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There are many ways in which a singer can earn a living although the wages vary considerably depending on style, experience, competance and the performers popularity. A singer may earn anything between nothing to 30.00 an hour and upwards. Latest average rates are usually available from organisations like the Musicians Union.  Whilst many performers are happy to sing for pleasure rather than pay it is always nice to be paid for something that you enjoy doing.

The following information is a guide to various types of vocal styles plus singing and voice related job opportunities. Competition is high, therefore any singer needs to be proficient and the majority of experienced singers will diversify by performing a variety of musical styles depending on their vocal capabilities and educational training. For many singers, live performance is a secondary form of income. Other types of jobs available in the music industry and information on self-employment is available in the Music Careers section at the Electric Blues Club.

Acappella

Janis Joplin Acappella is the term used for singing without the aid of accompaniment and takes far more skill than the listeners realise.  All styles of music can be performed in this manner, (although some are more suited than others) and artists must be extremely competent to be able to start (and stay) on pitch, in time and where applicable, harmonise in exact tandem with their fellow singers.

For instance, Barbershop Singers, Gregorian Chanters and choirs are a formation of several singers who perform in harmony completely unaccompanied by any other instrument than the human voice.  Pop music has also had it's share of vocal acappella groups the most notible of which are the Flying Pickets who had hits in the 80's with 'Only You' and 'When Your Young and in Love' and probably the most well known acappella song is 'Mercedes Benz' performed by Janis Joplin. Whilst this form is not the current 'flavour of the month' singing without the aid of any backing means the performer can demonstrate their abilities anywhere and are popular in folk, blues, alternative and early music circuits. Wages are usually low and many singers choose this more for pleasure than pay, however it is not as easy as it sounds!

Backing Singer

Singing Cherries Image Backing Singers are the vocalists who provide harmonies and vocals complementing the melody performed by a Lead Singer. Used in many forms of music including Rock, Pop, MOR, Soul, the backing singer has played an integral role in song production.

There are many types of backline vocalists ranging from the band member who sings a bit to dedicated Session Singers who are employed by major touring artists and recording studios.  A good backing singer should be experienced in harmonizing and keeping in time with both the lead vocalist and fellow backing vocalists, sight reading isn't essential but the ability to 'hear' yourself and learn songs quickly is!

Many vocalists start their careers as a backing singer as it also presents possibilities of being noticed by A & R!! Examples of this are 'Sam Brown' and 'Alison Moyet' both of whom had hit songs in the 80's. Read more about Backing Vocalists

Blues Singer

John Lee Hooker Blues has been a huge influence on modern music with artists like the Rolling Stones, Led Zepplin, Eric Clapton and Gary Moore combining the old style feel with a rock edge.  Whilst there will always be heated discussion on the validity of modern blues compared to the old style, blues music still continues to be popular with established circuits throughout Europe and the USA.

Personally I feel that whilst the basics can be learnt by anyone, a true 'Blues' singer is one who has a full life experience usually filled with tragedy and hardship!!

A full time career is possible although many performers combine their love of the blues with a second source of income.

Busker

Animated Band Busking has been performed by musicians of all styles worldwide. Ranging from acappella singers to one man band complete with his multiple instruments, they perform at fairs, fetes, subways, shopping centers and street corners for whatever the general public are prepared to donate into the hat.

In the last few years it has become more regulated with performers requiring licenses to publicly entertain on designated pitches.  Favourite areas for buskers include Covent Garden and underground stations where a high amount of walking tourists and travellers may be persuaded to stop and listen for a while. Click Here for our new Buskers section complete with licensing information, competitions and resources.

Cabaret Singer

Female singer A large percentage of professional singers make a career in Cabaret.  Venues range from the local working mens club to the grand casinos in Vegas.  The standard ranges considerably and relative amateurs can be found working the circuit to gain experience.  Wages vary in comparison with competance and popularity with cabaret artists earning anything from 50 to 500+ per show.

The Cabaret artist is expected to know a wide range and style of songs to cater to audiences ranging from teens to oap's with the ability to work equally well with backing tracks, reading musicians, the resident compere and cope with in house P.A. systems.  Most cabaret artists prefer to use their own equipment and engineer although this depends entirely on the type of venue and quality of equipment provided.

Artists like Sheena Easton and Tom Jones started their careers using this route and there are many cabaret singers who become internationally acclaimed in their own right.

Carol Singer

Elves Choir Fun for all ages and standards, Carol Singing started as a form of church choral singing which appealed to all ages.  The types of song performed include hymns and christmas songs of all styles, usually performed acappella prior to and during the christmas period.

Small groups of singers can be found raising money for their local church or charity by performing at their neighbours doorsteps, functions and charity events.  The participants are usually unpaid volunteers although the choir master and organiser may receive a small amount of expenses.

Childrens Singer

Girl Ani Singer Performing for children can be a rewarding experience.  Patience, tolerance and a good sense of humour are more important than a great voice and technical ability!!  The childrens singer ranges from those who entertain at parties, functions or corporate events to singing actors employed on childrens programs and include session singers who would overdub a cartoon caricature to teenagers and bands who visit schools to gain experience and build a following.

This is also a good way to introduce an eager youngster to performing live, most schools will encourage their pupils to participate in small shows for their friends, parents and teachers.

Choral Singer

Animated Choir The school choir is often one of the earliest experiences of singing with a large group that a child has and is certainly an area of performance where age is not an issue.

Religious institutions use the concept of group singing to it's fullest with the use of acappella, accompanied, solo and group vocals co-ordinated by a Choral Director.  Young boys are popular for their unbroken sweet voices, whilst older singers 'fatten' the sound with their deeper vibrant tones producing an overall rich sound.

Whilst the majority of choral singers are local unpaid volunteers, there are a some choirs who perform at major venues and produce albums for their devotees.  Soloists have also had chart hits, like Aled Jones with the title song from the cartoon film 'The Snowman' and several RnB/Soul/Pop artists like 'Whitney Housten' and 'Aretha Franklin' started their singing careers performing with Gospel Choirs.

Chorus Line Singer

Vocal Trio image An essential part of musical theatre is the Chorus Line. The term describes a group of individuals who are competant at singing, dancing, acting and co-ordinating with others.

The type of songs performed range considerably in style so a versatile voice and ability to learn quickly are necessary requirements.  Preparation time is usually limited and competition is fierce as singing actors and dancers are also keen on getting the part!

Amateur productions at local theatres are an excellent introduction for beginners whilst professional shows like 'Cats', 'Miss Saigon', 'Buddy' and 'Oaklahoma' demand high standards but provide decent wages and the opportunity for recognition.

Country Singer

Female Country Singer Country & Western is a popular form of music with a wide circuit of venues mainly in the USA.  There is a thriving albeit smaller country circuit in the UK, with some opportunities for performance at 'Themed Events'.  Line dancing has become a big craze requiring country bands, singers and dance step callers.

Constantly in and out of the charts, country singers are varied in style with some artists like 'Shania Twain' crossing over into pop and dance artists like 'Whitney Houston' performing versions of songs written by country singers. (I Will Always Love You was written and originally recorded by Dolly Parton).

Cruise Ship Singer

Captain Singing Jane McDonald has became one of the most recognised Cruise Ship singers after the broadcasting of a BBC TV documentary series following the lives of on board entertainers and personell.  The musicians and entertainers are expected to be of a professional standard with the ability to read music and work long hours.

Being confined to a ship (no matter how large) means that all crew are expected to be on duty 24/7 ....... in other words, be nice to the passengers even if you have a sore head, runny nose or bad day plus be prepared to cover a variety of other duties when staff are off sick.  Staff are usually contracted for the duration of the cruise and can expect good wages with accommodation and meals included.

Advertisements for these positions can be found in The Stage Newspaper (UK), Variety (US) and major newspapers.  Enquiries can also be made direct to the cruise line and many Entertainment Agents run showcases for cruise ship bookers. Read more about working on cruise ships.

Disabled Entertainers

Reba and Lori Schappell Certain physical or mental handicaps may cause some difficulties for people who wish to pursue a career in music or singing... but that does NOT necessarily mean the individual will be unable to pursue their dream! There are many artists who have achieved successful writing, recording and performing careers despite their handicap. So wether you stammer like pop singer Gareth Gates or are more severely physically challenged like country singer/songwriter Reba Schappell, winner of the 1997 L.A. Music Award for best new country artist (who is conjoined with her sister Lori), there are opportunities to pursue.

Young people with special needs can apply to the Chicken Shed Theatre Company which integrates children with special needs into community theatre and music. A collection of physically challenged professional performers can be found at the Paisley Wheelchair Experience.

Diva

Cher The term 'Diva' is used to describe a great female singer or prima donna whose voice and style are considered to be unique.  Many singers aspire to be like their favourite 'Diva' and whilst the term was originally used for for temperamental opera singers it is now used to describe female singers of any style that fit the criteria.

To become a 'Diva' takes dedication and hard work which may never produce the recognition required........ the term is granted by their peers and public opinion and not by the singer themselves (as much as they would wish otherwise!!).

Folk Singer

Bob Dylan Folk singers have been around for centuries and were probably the first 'Bards' who travelled the country translating events into stories which would be sung in return for lodging and food. Old folk songs like 'Greensleeves' are still in use today.

There was a big revival during the 60's which provided a platform for artists like 'Bob Dylan' who continues to influence artists of today.  Folk singers can find performance opportunities at folk clubs and festivals worldwide although like 'Blues Singers' the gigs may be scattered and wages low, folk music is generous in its acceptance of beginners who are encouraged to practice their art regardless of age/ability.

Gospel Singer

Aretha Franklin Gospel is a form of music used by certain religious establishments to praise God and encourage positive feelings in their parishoners.  Many singers who perfected their art performing in gospel choirs have since become successful recording artists like Aretha Franklin and niece Whitney Houston but the majority of singers are unpaid volunteers from the local community.

Gospel singing has been somewhat ignored by the music industry but in the last couple of years it's popularity has increased in the UK with a recent nationwide search for the best gospel choir/vocalist being broadcast on ITV last September.

Holiday Camp Singers

Cartoon Male Singer Working as a redcoat for holiday camps are a great way to learn about the entertainment business and get paid! The hours are very long as staff are expected to do pretty much everything including learning dance, comedy, dj'ing, comparing and singing to entertain the holidaymakers, organising games for the children and taking care of the clients.

The amount of experience required depends on the job applied for as holiday camps also employ resident bands, entertainers, solo singers, tribute artists and named bands during the course of the season.  Wages vary according to age and experience although most residential staff receive a relatively low wage (between 100 & 200 per week) plus shared accommodation.

Jazz Singer

Girl with Mic Jazz has developed considerably from the traditional form with musicians and singers incorporating ethnic rhythms and modern sounds to produce offshoots like 'progressive', 'modern' and 'acid' jazz. Extreme competance and control are required from a jazz singer who is expected to vocalise with and around the music whilst restraining power and energy, it is rare to hear a loud jazz band who unlike rock bands prefer intricate syncopation and understated technical expertise to volume.

Jazz clubs, festivals, radio, record companies and televised events worldwide provide vocalists with performance and recording opportunities.

Karaoke Host

Male rock n roll singer Karaoke nights produce a host of amateur singers of varying standards and are a good introduction to performing in front of a live audience.  The host is responsible for encouraging participation, comparing, co-ordinating tracks to singers and filling in whilst the locals are getting up the nerve to have a go.

If you love singing but recognise that your voice is not going to make you a living then this is an ideal job!  Popular karaoke hosts are usually those whose voices are less than perfect but have great fun personalities.  This encourages the audience to participate far more than an excellent singer whose voice is likely to make the listeners feel uncomfortable at participating. Visit our partner site KrazyKats Karaoke for more tips and articles for karaoke jockeys and singers.

Lead Singer

Mick Jagger Frontman (person) or Lead singer is the term used to describe a vocalist who sings the lead melody in front of a band regardless of the type, style or standard of music played.

Any vocalist competant in their field of music can become a lead singer although wages will depend on the ability of all the musicians. A good covers band can work practically anywhere from local pubs, clubs, festivals and sight readers could find themselves employed as resident bands or session artists.

Bands performing original material can expect little or no initial pay unless they can build and retain a following, produce their own album or get signed by a record company. Read more about Lead Vocalists.

Music Librarian

Animated library book Working in a library music department requires a sound knowledge of music and organisation.  Singing may not be part of the job description but the advantage of being able to browse a roomful of sheet music, music books and records is a bonus of the job!!

There are also opportunities to perform as many local councils recreation departments organise acoustic and semi acoustic live music evenings. More careers are available on Page 2.