There are so many singers out there who don’t know how to make money with their voices. I think over the years I have had to become pretty creative with finding ways to constantly being paid to sing. Sometimes you have to think out of the box while you are waiting for your big break. Singers need to make money, we also need experience singing in front of people. Hopefully this will stir a few ideas for you guys. I would love to hear some of your suggestions to add in as well.
1. Christmas Caroling- A great job for the late fall/winter season is Christmas Caroling. I was a “Dickens Caroler” for many years. We dressed up in Dicken’s costumes and went from gig to gig singing in quartets. It was a lot of fun and paid pretty well for a college student. The gig of course is only seasonal, once you learn your book of music it is a piece of cake. You also tend to get some really nice tips (money not advice), see some fabulous homes and restaurants, and are usually fed well after. Plus socially it is fun and you get to meet a lot of singers.
2. A singing waiter or waitress- There are some Italian restaurants out there that have singing waiters (I did this when I was in school). I know of Micelli’s in Los Angeles and the Macaroni Grill, (the fabulous restaurant I was at is no longer there- it was called Sarnos and wow I ate well there!). Just Google singing waiters with your city name and see if there is something out there. You can always be entrepreneurial and call nice restaurants with pianos and sell them on you coming in one night a week for a special Jazz, musical theater or opera dinner, lunch, or brunch.
3. Singing in a hotel/ bar lounge- (Thank God they are not smoky anymore.) This is a great regular gig to try and book. Often they are of a torch song to Jazz nature. You are one step ahead on this if you play piano as well. Just know that often times you are background music in these situations. Don’t take it personal, just get your practice performing in and get paid.
4. Weddings/funerals- Sell yourself as a wedding singer for nuptial services. Learn The Lords Prayer, Ave Maria or the seven Blessings, with other popular wedding material. Put up a web page and connect yourself to other local wedding sites. Also, contact wedding coordinators so that they recommend you. You will need a recording of yourself for people to hear that you should post on your site as well. Also on a sadder note, you can contact and submit your demo to funeral homes as well, there are always singers at these services- and if you can help to add a moment of beauty to a sad occasion that is a good deed on your part. Music helps a heavy heart, I have sung at many sad occasions and often feel very moved and honored to have done so afterwards.
5. Amusement Parks- a great location for singing opportunities. Whether it be Disney Characters, barber shop quartets, rock singers etc… I was offered to be an Opera Singer at Epcott in the Italian land many years ago, you never know who may be looking for what style. Amusement parks often have many new themes that require different types of musicians.
6. Places of Worship- Offer up a 30 minute singing concert for your church or temple, or take part in leading the music in services. Your fellow congregants would love to see one of their own perform and share. This is also a great way to build a support system of fans around you. You want the people around you to know and see what you do. This will lead to further work for you outside of the establishment. Also, lots of times big institutions like these like to do theme nights. Help to suggest one with your concert playing on the theme. Sing for free as volunteer work for them as often as you can. When you are ready with your concert suggestion they will be more apt to help fund it. Plus it is great exposure all the way around.
7. Las Vegas Casinos- Most themed Casino have entertainment, whether you are a strolling minstrel, a gondola singer for The Bellagio, a french songstress for The Paris, or a drinking song bar singer for Treasure Island. Plus there are all the set shows of entertainment to audition for there as well. Vegas is a huge work place for singers and entertainers. (But you do have to deal with totally dry weather which can be harsh on your voice.)
8. Cruise Ships- I had lots of friends do these- They have auditions for their shows that are posted in Back Stage West. You commit for about 6 months at a time and get a really cool experience. Usually pays pretty well. This is great for regular pay, travel, fun, and experience. The Cruise Ship circuit however tends to be self enclosed so starring on the seas does not always translate to work on land. It does however help you to build a great resume. This job is also ideal for the younger unattached singer since you are literally living on the sea and will be out of touch with land life for a while.
9. Teaching- There are many people who want to sing. If you are qualified to teach voice, great. If not, you can teach “singing”. Get trained as part of a music curriculum to work with kids such as Music Together or Gymboree. You learn their materials and then become a certified teacher. There are many programs like this for you to look into. You can also teach a children’s choir as an afternoon school program or run a musical theater class for kids through a recreation center.
10. Singing in films- A great gig, but hard to get into. If you have contacts do it!!! I am still being paid for Vampire in Brooklyn- residuals… This in itself is a career to pursue. You need to be able to site read music like a mad wizard, and I mean that. Sometimes composers are still writing the music when you get there and then they just hand it to you to sing. - Not to learn but to sing and record with the first read through. it can be very intense and is for the true trained musicians out there.
11. Private Parties- Put together some great themed programs and sell yourself for private parties and to party coordinators. Examples of themed programs- love songs for Valentine’s Day/anniversary parties, Christmas Carols, Celtic songs for St. Patricks Day, Karaoke Parties- where you sing and lead other singers. Make a webpage, make a flyer, put up an ad in your local paper. Offer to do one free for someone you know or a teaser for them to help others hear you and to spread the word.
12. Hitting the “retirement home or hospital circuit”- This is a real good one on many levels. Retirement homes are the best gigs because they love you no matter what you sound like! They also do pay some sort of stipend $50-125 a gig. This is a great way to practice a singing program and help get the nerves out. Plus it is really good for your Karma. I have done a lot of these gigs. I will warn you now, your audience often sings along with you (sometimes badly) and talks loudly about you while you are in the middle of your most precious singing moments. But you will feel sooooo good after you do it. And so will they. It helps to give you a connection to humanity and priorities in this tough singing grind of a business..
13. Schools- Remember sitting in a school assembly and having a small play, choir, speaker, or performer come in and give you a 30 minute show? Well those people were paid. So why can’t you do that? It helps to come up with a theme or angle such as wrapping a concert into a season, holiday, or making it educational. There is a small budget for these things out there. Once you have a show put together that is appropriate you can shop it to many schools. Don’t forget about private schools, their budget is often more flexible.
Here are some examples of what I have done personally to make money as a singer to show you it can be done (this is outside of actual paid performance gigs such as concerts and operas). Keep in mind, I have never had a “day job”: Christmas caroling, cantoring in synagogues, singing at weddings both at the parties and services, singing at funerals, singing in old age homes, Opera singing waitress in an Italian restaurant, been teaching private voice for 18 years, created Voice Lessons To Go (a series of singing lessons on cd), wrote Vocalize! (a sheet music compilations of vocal exercises to be played on the piano), doing Vocal Assessments of singers, teaching skype voice lessons, teaching group singing lessons to kids in Los Angeles, sang on films, contracted choirs for films, was the musical theater specialist in schools, song led for years playing guitar at camps, sung at themed private parties… I am sure there have been a lot more to add to that list.
No gig is to small, you never know who will be sitting out there for future contacts. Working as a singer anywhere establishes you in public as an expert which people like. People want to hire people who are working. Plus you as a singer will be being paid regularly to sing which puts you in the right mind set to continue to make money with your voice. You need to be your own business person as well as a great singer. Until you get your fancy manager or agent you need to act as your own.
I hope this gave you some ideas. Being a working singer takes some real innovation sometimes until we get our big shot.
Sing well everyone, and go make yourselves some money doing what you love. If you can get yourself out of that “day job”, you will have more time to become the musical artist you desire to be.
Here is the link I did to a Podcast on this subject for a bit more detail (or just to hear me chatting:)): Jobs for Singers
Now get to work singing!
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