Though talent and passion are both absolutely necessary to working as a singer, these two attributes alone are not enough to assure you a successful career. There is stiff competition for singing jobs and many singers are forced to take other jobs to make ends meet. If you want to make singing your full-time profession, you must pair many different skills with your singing talent.
Professional singers need more than a strong voice. To be successful, you must also be able to memorize music and lyrics, adapt to different sound systems and microphones, and perform in a wide variety of vocal styles, such as opera, musical comedy, country and rock. The ability to sight-read music is also desirable. Finding work is a bit easier if you can dance or play an instrument, as well. Some acting experience is also helpful, so you can move around a stage and hit your marks without looking down or running into other company members. Learning another language can also benefit your singing career.
As in most careers, you will go further as a singer if you are comfortable working with diverse groups of people. Physical stamina is also important, as performing can be strenuous and may require lots of travel to various venues. The determination and tenacity to forge ahead in the face of rejection is also crucial for a singing career. Rejection is common and not necessarily a reflection of your ability. It is important to conduct yourself professionally during auditions and jobs – sometimes it isn't the most talented but the most professional singers who are hired.
There is no formal certification or licensing required to become a singer, but coupling talent with some training is paramount to success. Vocal training and voice lessons are necessary if you want to sing professionally. Although not mandatory, a degree in music, music theory, music performance or a similar discipline is helpful. A college degree complements voice lessons and experience while demonstrating a commitment to the art. Schooling at a respected musical institution, such as The Juilliard School, can also help further your career but is not strictly necessary to achieve success.
Applying for Work
Though long-term employment is possible in certain venues, singers generally find themselves picking up temporary work while frequently applying for and auditioning for new jobs. Unless otherwise directed, provide a copy of your resume and a professional photograph to potential employers before your audition. Create a demo tape or CD exemplifying the full range of your vocal ability as well as the different musical styles you can sing. Bring this tape or CD along to all your auditions or send it in with your resume. Arrive at auditions with your voice already warmed up and ready to sing.
Writing professionally since 2008, Michelle Miley specializes in home and garden topics but frequently pens career, style and marketing pieces. Her essays have been used on college entrance exams and she has more than 4,000 publishing credits. She holds an Associate of Applied Science in accounting, having graduated summa cum laude.