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Rock stars, pop divas, jazz sensations, and kings of country. There are so many types of music in the world, from religious chanting to prefabricated pop, from hard hitting punk rock to the trill of an Italian aria. Music surrounds us, and so often our heroes are the people who write, record, and perform it.

Most people out there will admit to a secret fantasy about topping the charts, but very few of us are actually talented enough to climb that high. Music is an extremely tough industry to get involved in, and only the most driven will choose to make music a career. Nevertheless, there are quite a few opportunities for singers who want to sing for love, and not for fame.

Singers can find work as backup singers, with record companies or experienced performers. They may sing backup on tours or albums. They might join an agency, and sing on commercials, or on movie scores. They may also work as singers fronting a band, or as solo singer/songwriters. Some singers sing in choirs, operas, musical theater, or for religious groups. Some prefer to work in musical theater.

Most singers start out singing at community functions, seeing where it goes from there. They may get discovered, but this is not a very common occurrence. Singers have to put in a lot of time in bars and on stages before getting that big break. They will have to contact many producers, agents, and other recording artists in an effort to get noticed by a major label or powerful agency.

Most singers may never get to superstar status. They may instead reserve their music for local clubs, or for community festivals. They may never make much money, but any singer will tell you: it's not a career for the money-hungry, but for the devoted, who just live to hit those high notes.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
It takes a lot of talent, patience, and energy to work as a professional singer. Singers must be dedicated to music, and be interested in performing many kinds. They should be willing to practice daily, and promote themselves to producers, venue owners, and other musicians, singers, and songwriters. Singers need a thick skin to handle criticism and rejection. A good ear for music, as well as the ability to sense the mood of audiences is important. They should feel comfortable in front of an audience, work well alone, and function within a band or ensemble well. They should be creative, persistent, healthy, and willing to make sacrifices for their art.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Practice
  • Look for songs written by others to add to repertoire
  • Audition for musicals and record companies
  • Write music and lyrics
  • Perform live
  • Record music
  • Singers sing every day, either in performance or when practicing. They will also spend time reading music, writing and revising music, and sharing ideas with band mates, producers, or managers. They may meet with agents, conductors, and record company executives to discuss tours, promotions, or shows. If they are in a musical or opera, they will have to rehearse the acting component of their role. Their hours can be long, and difficult, especially when touring, preparing for a show, or recording an album. Singers will travel, bringing the music to the fans, and they encounter many types of people. The can work outside if they choose to, or if they are commissioned to play an outdoor wedding or party, or are invited to play a festival.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Singers can perform in all sorts of places. They are found singing on subway platforms, in arenas, in operas, accompanied by a large orchestra, or in a small group. Where they perform depends on the type of music they are involved in. Generally though, they perform on a stage, in clubs, concert halls or other venues. They can be soloists, or sing within a group. If they record their music, they will sing in studios. They are usually self-employed, unless they are backup singers for record labels, or work under the direction of an agent, who will help further their careers for a cut of their earnings.
  • Due to the difficult nature of the music industry, many singers must work at another job part- or full-time to support their musical career.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Singers can work as the front person in a band, or as a member of a singing group, and then branch off on their own for a solo career. They can work in musical theater. They can write their own music, play instruments, and become music teachers, choir conductors, arrangers, or composers. They may decide to start a recording label, open their own recording studio, or open up a club or a concert hall. They can also become managers or talent scouts.

  Educational Paths  
There are no education requirements for those people interested in becoming singers. Often, practice and experience are all it takes, but there are a lot of options for people looking for training. Universities offer degrees in music, or musical theater, and many colleges have diploma programs or courses. There are also lessons with conservatories, and private music teachers. Vocal coaches can specialize in all types of singing, from jazz and classical opera, to pop and rock. Singers never stop learning, as each new performance or jam session is different, with many opportunities to watch and listen to experienced singers.

Because they are entertainers, singers must learn to handle large audiences, as well as small intimate shows. They should try and enter contests, put on recitals, and find a band to sing for as early as possible. It is also a good idea to be able to play an instrument, as this helps teach sight-reading and ear-training.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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