Guest post by Evan Zwisler
If you’re passionate about singing, there are many different opportunities for you to take advantage of your skills to make some money.
Singers can make $46,000 a year on average (and up to $40 million if you’re Beyonce). Now, there is only one Queen B, but that doesn't mean that you can’t carve out a nice living for yourself as a singer.
Singers typically earn money from performances and selling merch. Here’s a look at some of the different types of job opportunities that are available to you as a singer.
1. Lead singer in a band making original music
This is the most exciting way to make money as a singer for most people. The problem is that you’re relying on you and your music to make a living. There are a lot of variables involved, and if one of them isn’t working, such as if you aren’t a strong songwriter, the band isn’t tight, you’re not getting good gigs, etc., it can prevent you from making money this way.
If you’re a great singer, you like to perform, and you enjoy writing songs, there’s nothing to lose from fronting a band, but it may not always be the best way to pay the bills.
2. Cover band singer
This is similar to being a lead singer in an original band, but it doesn’t matter if you can write a good song, you’re already playing songs people love. You’re also far more likely to get paid a guarantee up front.
It’s not out of the question for a band to be paid $500-$1000 a night to play for a few hours at a club. Being a cover band singer is a great way to hone your chops while making some money.
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3. Backup singer for a band or cover band
This is another great way to make some money if you have a good voice. Instead of negotiating with the bar or venue you’ll be negotiating with the band leader. Don’t be afraid to be flexible and work with the bands, sometimes they can’t afford to have you for every gig but they’ll hire you for the big shows that are going to pay more.
4. Solo artist
This is similar to leading a band, but you don’t have to pay your bandmates. When you’re just starting out you’ll probably be paid between $50-$150 per show, and if you have to split that 4 ways it can make a solid payday feel like peanuts.
You can simply bring a guitar on stage and perform acoustically or use electronics and loops to recreate the sound of a full band.
5. Wedding singer
This is a great way to make money if you can get a solid gig. Wedding bands are a tried and true way for musicians to find reliable, profitable, and pretty fun work. It’s like being a cover band singer, but you have to be more professional, more punctual, and have a wider variety of songs you can play.
If you’re slinging covers in a dive bar then you can focus on one or two genres and be ok, but a wedding band you’ll need to know everything from traditional jewish music to Michael Jackson to Guns and Roses (November Rain might be the bride’s favorite ballad!).
6. Cruise ship singer
Are you comfortable being away from home for long periods of time? Do you mind playing the same things week after week? Can you swim?
If you answered yes to all these things you should be a cruise ship singer! A cruise ship singer is similar to being a cover band singer, except the pay is better and you’re on a boat for months at a time.
7. Singer for jingles and advertisements
This one’s a bit hard to break into, but once you get your foot in the door it’s steady work that many people feel is very artistically rewarding.
To do this job you’ll need to be a multipurpose tool. Many advertisers will want you to come prepared to sing something in multiple styles. Also, the people you’ll be working with aren’t always going to be fellow musicians, so you’ll have to be able to take direction from someone who might not have the exact words to accurately express what they want you do to.
8. Studio session singer
If you’re going to be a session singer, you’ll need a great voice. Naturally, to be a singer you’ll need a great voice, but to be a session singer you’ll have to be a cut above. These singers are often the best a city has to offer. You can start off small and offer reasonable rates to bands and studios to build a name for yourself.
9. Musical theater
If your city has a strong musical theater scene, auditioning doesn’t freak you out, and if you like acting, this is a great option for you. Musical theater gigs can be very competitive and demanding, but it’s a great way to mix a singer’s passion for acting and music.
10. Opera singer
To be an opera singer you’ll have to be trained to be an opera singer. Just because you sound good in the shower doesn’t mean you can sing arias to 500 people without a microphone. If you’re interested in singing opera, I suggest enlisting in a conservatory program and working your butt off.
Some of the best paid musicians I know make lots of money singing and playing in churches. Many churches love music and can afford to pay multiple musicians lots of money. Also, most of your gigs will be during the day so it won’t interfere with your evening gigs.
I can’t possibly count all the fantastic singers I know who supplement their income with teaching. Teaching voice can be rewarding, fun, and flexible.
You schedule your lessons when it makes sense to you, and charge what you think to be a fair rate. Also, word of mouth can help you grow your business without having to pay for advertising.
Evan Zwisler is a NYC-based musician who is most notably known for his work with The Values as a songwriter and guitarist, and is an active member of the Brooklyn music scene.
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