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How to start gigging as a singer (and get paid!)

So, you have discovered your love for singing and music and would now like to share it with the world. Congratulations on getting to this next stage in your vocal journey! Over the past 20 years I have seen many singers enter the studio stating in the first session, their goal to start performing professionally. However, many are unaware of how much preparation is involved in creating a service that is high enough quality to break into the live music and entertainment scene.

Here are 5 stages to help you prepare for the launch of your new live music service.

Stage 1: Getting Ready

The most important part of being a successful working singer is ensuring you have the necessary skills to provide a service that reflects the promise of what you are offering. This stage is the longest and is essential to your success. It requires patience and ongoing commitment. I don’t know any professional musicians who are not continuing to develop their skill set. It is a lifetime commitment. Here are some of the most important things to consider to ensure you are ready to start charging money for your services:

  • Your vocal technique is solid: Being a performer requires a demanding vocal load. Singing 3 x 45-minute sets requires a singer to be versatile, know their instrument very well, be experienced with vocal pacing when needed and often take their voice out of their comfort zone. Ongoing work with a vocal coach or singing teacher will give you the necessary technical skills to assist you with finding your strengths, and developing your weaknesses. Having some knowledge in vocal health also is vital when inevitable sicknesses arise, as well as taking the necessary precautions to avoid vocal injury.

  • You have some musical skills: Professional singers need musical knowledge. Even though you may not be required to play an instrument at your shows, it is imperative to have some foundational music theory skills. These skills enable you to communicate with your fellow band members and enable the singer to take control over essential elements such as changing the keys to songs. Find a music theory mentor to help develop these skills or invest time into learning an instrument. You won't regret it!

  • Your performance skills are suited to your goal: A cabaret performer will require a different set of performance skills than the lead singer of a cover band. What skills do you need to add that extra something special to your performance and keep your target audience engaged? Do you need to undertake in extra training such as acting, script writing, dance, or public speaking skills? Having additional skills under your belt will strengthen your service and complete your live performance package.

  • You have enough repertoire: This is often the most overlooked element. I have worked with many singers whose goals are to start an acoustic duo and they only have enough repertoire for an hour show. I recommend starting a repertoire spreadsheet to collate a list of your performance ready songs, along with the artist and the key you sing it in. This can later be shared with your musicians, and you can continue to add to your list as time goes on. Remember that sets are often 45 minutes long, which equates to approximately 15 songs per set. Find 60 songs that you feel confident with performing as your starting point. Remember that your repertoire list also needs to be appropriate to your target market, not just the songs you love to sing.

  • You have the appropriate gear and know how to use it: Are you starting an acoustic duo? If so, what gear do you need for the setting you plan to perform in? Do you have your own microphone? An iPad for lyrics? Investing in musical equipment is necessary for working singers. Chat to your local music store about your business plans so they can point you in the right direction as to what you need to purchase and/or do some research online.

  • You have established your team: Who do you need to include in your project to make it successful? Will you use one accompanist or have many on your books who you can call on when needed? Do you need a sound technician for your shows? Establishing a trusted team will assist with making future bookings seamless and will contribute to strong brand awareness as audiences get to know your team as much as they know you. Your team members also reflect your brand, so remember to choose wisely.

  • You have start-up capital: As much as us singers love our jobs, It is important to remember that getting paid to sing and perform is a business. To start a business, you need money. How much money are you willing to invest in your gigging to get your services up and running? Developing your start up budget is essential to the financial success of your new business. Your budget should include all expenses required to set up your business and your projected income for your first financial year. How much will you be charging for your services? You may need to do some market research to help you decide what your performance fees will be.

Stage 2: Establishing Your Brand

Your brand is more than just your logo. It should encompass your purpose, service and niche clearly. Here are some things to consider.

  • What is the purpose of your service? Are you trying to break into the wedding music market or build a following to promote and perform your original music? Or maybe you are launching your first cabaret show? Identifying your purpose will help you establish a strong brand with a clear focus.

  • Who is your target market? Who is your ideal audience and where do you want to be playing? What are the demographics of your target market? For example, Is the target market your audience members who will purchase tickets or a booking agent who books musical acts? A wedding music business will target engaged couples of a certain demographic as opposed to building an audience who will purchase tickets and merchandise and and create a following for original artists.

  • What makes you unique? What is that thing that sets you apart from others who are offering similar services to you? What are your areas of strength and how can you take advantage of these for future bookings? Find your niche.

Stage 3: Setting Up Your Business

This stage requires a lot of paperwork. Here is a checklist for small business essentials.

  • Establish your business structure. Will you be trading as a sole trader, partnership or company?

  • Register your business name.

  • Set up your bank account.

  • Set up your email account.

  • Set up your accounting system. Online platforms such as MYOB and Xero are suitable for small business owners and easy to navigate.

  • Ensure the appropriate insurances are organised.

Stage 4: Creating Your Marketing Tools

So, everything is now ready to go. You have your service and branding organised and have set up your business. You have established your target market. Now you just need some gigs……..

High quality marketing content is essential to help get your new business off the ground. Investing in video content with your act doing what it does best, is necessary. Potential customers will want to see what you do and how you sound. Showcasing yourself on social media platforms with video content is great way to be seen and get started. Create a professional website with your services clearly listed using professional photos. Save the more casual content and pics for your social feeds. You might also want to create a media kit to send to potential clients and enquiries.

Stage 5: Hustle

Make yourself known in the industry you want to break into. Word of mouth is a powerful tool so invest time in getting to know your fellow music industry professionals. Attend workshops, networking events and make yourself known to people in the industry. Promote your services to your family and friends and be prepared to slowly grow your business. There is a lot of work that goes into becoming a professional singer, however with the right amount of preparation and hard work, it can be a very rewarding and fulfilling job.

Need help getting started?

Are you feeling overwhelmed by any of these stages and would like some help?

Book in for some one-on-one coaching.


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