This is the second part in a 5 part blog series covering the ins and outs of being a professional singer. You can check out Part 1 here. I’m not talking about becoming a famous singer, although that could always happen! Instead I’m going to be focusing on other avenues in your singing career rather than this being a ‘how to be a pop star” blog post.
Firstly, ask yourself why you want to become a singer? Is it just for the money? Do you seek fame and fortune or do you want to become a singer because you are passionate about music, and you want to express your feelings to the world through music and singing? If it’s the latter then you’re in for a great career. If you would much rather seek fame and fortune then I’de suggest sleeping with a famous rich man; it’s a lot easier and quicker.
Yes money is a small perk of the job, IF you are good at what you do and leave a good reputation with others. Otherwise, it can be a non stop battle for work, competing with other like minded singers for a 3hour spot at your local pub or club receiving the bare minimum in payment.
Before I started writing my own music I began my singing career at local pubs and Clubs throughout essex and London. I was trying so very hard to establish myself as an entertainer, often getting let down by the awful venues and terrible turn outs to practically every single gig. Don’t get me wrong, some gigs are great especially the parties and weddings, but these types of gigs often come round scarcely, so making money through pubs and social clubs are your best bet for a regular income.
When starting out my average pay was about £150 for x3 45min sets, most likely between the hours of 9 – 12pm or 8 -11pm. To make a good living you would need to do at least 2 of these gigs a week, and as venues normally don’t put on music during the week you’re looking at doing back to back gigs on Friday, Saturday & Sunday.
After performing for a few years my average pay went up to £180/£200 and the sets got shorter. I was getting that pay for x2 60min sets which is a lot less strenuous on your voice. Personally, I would just do one long set of 1.5hrs instead of two or three, but it’s not up to me unfortunately.
Of course, some venues may ask you to play for longer and ask you to accept a smaller payment (like play for 3 hours for £50), which you should SAY NO to. Why? Well, if I undercut my friend by £10, and then you undercut me by another £20, it’s telling the venue that they can get singers for around £100 instead of £150. Before you know it all the venues in the area will be asking you to play for £90 a night or even worst PLAY FOR FREE, which obviously you don’t want to do. Some people might argue that “it’s for exposure/ to get your name out there” but we’re trying to make a career out of singing, not a hobby, so let’s leave the standards the way they are and say a big fat NO to people who ask you to reduce your price.
Of course there are exceptions to this rule, like for example if you were playing a venue 4 – 5 times a week you might want to offer them a discount, like £120 a gig instead of £150, or you could draw up a contract and ask for a bulk amount per month for performing regularly. If you get a job on a cruise ship then you most certainly will get a contract for payment per month and not per show.
Again, different kind of jobs will pay differently. if you’re interested in becoming a tribute artists, then you could be looking at getting £300- £700+ for one performance. You can always find out about singing jobs online via starnow or singerspro.
Remember! If you are booked through any agencies, regardless or not wether its online or over the phone/ in person, you will have to pay them a commission rate (usually around 10-20%) EG: My agent “FindAsinger” get me a gig for next week for £150 and charges me 15% commission, I would have to pay them £22.50, therefore I walk away with £127.50.
Don’t forget, as a singer you are a self employed entity and all of your gross income (before deductions, like petrol and agent fees) are subject to tax! So don’t forget to fill in your tax return and keep all your receipts to claim back any deductible items.
Again, if you’re wondering what the hell you could use as deductions for self employment, the MU and Equity may have some useful advice for you. For a flexible guideline I always put down deductions as: Anything officey, anything musical, anything to do with looks/ makeup/ hair/ attire and any equipment you use. Other not so obvious deductions are anything to do with your car if you drive, studio time, agent fees, advertising, directory fees etc.
One final advice about the money side of things: Yes, you may just hit the jackpot and get loads of work and live the fabulous life of a singer. But don’t let your life revolve around money. Don’t strain yourself to make a heap of cash doing lots of awfully paid gigs to try and “establish yourself”. Spend only on the necessary items you need and keep the rest for a rainy day, or invest it back into your career.