No matter how proficient you are or how many voice lessons you’ve taken, the thought of being in the spotlight and working toward a career in the music industry can be daunting to some. But the wonderful thing about music is that there are so many facets — not only does it take a village to produce a musical event, but the avenues and directions you can go in the world of performance and production are practically endless.
For vocal performers, think pop, country, Broadway, and other types of music. Add to that teachers who inspire, composers and lyricists who write, members of choirs, Opera performers… the possibilities go on and on! Or for artistic people who prefer to be a part of creating the illusion, or like to set the stage, behind the scenes might be the perfect place for you. Read on for a glimpse into the available career choices, and how to start a singing career.
Vocal Performance – Popular
To do any job, training is essential. Most vocalists start with private lessons, and continue working with a vocal coach even when working in the industry. Having a background in music theory can be helpful, especially if your goal is to write your own compositions. Singers who want to perform have several options. The career paths are similar, although tailored to the type of music you want to sing. And if you’re wondering how to start a singing career – a popular singer/songwriter might get their start by taking vocal lessons, and perhaps learn an instrument for accompaniment, and then study music theory. Taking courses in college can also help – most college music majors learn far more than the specific genre they wish to explore, and that well-rounded knowledge will take you far. Plus, the exposure and experience you’ll get in your studies can make the transition into the music industry easier.
One avenue for vocalists who love to write music, but don’t love the performance aspect, is music composition. There are many talented vocalists that have found success behind the scenes; just look up who wrote some of your favorite top 40 hits and you might be surprised! The Carole Kings and Lamont Doziers gave other vocalists number-one hits to sing. Singer/songwriters, lyricists, and composers are at the heart of the music industry — without their talent, many singers, productions, and soundtracks wouldn’t have topped the charts!
Vocal Performance – Musical Theater and Opera
Musical theater is another popular path for performers. From Broadway to off-Broadway, the Met to movies sets — musicals and operas bring in huge audiences. Just the same, private lessons, coaching, and training can influence your chances of in landing roles. Being comfortable on stage is part of the gig, so brushing up on your acting skills can help a ton.
Behind-the-Scenes – Musical Theater
Musical theater also has an abundance of behind-the-scenes careers. Think director, stagehand, costuming, makeup, lighting, and set design. Training can start early in your school years — try volunteering to be a part of your school’s production in whatever capacity you are interested in pursuing, for example. Many state colleges have wonderful musical theater and drama programs. It’s as simple as researching which college program will be the best fit for you.
Another way to improve your skills as a vocalist, without a demanding performance schedule, is to teach. Before you assume that teaching is the easy route, think again. Teachers are masters; you’ll need to familiarize yourself with many different styles so you can help budding vocalists achieve their unique goals and dreams. You must have patience, wit, and inspire with words, building your students up rather than tearing them down. As a vocal coach, you can teach in schools or offer private lessons. Vocal teachers often have completed degrees in performance and teaching, and usually have a strong background in theory and music history.
Maybe you’re a vocalist who has a head for business. Maybe you prefer singing at your desk while scheduling a world tour. Maybe you’re talented at talking performers into playing at your venue. Or maybe you’re an incredible organizer that can handle contracts, payments, and travel plans — and simultaneously keep a band on track while touring the nation and beyond. A career in music business might be for you!
The music industry is composed of lawyers, accountants, managers, event planners, and more. Each aspect of the business side of the music industry is intricate, and if you can do it well, you will always be in demand. Having a background in music and a degree in business can help get your foot in the door. The industry is always looking for people with a passion for song, and a personality that can make things happen.
Music Producers and Audio Engineers
Audio engineering is perfect for those who love to play with the vocal track they just recorded. You might like singing it, but tweaking it is even more fun. Another option is to work as a music producer, someone who oversees entire projects. You can think of a music producer like a project manager—they have vision, a good ear, and plenty of technological skills.
The music industry is vast, and vocalists can go in any direction. If you have a passion for music and are wondering how to start a singing career (or any of the other music-related careers listed above), start thinking seriously about your career path now. You might have to start by performing as a backup vocalist or wedding singer, or take an unpaid internship at a major music company to get your foot in the door. Be prepared to work hard, study hard, and train hard. Many vocalists who work in the industry say it started with a love of music and a couple lessons — then they were hooked. It may take time to get there, but getting to live your passion is the ultimate reward!
Photo by Rebekka