Popular singers perform as soloists or as members of a band. They usually specialise in one style of music, such as jazz, rock and roll, pop, rap, rhythm and blues, folk, world or country.
As well as solo and group singers, there are also those that sing backing vocals, work as session singers or perform in musical theatre. Some write their own songs, known as singer-songwriters. You could be:
A tiny minority of popular singers are seriously rich, but the vast majority must combine performing with another job to make ends meet.
Pay rates vary, depending on the venue (club, London theatre, regional theatre, pub, TV or recording studio, for example) and type of performance (live or recorded). Usually a singer is paid per gig although some might have a regular spot in a pub or club.
With any income you earn there may be expenses and fees to pay, such as manager’s fee, publicity and transport costs. You may share the income with other members of the group.
It is common for back-up acts or warm-up acts to perform unpaid or in return for expenses in the hope of establishing themselves.
The Musicians' Union website shows recommended minimum pay rates (updated every year) for a range of musical performance types, including gigs and live engagements, recording and songwriting. For example, rates agreed with The British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) for session musicians currently range from £90 (2 hour session) up to £180 (4 hour session). Additional fees are paid for live recordings and commercial use of material. For casual gigs in pubs and clubs, the rate is £114 per musician for a three hour slot.
The Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) and Equity (the performers' union) carry out surveys of performers' fees from time to time which appear on their websites.
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Most jobs are in cities, but there are opportunities in holiday resorts and in cruise ships. Even established singers often supplement their income with work as session singers or backup singers for film soundtracks, studio recordings or the advertising industry.
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You should be able to:
Singer-songwriters who establish a reputation can make extra through performing rights and downloading rights — royalties paid to a songwriter whenever one of their songs is performed or downloaded from the internet.
If the songwriter is a member of a performing rights collection agency, such as Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), or Performing Rights Society (PRS), the collection group will keep track of public performances of the songwriter's material, collect payment, and pass the royalties on to the songwriter.
Performing rights royalties are paid whenever you or someone else performs your song live, when someone else records a cover version of your song and when your song is played on:
The Creative and Cultural Skills website has a section called Creative Choices which has information on working in the music industry.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
Creative and Cultural Skills
Website (2): https://ccskills.org.uk/careers
Creative and Cultural Skills is the Sector Skills Council for advertising, crafts, cultural heritage, design, music, performing, literary and visual arts. Creative Choices is their career information website.
Tel: 020 7379 6000
Membership of Equity is open not just those in the acting profession but to anyone working professionally in the field of entertainment.
Traditional Music and Song Association of Scotland (TMSA)
Tel: 07922 533915