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If you like to belt out a few tunes in the shower, perhaps you've dreamed of becoming a professional singer. Though few will share the stratosphere with artists such as Justin Timberlake, Carrie Underwood and Luke Bryan, it's still possible to earn a living with your pipes. The average singer salary is $39,359 a year, which works out to about $3,280 a month.
Working in the Music Industry
Singers work in a diverse variety of venues and musical genres. You'll find singers in recording studios, opera houses, nightclubs and symphony halls. Big stars play to packed stadiums and arenas, while others who sing for the pure enjoyment of it, might play to half a dozen coffee house listeners. Some singers are able to work full-time, with an agent to schedule their gigs and negotiate payments. Others freelance, taking opportunities as they come along.
There aren't any! Anyone who wants to hire a professional singer cares more about how you sound than about your academic credentials. That being said, earning a degree in music or studying with a vocal coach may be beneficial to your career, especially as you're getting started. When you learn to read music and get the chance to study a variety of musical compositions and vocalists, you'll open yourself to more opportunities. In school or with a voice teacher, you're better positioned to gain experience and to network with people who can help launch you into the ranks of professional singers. Plus, when you study music at the college level, you can take courses in music production and business, which are especially useful, if you plan on striking out on your own.
Do you play an instrument? Some singers back themselves up on guitar or piano. Take lessons if you can, and you can increase your opportunities for solo work or performing with a band. If you're a dancer, you might benefit from working with a choreographer, who can help you perfect the moves that accompany your singing. Singer-songwriters perform their own original material, and courses in theory and composition can be an asset.
How to Get Started
Many musicians and singers get started at open mic nights and at talent competitions. Typically, these gigs offer little or no pay, but they're an opportunity to perform in front of a live audience, hone your vocal skills and develop your on-stage personality. Look for ads that are seeking singers to perform in venues such as casinos, theme parks and worship centers. With an agent, you have an inside track to opportunities in commercials and voice-over work, studio work and performing as a backup singer for a major star. Today's technology makes it easier than ever to get your music out where people can hear it. Justin Bieber was discovered after his mother posted some videos on YouTube.
Professional Musician Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks data and makes projections for all civilian jobs in the country. According to the BLS, the median pay for singers and musicians is $26.96 per hour. Median pay means that half the people in the profession earn more, and half earn less. Garth Brooks made $46.7 million in 2017, ranking just behind Irish band U2, the music industry's top earner for two years in a row at $54.4 million earned. Suffice it to say that most singers don't earn nearly that much.
Getting music gigs that pay can be a challenge, especially as you're getting started. Katy Perry told Seventeen magazine that she lived in L.A. for five years, selling her clothes and borrowing money just to pay the rent while she worked to find a record company that would sign her. The music business is extremely competitive and public taste can be fickle. However, music is everywhere in our daily lives, and there are always opportunities for talented singers.
Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for eHow.com, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.