Singing - Careers in Singing

Careers in Singing

The salaries and working conditions for vocalists vary a great deal. While jobs in other music fields such as music education tend to be based on full-time, salaried positions, singing jobs tend to be based on contracts for individual shows or performances, or for a sequence of shows (e.g., a two-week series of performances of an opera or musical theater show). Since income from singing jobs can be unsteady, singers often supplement their performing income with other singing-related jobs, such as vocal coaching, voice lessons, or as working as a choral director in a church. Due to the large number of aspiring vocalists, it can be very competitive to get jobs in singing.

Church choir soloists can make from $30 to $500 per performance (all figures in US dollars). Performers in a community choral group can earn from $200–$3,000 yearly; members of a professional concert choral group can make $80 and up per performance. Singers who perform on radio or TV shows can make $75 and up per show on a local station and $125 and up per national network show (e.g., CBS or NBC). Jazz or pop singers who perform with dance bands or nightclub show groups can make $225 and up per week. Professional opera chorus singers can make from $350–$750 per week. Opera soloists, for which the number of job openings is very limited, can make from $350 to $20,000 per performance for the most elite performers. Classical concert soloists, for which the number of job openings is very limited, have approximate earnings of $350 per performance and up.

Aspiring singers and vocalists must have musical talent and skill, an excellent voice, the ability to work with people, and a sense of showmanship and drama. Additionally, singers need to have the ambition and drive to continually study and improve, because the process of studying singing does not end after an initial diploma or degree is finished-even decades after finishing their initial training, professional singers continue to seek out vocal coaching to hone their skills, extend their range, and learn new styles. As well, aspiring singers need to gain specialized skills in the vocal techniques used to interpret songs, learn about the vocal literature from their chosen style of music, and gain skills in choral music techniques, sight singing and memorizing songs, and basic skills at the piano, to aid in learning new songs and in ear training or vocal exercises. In Classical singing and in some other genres, a knowledge of foreign languages such as French, Italian, German, or other languages, is needed. Prior to college or university training, aspiring singers should learn to read music, study basic piano, and gain experience with singing, both in choirs and in solo settings.

College or university degrees are "not always required but the equivalent training is usually necessary". Post-secondary training in singing is available for both Classical and non-Classical singers. In the Classical stream, singing can be studied at conservatories and university music programs; credentials that are available range from diplomas and Bachelor's degrees to Master's degrees and the Doctor of Musical Arts. In popular and jazz styles, college and university degrees are also available, though there are fewer programs.

Once aspiring vocalists have completed their professional training, they must then take steps to market themselves to buyers of vocal talent, by doing auditions in front of an opera director, choirmaster, or conductor. Depending on the style of vocal music that a person has trained in, the "talent buyers" that they seek out may be record company A&R representatives, opera or musical theater directors, choir directors, nightclub managers, or concert promoters. In addition preparing a resume or CV listing their training and performance experience, singers typically prepare a promotional kit that includes professionally taken photographs (head shots); a CD or DVD with excerpts of vocal performances; and copies of reviews from music critics or journalists. Some singers hire an agent or manager to help them to seek out engagements and other performance opportunities; the agent or manager is often paid by receiving a percentage of the fees that the singer gets from performing onstage.

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