Getting The Gig

There are a number of opportunities out there for singers to become gainfully employed, and each requires its own focused skill-set and criteria for generating success and repeat gigs. The opportunities are as wide open as your vocal capability, musical tastes, desire, and imagination.

Ships + Parks + Stages

Musical theatre is one area that is a great training ground for singers and future performers. It obviously requires acting skills, a sharp memory, adaptability to character and style, as well as strong interpretive instincts and abilities. Even movement and dance enhance a performer’s ability to deliver a song and engage an in other settings such as clubs, cafes, and concert halls.

For those seeking work in musical theatre, whether it be equity, regional, community, or even dinner theatre, flexibility and a working knowledge of a variety of musical styles and genres is helpful. Tone, range, and style will often run the gamut from rock to blues to classical depending on the show. These same skills are needed for theme park and cruise ship work. Your acting skills will be more geared toward making the audience the character than you must relate to.

For those singing in the chorus the ability to harmonize and blend without wavering is essential. The same skills needed for the chorus also applies to gigs for back up vocalists with artists and bands on tour.

Weddings + Other Engagements

To succeed as a wedding singer or party performer you must have an appealing voice that is comfortable in both jazz and contemporary soft rock and pop styles. Though existing bands are often booked for these events many times the musicians and singers are pulled in for the event and may not know each other well, if at all. In such cases there is little or no rehearsal. It’s important to be familiar with at least four sets of five songs each, and to have the sheet music available in your keys.

The ability to quickly blend and adjust is also critical for gigs that engage church-related or worship-focused music such as choir, Christmas caroling, holiday events and other related events. The ability to sight-read, the ability to harmonize and blend as well as the knack for taking direction and getting along with others are paramount. A classical tone may be needed for events that are stylistically less contemporary.

Corner Clubs + Cozy Cafes

The need for showcase gigs in lounges, cafes and coffee houses are similar to those for the wedding-party circuit. Working in outdoor festivals, corporate meetings or conferences, and charity events also has related demands. Your working familiarity with contemporary musical styles is critical to your staying power in this field. Know your niche. Hopefully it includes a variety of styles that can work to your advantage in securing more gigs in various venues.

With contemporary music, vocal demands will vary depending on the style and genre. With country you need a specific tone, though the genre is expanding. Folk and alternative music both offer a wide range in tone. Jazz singers should be able to improvise. Stage presence, signature moves and free expression is a plus for rock edged music. You also need good rapport building skills when engaging the audience in between songs or sets. Bad transition technique with the mic can cause the audience to hit snooze, start texting, or ask for the check.

Promos + Demos

Many great songwriters can’t sing but need their demos recorded so they can shop their songs to publishers. For that reason, session singers are a vital part of the music industry, and it’s a great way to showcase your voice. To succeed in the demo market you need to be able to learn a song quickly. You must be able to find harmonies on the spot as well as improvise freely. You must be able to take direction as well as know when and how to offer suggestions that may help a song be showcased to its fullest potential. Your ability to get along with others, work well under pressure, and have a pleasant voice will go a long way toward getting you extra bookings. Having a good ear and ability to approximate the sound and feel of popular artists or styles is also a plus. These same skills apply to singing commercial jingles as well. Your voice is selling the product for the single. For the demo session the product you’re selling is the song.

Versatility + Focus

The more versatile you are in terms of style, tone and comfort, as well as the more well-versed you are in a variety of genres and material, the more potential gigs you can pursue.

Know your strengths and limitations in terms of tone or in terms of your tastes or goals as a singer. You may wish to carve out a career in musical theatre or you might be pursuing a record deal as a singer as you network through session work or showcasing in clubs or cafes. Know your voice and make smart choices as you pursue your Singing Success.