Back in the days of the gold rush, California was a magnet for those looking to strike it rich. While the few who hit pay dirt became celebrities, the real financial winners were selling picks and shovels. Each year, the music business touts the success of a handful of artists that makes the rest of us feel left out. Take heart. Just as opportunistic entertainers gladly sang for their supper in the saloons along Tin Pan Alley, there are many options available today for making a living with your voice.
Success in any niche of this business becomes much less of a burden if you’re personality type matches the gig. To sustain yourself as a street musician, for instance, would require you perform well without a stage. If the street seems too hostile, yet you want to avoid the politics of the clubs, retirement homes, hospitals or corporate parties are always open to new ideas for shows. No band – no problem. Singing to tracks has become widely accepted by audiences — as long as the idea is okay with you.
Performing cover songs seems to be the most under appreciated musical occupation. Don’t make the mistake thinking it’s easy. You will be in competition with bands who honestly love the songs they play and are relentless with promotion. These bands will get the gigs and you will be frustrated that your back-up plan requires so much effort. Also remember: weddings and functions require you to act as MC. If you can’t imagine yourself smiling while leading, “The Bride Cuts the Cake,” then don’t even ponder the potential of a fat wad of cash for a few hours’ work. It’s not for you.
If any of these paths smell of artistic compromise then do yourself a favor and cross them off your list immediately. Emotional reservations show in the voice. Not only will you be financially unsuccessful — you will doubt your talent. It’s a lose/lose situation. Finding the right fit between personality and career takes time. An honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses is a good place to start. A healthy respect for those who are parting with their money to hear you sing is a good place to finish. It’s not like we have a choice. We’ve all got to sing, and we’ve all got to eat!