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Cabaret singing is the art of fronting a vocal performance in intimate venues of all sizes. It is among the most challenging of all professional music avocations. The successful cabaret artist is more than a vocalist; she is also a performer, often a band leader, and a tireless and savvy performer. Successful cabaret singers can make anywhere from $30 to $500 per hour and sometimes more. If you choose this profession, you have to be on your game -- as a cabaret singer, you are the show. There is no plot or production to hide behind, and you may have to react to any number of unexpected challenges.
Develop a repertoire. As a cabaret singer, you will need to be able to sing between three and four hours of solid music each night. But you must know much more than those three to four hours of music. You must also have enough "spare" repertoire to mix up each show, to respond to requests and have songs available for special occasions. As a cabaret singer, you will need to be able call a song to celebrate anything from 21st birthdays and 50th wedding anniversaries, to bat mitzvahs and Christmas. You'll not only need to know the words to songs, but also the keys you sing them in so you can call them out to your accompanying musicians.
Find a mentor in a successful performer. The most effective way to learn the art of cabaret singing is to work or play with other successful cabaret singers. If you can't work with them, take the time to watch as many experienced performers as possible. You will gain performance experience, develop your repertoire and build a valuable Rolodex of venue managers and musicians.
Develop your promotional materials. Cabaret singing is a business, and you provide a valuable service to venue owners by attracting people to their establishments. Treat it like a business and establish a marketing plan and budget. You will need business cards, a mailing and e-mailing list, and a website. Create a demo recording to showcase your vocal talents. You will need to create a social media presence, too.
Market yourself to venue managers. Call the venue, or visit in person and ask who books the entertainment. Tell them you'd like to book your act. If they don't know who you are yet, you should have some promotional material you can get in their hands quickly. Set a fee that is agreeable to the venue management, yet still adequately compensates you and your musicians for their time, including travel, setup and tear-down times. You may want to identify whether the venue is a union establishment or not. Many hotels in some areas only hire union musicians. If this is the case, you may need to join a musician's union to play.