Learning how to become a singer isn't just about having a great voice. While most musicians like to hum their favorite tune from time to time, pursuing singing as a career path takes plenty of hard work and dedication.
Below, we'll explore the job outlook for singers and showcase some of the most critical skills you need to become a full-time singer. We'll also dive into a couple of singing specialties so that you can start to position yourself toward your dream job. Let's get started!
What Does a Singer Do?
It's easy to understand what a singer does on a practical level: from day to day, they use their vocal skills to earn a living. However, singers do much more than just the musical aspects related to their jobs. Singers tend to run their own businesses, and frequently take on contract work, making it essential to have stellar time management skills, business acumen, and a friendly disposition outside of vocal performance.
Singers often manage their own schedules, whether they're working alongside music producers as artists, hosting their own private lessons, or writing songs. They do much more than exercise vocal cords, so it's important to make sure you align with the non-musical aspects of the business before you commit to the profession itself.
Singer Salary and Job Outlook
Calculating the salary of a singer can be challenging, especially since most vocal work comes at on a gig-by-gig basis. According to Salary.com , the median salary for a professional singer $53,153, but the range is heavily skewed by those who make much less and much more than that amount. The job outlook is fairly average, with growth estimated at 4% by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics .
Many singers choose to work part-time and balance gigs with another job or related profession. As with any highly-coveted role, becoming a singer isn't necessarily "easy". It takes years of dedication, patience, and flexibility to find your footing, and it's important to note that professional singers aren't guaranteed like other traditional professions.
Your job prospects are contingent on your technical ability and availability, so it's entirely possible that your music business may only serve as your main job for a limited period of time. However, the prospect of doing what you love makes the pursuit worth it for plenty of vocalists and other musicians.
Aspiring singers can gain stronger vocal range, music theory knowledge, performance techniques, and grow their network along the way making this career path valuable for many outside the job prospects alone.
Singer Job Examples
Becoming more specialized as a singer is key to improving your job outlook Take a look at some of the practical job paths for singers and music professionals:
Singer-Songwriter or Recording Artist
As one of the most coveted singing positions, becoming a singer-songwriter or recording artist is one of the most unpredictable and challenging career paths for singers. These artists may write songs or their own music, work with producers and other musicians in the studio, and perform for live audiences on a regular basis.
Performing artists tend to make most of their money from playing live or earning money from royalties, though margins are fairly slim, so artists might also sell their own merchandise or other product offerings.
Backup Singer or Vocalist
Backup singers or vocalists are usually touring musicians that support successful performing artists at independent gigs or as part of a tour. These vocalists may start as a part of a cover band or session singer and tend to gain jobs by having a robust job network.
Session singers come in to assist with harmonies, and background vocals, and possibly provide some coaching during live recordings. These singers are usually called on a case-by-case basis and also rely heavily on networking to earn a sustainable living. A session singer might also double as a songwriter.
Cruise Ship Performer
Cruise ship performers entertain on tours for periods of four to six months before taking on another ship. These performers tend to perform several sets a night on a daily basis and tend to have comped accommodations and food while on deck.
Wedding singers usually work on a gig-by-gig basis or are part of a cover band or band that specializes in playing weddings. These vocalists have a wide repertoire of cover songs and cater to the needs of weddings, private parties, and other small events.
Musical theater performers can work as a part of the larger on-stage chorus, or as actors if they are also trained in the discipline. This line of work is heavily competitive and performers are usually hired from one season of a production to the next.
Musical therapists are board-certified therapists that work with a variety of individuals to provide support and relief through music. They usually know how to play several instruments and styles to adapt to the needs of their patients. These specialists usually work in clinical settings, hospices, community centers, and private practices.
Teaching music lessons is often the bread and butter of working in the music industry. If you love to sing, one of the most stable career paths is to teach singing lessons or become a choir teacher. In this role, you'll direct groups of singers to understand vocal technique and perform various songs, usually working towards regular events like a recital.
A vocal coach teaches private lessons to individuals or groups looking to improve their technical singing skills. Usually, vocal coaches receive some form of higher education to inform their methods.
How to Become a Singer in 5 Steps
Are you ready to follow in the footsteps of successful singers? Follow these five steps to kickstart your journey:
1. Make Sure It's The Right Path For You
Many dream of the day they become a famous singer. However, unless you possess the skills, network, and timing to make artistry your day job, your reality as a paid singer will likely look a lot more complicated.
Most singers have to work long, unpredictable hours and might need to take on unrelated side jobs while they're working on building up their businesses. Singing doesn't have a cut-and-dry career path and isn't for anyone who needs to have a steady schedule or reliable paycheck.
Like most careers in the entertainment industry, becoming a singer is what you make of it. You don't have to become a professional singer to enjoy singing music. If you understand all this and you're still willing to commit to the profession, you're much more likely to make singing work for you in the long run.
2. Determine Your Direction
The more specific you can get with your goals, the better. Do you want to be a session vocalist or an on-stage backup singer? Do you want to be a voice teacher for a choir or a private vocal coach? Getting specific about your goals can help you find the right path more adeptly so that you can start connecting with the right people and taking on the proper gigs.
If you try one path out and find that it's not for you, feel free to pivot! Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to building an entertainment career, so it's up to you to carve out the lifestyle you're looking for.
3. Pursue the Specialized Path
Once you've tried out a couple of gigs and feel good about your specialty as an aspiring singer, start committing to that path. Work as many jobs as you can and talk to your coworkers about their paths. As long as you do a great job and work well with the people around you, you're bound to book another gig. Always ask for ways to improve and glean as much knowledge as you can from every on-the-job experience.
Don't forget to tend to your vocal health, too. It's all too easy to become burnt out from singing on the job, so it's important to warm up and cool down properly, get plenty of rest, and stay hydrated to prioritize your long-term health.
4. Seek out Mentorship
Having a non-traditional career can be somewhat isolating and confusing since there isn't a clear career trajectory. Seek out mentorship and advice, especially from those who are in a position you want to get to. Don't forget that this is an industry heavily built on relationships. It's important to invest time into cultivating genuine friendships, partnerships, and building your soft skills to help you earn more work overtime.
5. Become a Full-time Singer
Easier said than done, but with enough training, dedication, networking, and commitment to your particular path, you can eventually become a successful singer earning your income from music. Much of the job is doing what you can to pay the bills, taking singing jobs when you can until you're able to afford to take on a role full-time. Networking regularly is key to stumbling into the right opportunity.
These jobs certainly aren't for the faint of heart or those who are in it for the income-earning potential. However, it can be an incredibly rewarding career path for any singer hoping to spend their days sharing their gift with the world.
How to Become a Singer FAQ
Ready to pursue a singing career? Consider these commonly asked questions and answers to help you build your professional and technical singing skills.
Is it hard to become a singer?
Becoming a professional singer can be difficult since it is a competitive field, but it's not impossible. Through singing lessons, vocal training, and commitment to a specific career path it can certainly be done with enough patience and dedication.
Can anyone become a good singer?
With proper vocal training and a great voice teacher, most people can learn how to hold a note and sing in key. However, having a distinct singing style that will help you stand out from the crowd is somewhat of an innate ability that can't necessarily be supported by strengthening your vocal technique,
What is the first step to become a singer?
The first step to becoming a singer is to start singing regularly. Whether that's taking singing lessons, practicing your singing voice in the privacy of your own home, or singing amongst other singers, practicing your craft is key to starting your journey as a serious musician.
How much money does a singer make a year?
According to Salary.com , the average singer makes about $53,000 a year. While this is the median salary for a singer, a successful singer can make much more depending on their position within the music industry. Note that most full-time musicians make lower to middle-class salaries-- this isn't a profession you get into for the money.
How do singers get famous?
Singers become famous by having vocal technique or their own songs that connect with a wide audience coupled with effective advertising on their own or through the help or a label or team. Becoming a famous singer requires an entire team with industry connections in most cases, and isn't necessarily something you can expect to happen overnight.
Can I become a singer at 14?
We all have the image of a famous singer or professional singer becoming famous as a teenager. However, for most professional musicians, this simply isn't the reality. While it may happen for some, there are plenty of ways to pursue singing, even if you don't find momentum in your teen years.
Pursuing a singing career is a super rewarding career path for vocalists with the right expectations, work ethic, and set of skills. Not every musician has this unique combination of skills to sing professionally, but it's certainly plausible if you're willing to commit to the challenges that come with this unique career. Best of luck on your journey as an aspiring singer!