persistent you can work your way up the ranks and earn a living whilst getting there.
Session singers record their voice for money. It could involve singing pre-written songs that will be used as background music in movies or computer games, for example. But, any recording of your voice where you are hired for a set period would be considered a “session”.
As with so many other jobs in the music industry, pay can vary wildly. New singers may have to work for free just to make connections and get the right experience. Top session singers can demand thousands of dollars for one afternoon’s work.
The less glamorous cousin of the session singer, a jingle singer works primarily on recording jingles for advertising.
The Screen Actors Guild of America sets a minimum pay of $398 per day for employed jingle singers. As a freelancer, payments are less stable and you will generally have to find your own assignments or have an agent to do so.
If you can get enough work, you could do pretty well with a jingle singer job.
A singagram performs a musical greeting for money. You will be booked to turn up to an event and surprise a VIP. You can actually make in excess of $300 for one hours work.
Busking is unlikely to be a career in itself. But if you have little other work on, or are just starting out as a singer, you can make some pocket money.
A good location on a busy day may make you over $100. But, don’t count on it.
Some cities require you to have a licence to busk and you can only do so at specific locations. The more people walking past your spot, the better chance you have of filling your hat with silver.
Singing Teacher Jobs
Unless you love teaching, you probably won’t want to be a singing teacher full time. After all, you won’t be doing much singing, it’s more about helping the student sing.
The benefit of being a private singing teacher is you can keep your client list small and just supplement your income teaching a few students in your spare time. You can even easily teach on Skype. It’s never been easier to be a singing teacher.
You can earn at least $40 per hour, with top teachers making in excess of $300 an hour.
It’s unlikely to be the first job that comes to mind when you think about becoming a professional singer. But, parents pay a fortune for kids entertainers. A few hours doing sing-along with the kids in the afternoon for a private party could net you a few hundred dollars.
You will likely have to do more than just sing. But, if you like working with kids then this could be a rewarding job where you get to exercise your vocal cords a little too.
Now it’s your turn
Which jobs appeal to you most? Make a list.
I’ll be writing some more in-depth articles on how to get work in some of the specific singer jobs above.
So, join up to our email list below and I’ll email you with more detailed information in the future. I’ll also send you useful tips on improving your singing and my FREE e-book to help you dramatically improve your vocal range.
I've worked as a full time singer and musician since 2006. My singing has taken me around the world, performing on 5 continents and getting paid to do so. I want to help you achieve your singing dreams.
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