The Performer/Entreprenuer

Since the early days of European opera, there have always been star performers.  Even though there were star singers, there were many more singers that were highly respected in their own communities and enjoyed life-long careers. One of the best examples of a classical musician who fit this description was Bach.  Bach was a famous organist and composer in the early 18th century. He made his living playing for various cathedrals, composing works for church services, and teaching on the side.  Bach is now a household name amongst musicians; Bach is famous.  However, he never toured extensively, he stayed where his primary gig was and if you wanted to hear his work, you had to go to him.

When the performing arts scene was growing in the United States in the 19th century, there were not enough home-grown artists to draw sizable crowds.  Wealthy business owners and aristocrats began arranging for star singers from Europe to come to the states and tour in productions and/or concerts.  The American performers’ idea of success was greatly influenced by these touring artists. Aspiring performers began to see success as equal to fame. But I don’t think that is necessarily true; I think we have all been brainwashed by the industry.  I believe that success is defined as being respected within a community for what you do. That community may be a metropolitan area or a small town, it may be a school in which you teach, it could be the church community in where you lead worship, or perhaps its an entire state and the theatres that you perform in. There is no reason you cannot be a respected and successful musician without being world famous, and it doesn’t mean you have to live like a pauper.  In fact, you can make a nice living.

Let’s take a look at a possible scenario.  Let’s say you decide to start your own business in a large town where there are plenty of opportunities for singers and musicians.

  • You teach twenty hours each week at $50 per hour (a combination of half-hours and hour long lessons). If you play piano, guitar, or another instrument, these lessons will probably include a combination of voice and whatever other instrument(s) you can teach. Don’t be scared to teach piano to children just because you are not a concert pianist.  If you can teach a child to read music and play from the first few piano books of any published series, you will easily be able to offer lessons to those clients. =$1,000 per week
  • On the weekends, you pick up a gig singing at a local church. = $100 per week
  • One night a week, you perform at a local venue. =$100 per week.
  • Finally, if you learn to use basic multi-track recording software, you can record simple demos and audition recordings for local singers.  You could easily learn to do this with books and resources that are readily available online.  With a small investment, you could also purchase the equipment necessary to record local band, orchestra, and choir concerts at area schools and then sell copies to the students’ parents and relatives. You could probably eventually book at least four hours each week at $40 an hour. = $160 per week.

While this may not be the big glamorous career that most young singers dream of, it is nothing to sneer at.  If you combine the weekly income from above over the course of 42 weeks, you could be earning $57,120 per year with 10 weeks of vacation.  If you worked 48 weeks a year, you could be looking at an income of  $65,280.  Eventually you could rent a retail space, hire other musicians, yoga instructors, and dance instructors to teach under your management and easily earn over $100,000 a year! After a Broadway performer has paid his/her agent 10%, they are looking at $1,578 per week unless they are a star. Your salary as an entrepreneur would be comparable. Considering that you will probably be living in a town that is much cheaper than NYC, you may enjoy a higher standard of living than if you lived in New York.

The moral of the story is to not let your ego get in the way of your life-long success in the performing arts.  If the stress of performing begins to take the fun out of life, don’t be ashamed to consider an alternative definition of success.  You may end up earning a better living and having more fun in the long run.




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