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Become a Music Singer

A Singer sings the main voNigeria Afro Hip Hop beatscal line of a track. He or she is the main focus of the performance, in contrast to a band, which has regular members who tour, record, and ge

nerally play equal roles in a performance together. Some Singers back themselves up on piano or guitar, whereas some focus more on dancing and performing, and leave the rest to a backing band. Singers record albums of songs that they have written or that have been written for them by a production team, and then tour to promote the album. Their days are spent in studio, on tour, and practicing vocal, instrumental or dance skills.

A Singer works with Booking Agents, Club Promoters, Managers, Talent Agents, otherSingers and Session Musicians.



Advancement in this career means making more money and performing in front of bigger crowds—so basically progressing from having a small local following to becoming a star.

Even Grammy winners start small. Singers can play their local club circuit, perform on cruise ships, and hold residencies at lounges or clubs. It’s an extremely competitive field, but there are opportunities for the creative Singer to find work, and to get his or her name out there to attract possible management or labels.

Education & Training

Further education isn’t a requirement for a singing career, although it can lead to better opportunities through training and networking, and vocal performance majors are available at many colleges. Carly Rae Jepsen honed her skills at an arts college in Canada (1) and John Mayer attended Berklee College of Music, where he discovered his strengths as a Songwriter after initially enrolling to further his skills as a Guitar Player (2).

Of course, music education is essential. Not every Singer has taken years of voice lessons, but to further a career, make one’s voice stand out, and to keep vocal abilities strong, lessons are a must. A Singer can also benefit from learning a musical instrument and honing dance skills.

Experience & Skills

Experience performing and writing one’s own songs is essential. Before she was famous, Katy Perry performed at open mic nights (3). Justin Bieber performed at local singing competitions, and his mom uploaded his videos to YouTube (4). Carly Rae Jepsen fronted a local swing band and ran an open mic for Singer/Songwriters at the coffee shop where she worked (1).

Skill-wise, in addition to being able to write catchy, beautiful songs and sing well, a singer must be able to market herself. Charli XCX originally posted her music to MySpace, which caught the attention of a rave Promoter who asked her to perform at one of his parties, and in turn led to more opportunities to perform live (5). Lorde’s hit “Royals” attracted worldwide attention after she posted it on her SoundCloud page as part of a free download of her Love Club EP (6). Since many Singers are considered to be all-around entertainers, dance skills can also be helpful.


A Singer must be adaptable and able to handle some uncertainty. Building a career is challenging and requires sacrifice. Katy Perry told Seventeen magazine that “It was five years of living in L.A. with no money, writing bad checks, selling my clothes to make rent, [and] borrowing money” while writing tracks and trying to get a record company to sign her (7). Above all, a Singer must be perseverant and passionate about their career. Even top performers spend extremely long days in the studio and rehearsing for tour. And whether they’re touring in minivans or private jets, a Singer must be flexible enough to handle life on the road, an experience that can be as grueling as it can be exciting.


The lifestyle of a Singer varies widely. For those just starting off, singing at open mics and talent competitions, income can be very limited. Most of these Singers do not earn the majority of their income from performance and instead supplement their earnings with a part or full-time job. Obviously, on the other end of the spectrum are stars like Taylor Swift, who earned $40 million in 2013 (8). Across the board, however, Singers work hard. They spend time writing songs, rehearsing songs, and working on their performance abilities. Touring takes a lot of time and energy, and can mean that the Singer is on the road more than he or she is at home. Most Singers perform at night, so staying up late is par for the course.


Like many careers in the music industry, getting work as a Singer is all about who you know. Networking is important; other Singers can invite you to perform on a bill with them or can spread the word about open mics. Sometimes a fellow Musician will know of a band or a Producer looking for a Vocalist.

It doesn’t matter if an aspiring Singer has a label backing her or if she’s just starting out; the most important element of having a successful singing career is building an audience. Without an audience, there’s no draw for a Booker to sign the Singer and serach for gigs, or for a label to sign the Singer.

When a Singer is just starting out, most gigs won’t be paid, and if they are, they won’t be paid very much. Start by playing open mics and talent contests and contacting local Bookers to see if you can open up for another Band/Singer or be added to a bill. It’s important to have an online presence, whether it’s YouTube videos or a SoundCloud page, so that the Talent Buyer can check out your work and decide if you’ll be a good fit.


In general, a Singer is paid per event. Clubs will give the Singer a percentage of the door fee. Other Singers have contracts to play certain venues or to tour.

The majority of a Singer’s income comes from touring and performing. Selling merchandise is a secondary source.

Making money off of albums is difficult, even for big names. The label will pay forSongwriters, star Producers, marketing efforts, promotion, etc., and the Singer will only start making money him or herself once the label has recouped their initial investment.

Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations

Resources for Singers include the American Federation of Musicians and the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. Some Singers are eligible to join the Screen Actors’ Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). TheNew York Singers Collective lists Singers online so that anyone looking for a Singer can easily search for the right fit for their project.

Getting Started
  • Get experience and build connections by performing at open mics, joining a choir, joining a band or entering talent contests.
  • Get an online presence so people can access your music. A SoundCloud or MySpace page is essential. YouTube videos can also generate a buzz.
  • Take voice lessons regularly, and consider learning an instrument.
  • Develop your own unique image so that you stand out from the pack.
  • Build and stay in touch with your audience through social media, newsletters, etc.

Become A Music Producer

Music Producers write, arrange, produce, and record songs, whether they’re shaping the sound of another Artist’s album or creating bAfro Hip Hop Music Beats For Saleeats or songs for their own projects. With the growth of home recording technology and boutique recording studios, many Producers find themselves pulling double or triple duty as Studio Owners and Sound Engineers, as does the Rattle Room’s Jaron Luksa. He says, “I am responsible for every aspect of my business and it’s definitely not all rock ‘n’ roll glory. A typical day for me starts with checking my Producer notes, prepping the studio and checking gear functionality. If something is broken, I’d rather have a fix or workaround figured out before anyone is in the space. Once the client shows up, I want my attention 100% on the Artist and the music creation process. Nothing else comes first. I usually work for about 10-12 hours with lots of ear and mental breaks worked in throughout the day. While on a break, I am usually attending to phone calls, emails, texts, social media and even accounting. There is a lot of work that goes into being a Producer outside of the studio such as attending rehearsals, meetings, writing sessions, and going out to shows. Social media has given me the ability to connect with more Artists then ever, but in-person interaction will never be replaced. Half of producing is the music, the rest is sales…and I am the product I push.”

Music Producers work with Recording Artists, Recording Engineers, Session Singersand Session Musicians, among others.


Production is an extremely competitive field, and advancement comes as a Producer builds and diversifies his or her skill set or works with more prestigious Artists. Luksa puts it this way. “Lots of little kids dream of being star athletes, but they’re more likely to win the lottery. The music industry has a similar statistical likelihood for Artists and all us production folks trying to reach the top. I think Producers need to be realistic about the current and evolving state of the music industry. The game has changed and you have to be more than just a Producer nowadays. So many of my peers not only produce, but play on records, write, engineer, DJ, program tracks or function as Artists themselves to pay the bills. You have to ask yourself the question, “what kind of records do I want to produce?” because you need to be in love with the work. There is no guaranteed financial success. Competition is crazier then ever and the current demand for free content doesn’t help. You need to pick this line of work because you refuse to do anything else.  It’s a hustle, and you are constantly looking for the next gig, even while working on a current project.“

Education & Training

“Yes, formal music education is a must (know the rules before you break ’em),” Luksa says. “This industry runs at lightning speed as far as technology goes, so learn the basics from trade schools, or music schools with recording arts/music engineering and production programs.  As you learn to use new gear or software, you can use that formal education as a platform to grow on. Next, apprentice with someone who is respected in the part of the industry you want to work in. You need to follow production trends and methods. Which, btw pretty much involves eating cereal and watching a stupid amount of YouTube videos on “how to” in pajamas.”

Experience & Skills

When it comes to necessary experience and skills, Luksa says, “there is no right path or specific skill set that will make you a great Producer. Some folks will get into producing by way of helping a friend record while playing/writing on said record, others will just be crushing tracks out of their bedroom and word gets around, while others might come to produce because they are engineering and start helping bands get through the tracking process. There is no one single magic solution to launching your career as a Producer. Play off your strengths and fake the rest!”

The two things that are essential are passion and a diverse skill set. He says, “As a Producer, I contribute with engineering, playing, writing, arranging and creative guru skills. I approach listening to songs, bands and Artists from a fan’s perspective. I aurally digest music CONSTANTLY. If a great track comes on, I get a rush of dopamine from my brain. I truly am a music junkie. That being said, I think it comes down to my tastes and how I am able to listen to music like a multi track machine, focusing in on each element at will. I can objectively give feedback to the Artist, regardless of what I would do or my musical influences. I try and produce according to that project’s genre and most importantly who the Artist is artistically and how I think fans might react.


So what kind of person would be successful as a Producer? Luksa says the ideal candidate is “organized, assertive, artistic and a great communicator. Someone who can lead the pack and rule with love, even when getting evil with some Norwegian death metal band. In the studio or rehearsals, Artists look to you for answers, so you need to be thick skinned and even-keeled. Artists bring enough drama, insecurity and emotion into the sessions, no need to add your baggage, so keep your BS and ego at home.“


Working as a Producer can be time-consuming, with late hours, long days in the studio, and a constant scramble to get paid work—at least when getting started. Luksa advises, “When you first start, take any gig you can at the drop of a hat. Date with the significant other planned? Guess what, canceled. Going snowboarding with friends…nope taking the call. It will suck at first, but the real people who support your dream will understand and love you regardless. Let other Producers [be the ones] being flakes or screwing up, [this can] be a good opportunity to prove yourself. If you become dependable, clients will start calling you first. Half the battle is just being the individual to get the job done in a timely manner. After a few years, you can start booking yourself some normal hours. I try to work from 10am – 10pm and take the weekends off, but it doesn’t always work out that way. The associated stress isn’t for the faint of heart, but it does have great perks. Working in the music industry immerses you in an environment of art and culture, allows traveling or vacationing whenever and however much you want. I always have backstage access and attend lots of fun events by invite. Ultimately this environment will change and shape your future, and if you are any good, you will affect the musical environment around you.”


So how does an aspiring Producer land that first gig? Obviously it isn’t as straightforward as submitting an application or a resume. It’s about taking advantage of networking and learning opportunities. Luksa says, “A few years back while I was still in school, Butch Vig was quietly standing backstage at Avalon in Boston (he had performed with Garbage). I was working production but snuck over and kindly asked this same question you posed here. Butch told me that he and some friends got a place and gear to track some punk bands and make records. The rule was that bands supplied beer as payment. It worked because a lot of bands showed up.”

Luksa started gaining experience early on. He says, “I attended Berklee’s Music Production and Engineering program, interned with a bunch of Live Sound Engineersand was offered a job mixing monitors for a Live Nation venue in Boston (Axis). I think [for] my 10th show, I ended up mixing monitors for a Bon Jovi acoustic show/live radio broadcast. . . .My interaction with the band and Jon was professional and I didn’t screw up. After the show I realized, ‘I know what I am doing…I can hang!’ For the next 6 years, I was mixing live and interacting with all these bands on a nightly basis.  After the shows I mixed, I would approach the best local bands opening for the national headliners and ask them to take me into the studio to make records (I told you… it’s a hustle and I figured out my angle). I became part of a scene and networked my ass off to find clients who would pay me to go into the studio with them. I guess that’s how I broke in…? That was a good 12 years ago….Fast forward, I have toured around the world as a Live Sound Engineer and Tour Manager for some amazing Artists and built a studio, The Rattle Room, where I produce and engineer all kinds of music. Oh, and I still cruise on a tour bus and do the Rock Star thing once in a while.”


Luksa says, “I’d say starting salary is hard to nail down….In bigger cities and music industry hotspots, the money is a little better for a per track rate…but the more you work and the more “at bats” you get, the more likely you are to have a record “make it” and end up with more business. When looking at ways you can earn money as a Producer, take my advice and get paid up front! Create a simple “Producer’s Agreement” with a Lawyer that you can edit and use over and over. (It’ll be the best $500 you ever spent.) Don’t waste time with points and backend troubles, you won’t see that cash anyway. If you help write songs or hooks, figure out your writers and/or publishing split for that song and confirm it via email with other Writers until a formal split sheet is created and signed. That is the backend you should be concerned with.”

Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations

Producers aren’t unionized, but networking and community are vital for success. Luksa advices fledgling Producers to “register with a PRO [Publishing Rights Organization] so you are prepared for writing and publishing royalty collection. Go out to shows and become part of your local scene, make friends and create contacts with Session Musicians, other Engineers and Producers.  Keep that part grassroots.”

Online, he says, “there are so many resources out there, it just depends on the music and scene you want to be a part of. Stick to where your clients might hang their interactive selves or follow other Record Producers or Engineers you respect. Always follow trends within your project’s marketing demographic via Billboard or other reporting. You don’t have to buy those records, but give them a listen. I really digSound On Sound, Tape Op, Mix Magazine, and Gear Slutz forums (especially when I have software or hardware questions).”

Getting Started
  • “Find an Artist and start, even if you have to do it for free. Trial by fire is the best way to get your hands dirty. You will learn more from your mistakes than your successes. This applies to not only creating the music, but the business aspect as well.”
Gem Questions
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?

“Be yourself and go with your gut. This is art. It should be fun, inspiring and just fly by the seat of your pants crazy. Go make real music!!! If it catches on like Amy Winehouse, Black Keys, Jack White, Adele, Liam Bailey, etc., then you actually served a purpose in producing real art and we need more of that. Back in the day, we had music industry gurus that decided what was good music and what people should listen to on the radio. Unfortunately those folks have all left this earth or stopped making records. Even worse, they have been replaced by marketing and accounting personnel.”

What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?

“We don’t need more Producers making tracks for pop bands. The sounds have become so uniform, I can’t even hear a voice or any resemblance of artistry on the track. . . to be honest, I can’t even distinguish who it is sometimes. If your plan is to make “hits,” realize that you are making the Coca Cola of music. It has to appeal to the largest audience possible and ends up pretty bland. That’s not to say that there isn’t good pop music, but the pop market is so oversaturated. No one buys that music anyhow and the record companies have had to shift how they make money. The big record companies serve the purpose of content creation for commercial applications, selling movies, soda, cars, and other products. It’s just not my bag because I care about the music more than the money. I’m not trying to put down the folks who do this work, I just want to inspire more people to produce out of love, not for the bling.”

What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?

“’What is the biggest personal reward in producing?’ Seeing or hearing your name mentioned in association with a record you believed in and loved makes it all worthwhile. Everyone who works a “normal” job and receives a paycheck every week also craves recognition for a job well done. We are human and full of emotional needs, regardless of the situation.”

 What is one thing I should have asked which I didn’t?

“Who is my favorite Producer or who do I look up to? Rick Rubin. The dude is a big weirdo, but he launched a hip-hop scene, produced true gems like Tom Petty’sWildflowers, created a record label that supported huge acts like Slayer and System Of A Down, revived careers of bands like The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Johnny Cash, Black Sabbath and Metallica. I feel he is one of the last Producer/label/A&R people that can create with a sense of artistic integrity and still achieve commercial success.”

If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?