What do you want to become?
Alternate Career Titles:
Singer, Studio Singer, Session Vocalist, Vocalist, Background Vocalist, Chorus Member
Career Overview: The Background Singer performs solo or with other singers and musicians in a recording studio or live performance.
Career Salary Range: $15,000 to $65,000
Become a Background Singer
The Background Singer provides backup to other Singers and musicians in recordings, commercial jingles, or live performances. Background Singers can be employed by a group, or they may freelance. Those working as freelance Vocalists go about their business in a slightly different way. Specifically, they must build up a strong reputation as a great singer who is flexible and available when they are needed. Being a Background Singer requires irregular hours, but these usually are not extreme every single day.
One of the most difficult aspects of background singing is having to walk into a recording studio, look over a song, learn it flawlessly and then perform it perfectly–all with little time to rehearse. The Background Singer must also be able to harmonize with a group of Singers with whom he has never before worked. Being versatile is a must, because they may have to perform different styles of music throughout the day as they work with different performers on separate recordings.
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An extremely successful Background Singer might earn up to $100,000 or more per year, but the reality is usually much, much lower. Those starting out in their career often have to handle a “day job” and background singing jobs. There are some other factors that affect earning potential, like geographical location and reputation of the Singer, too. And of course the more work a Background Singer takes on, the more money they can expect to make.
There are many opportunities available to aspiring Background Singers. Of course, these become more competitive as they begin to explore working with well-known artists or on jingles for well-known products. In order to land gigs, Background Singers need to pass auditions, which are either held directly by the band looking to hire, or Agents who will find them work. For more info on where to find gigs, check out our blog story called “How to Make $1,000 Per Week as a Performing Musician.”
Because competition is steep, Background Singers looking to become major Recording Artists will have to work hard at advancing their careers and not getting stuck in the background. However, for those who have gotten their foot in the door singing jingles, and are performing well, there will be plenty of additional opportunities to get on higher paying jobs and continue working as a higher earning Background Singer.
Education and Training
You do not need a formal education to become a Background Singer. However, some may feel obtaining a college or music university degree is important to use as a backup plan. While some Background Singers have college educations, many have graduated from conservatories. Others utilize Vocal Coaches and Private Teachers, while some rely exclusively on natural ability.
Experience, Skills, and Personality
The ability to harmonize and sing many different types of music is necessary to become a Background Singer
Unions and Associations
The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is a union available to those performing recording sessions or radio jingles; the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) and the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA) are unions available to those performing in theatre. If a background singer is working on a television commercial, they might belong to the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) or AFTRA.
Suggestions for Getting Started
- Consider advertising your talents in trade publications or newspapers.
- Likewise, check trade publications and newspapers for possible openings.
- If you are a part of a union, check for information on job openings.
- Visit recording studios to get to know those who book studio time, as well as Producers and Audio Engineers.
- Sing at performance gigs whenever possible so others get to know your name and your voice.