How to Become a Singer

Young woman singer with microphone

As a child, you forced your family to watch your amazing performances (including ‘originals hits’) and practised for hours on end in front of the mirror with a hairbrush in your hand, dreaming of making it big like Beyoncé one day. Now you’re a little older, that idea doesn’t seem that far out of reach – with today’s huge online reach, you can become an overnight sensation like Justin Bieber in no time.

The music industry can be extremely demanding and difficult to break into, but if you’re set on following a career path as a singer, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn more about succeeding in the music industry and become a professional vocalist.

1. Research the Profession

You know you want to be a singer, but are you familiar what a profession in singing really entails? Here we dig a little deeper to let you know what skills you need, what you can expect on a day-to-day basis and how much you can potentially earn.

Job Description

Singers read and interpret musical compositions and apply their voice and style to create a song. They use their vocal ranges, including alto, baritone or bass, to adapt to different music styles.

Although daily activities may vary, day-to-day tasks will generally include the following:

  • memorising musical selections and routines, or singing following printed text, musical notation and customer instructions
  • interpreting or modifying music, applying knowledge of harmony, melody, rhythm and voice production to individualise presentations and maintain audience interest
  • observing choral leaders or prompters for cues or directions in vocal presentation
  • performing in front of live audiences, in television, radio or movie productions
  • practising singing exercises and studying with vocal coaches in order to develop your voice and skills and to rehearse for upcoming roles
  • seeking out and learning new music that is suitable for live performance or recording
  • singing a cappella or with musical accompaniment
  • singing as a soloist or as a member of a vocal group
  • collaborating with a manager or agent who handles administrative details, finds work and negotiates contracts
  • composing songs and creating vocal arrangements
  • learning acting, dancing and other skills required for dramatic singing roles
  • travelling, sometimes great distances, to performance venues
  • promoting musical talent by maintaining a website or social media presence or by doing photo shoots and interviews.

Essential Skills and Qualities

To succeed in the music field and become famous, you not only need to have a good singing voice but will also need to possess a number of additional qualities which are listed below:

  • a go-getter attitude
  • patience and physical stamina
  • a team mentality
  • an eagerness to learn
  • openness
  • charisma and stage presence
  • a strong understanding of musical theory
  • a likeable personality
  • perseverance
  • discipline

Working Hours and Conditions

If you want to take singing up as a full-time career, you can wave ‘goodbye’ to your standard 9-to-5 working hours. Generally, professionals in this field work at night and on weekends, and usually practise and record on weekdays. They rarely have holidays free as this is when they get a higher influx of job offers.

Most singers work more than 40 hours a week but live a more flexible lifestyle. Their job location and start times, meanwhile, are different on a day to day basis. For most singers, there are periods where they are in high demand and periods where they receive little to no work at all, forcing some to take on temporary or part-time work to make ends meet.

Salary Prospects

Working as a singer can be a satisfying and rewarding career, especially if you make it into the public eye. According to PayScale, a musician or singer can expect to earn an average annual salary of $39,899 (£28,900) per year. If you’re lucky enough to make it big, you might even make it on to lists of the highest paid singers in the world.

2. Get the Qualifications and Training

While you don’t need a specific degree or educational background to become the next X Factor winner, an undergraduate music degree and years of vocal training can set you apart from the competition. In the UK, there are schools (mainly the BRIT School) that train young talented artists on how to be professional musicians, actors and TV presenters, while universities like Julliard and Berkley in the US offer that extra special training that you need to become a star.

Daily training is essential to acquire the skills necessary to play at a professional level, and further workshops are vital in progressing and developing as an artist.

3. Market Yourself

In order to land your first gig, you need to know how to market yourself and attract potential opportunities and openings. These tips below should help you to get started.

  • Write your own songs: If you really want to step out as a singer/songwriter, you should write your own material and create a demo to show that you have an edge. Industry experts are also likely to take you more seriously as they can tell you’re passionate about what you do.
  • Build your personal presence: Even if you are the best vocalist in the world, you won’t make it big unless you have a great online presence and a relatable personality. Don’t hide behind who you think you should be, and let the world fall in love with your true self.
  • Gather a large social media following: In today’s social world, it’s important to have a large social media following to ‘prove’ that you’re somebody to watch. Start releasing covers and songs on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, and (hopefully) you’ll get discovered by a big-time producer.
  • Find a manager: A manager can help you find new gigs, get promoted, make industry contacts and generally develop your career. They will charge a fee or take a cut of any income that you make but can be an essential step towards great success.
  • Start networking: Networking is important in any career, especially when it comes to marketing yourself. Go to industry events, meet specialists and hand out a demo just in case they can help you.
  • Refine your look: Self-image and appearance is so important if you want to be a singer. Your look needs to match the genre and style that you’re singing. Looking the part is half the battle, so consult a stylist if you need help in sprucing up your wardrobe.

4. Gain Experience

Gaining experience as a singer is vital if you want to build your confidence and feel comfortable performing in front of a large audience. To get as much practice as possible, consider joining a choir, finding permanent gigs (such as performing at your local pub every Friday) or participating in different singing competitions.

You should also consider what type of singer you want to be. Do you want to work as a backup singer or a jingle singer, work on a cruise ship or in a nightclub, or become a vocal teacher?

Being a singer in any position can be extremely gratifying when you have a passion for music – it won’t feel like a job but more like a hobby.

Are you considering a career as a singer? Have you already bagged yourself a few small gigs?  Join in on the conversation down below to let us know where you’re at and how you’ve got there so far…

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