It’s always been financially difficult to be a musician. Many professional musicians will not make a living from only performing – especially in their early careers. Most of us have to find alternate means of making money. Unfortunately, it’s hard to balance a day job with a professional music life. Here are some of the various ways you can make more money as a working musician:
Office jobs - You can take the traditional white-collar route and work full time in an office environment. There are endless options for office work. Banking, administration, real estate… I even know a lawyer who performs in the evenings! It can be limiting as far as the available time you have for rehearsals and performances. It also means you probably have to perform only in the area you live and work. Not to mention, it’s exhausting to hold down a 40 hour job with nighttime rehearsals and performances. For some though, it may be necessary and the financial stability is worth it.
Pedagogy – Some opera singers opt to get professional degrees in pedagogy. This way, they can work with people on speaking and singing technique during the day. If you like the technical aspects of singing, this may be a great option for you.
Teaching – A multitude of singers (and instrumentalists) opt to teach music in schools. If you have training in conducting and love working with youth, it can be amazingly fulfilling, though not easy. Teachers are saints, let’s face it. Plus, government benefits, summer, and retirement – need I say more?
Subbing – If you are someone who enjoys working with kids, but wants more flexibility day-to-day, you could look at subbing. You can choose the days you are available to work. Plus, there is still no summertime commitment. That leaves tons of time for summer programs if you are young and want to sing in a summer program, or experienced and want to teach a summer program. Booya!
Teaching singing lessons - Teaching privately is probably the most common way for musicians to make extra cash. You can create your own schedule, take time off easily, and choose how many students you teach. The downside is it may take time to develop a studio of consistent students. However, once you have formed a reputation for yourself as a good voice teacher, it is smoother sailing. Additionally, if you have exceptional language skills, you can coach diction separately for upper-level students.
Church Jobs – Larger (and even smaller) churches often hire choral scholars to sing in the choir. You can be paid anywhere from $50-$200 per service to sing. That’s a great hourly rate. If churches aren’t hiring choral scholars, many will still hire soloists for Christmas, Easter, and summer services. If you have conducting, piano, or organ chops, you can make a real salary as a church music director. Positions in large churches can be very lucrative and highly coveted.
Temp-Agency Work – If you travel a lot for music, but have some extended time between gigs, a temp agency might be the perfect solution for you. This way, you can work periods of time varying from a couple weeks to a couple months. It saves you from living a long time without paychecks.
Restaurants - If your time needs change on a weekly basis, restaurant work may be a good solution. Many restaurants rotate their waiting and hosting staff weekly based on their availability. Plus, in any restaurant position, you get to take home tips. I once had a friend who made his whole rent every month just based on his tips while working in a café!
Retail - Likewise, retail positions often rotate weekly based on changing staff availability. Some retail jobs may let you take extended time off as long as you come back at least every three months. (This all depends on the company…) If you choose to work in a specialty section of a department store, like men’s suits, or in a high-end shop, like Gucci, you can make decently large commision.
WORK FROM HOME / ONLINE
Rover - Rover is an app for dog walkers/sitters. If you love pets and have an exceptionally sporadic schedule, a job like dog walking/sitting when you are free is a pretty sweet deal.
Uber/Lyft - Maybe you don’t like pets (WHAT?!), but you don’t mind driving. Uber and Lyft are two extremely popular rideshare apps. You can choose when you work and for how long. You also can accept tips. Be prepared though to spend more money on your gas and car insurance if you choose this option.
Blogging - Some singers have transformed their websites not just into music resumes, but into niche blogs. If you have a ton of knowledge on a particular topic (i.e. diction, German language, music history, music marketing, etc.), you may want to try your hand at blogging.
Selling - Are you multi-talented? Do you excel at making a product? If you are one of these unicorns, you can try selling your products on online stores like www.etsy.com. Or, you can find your music related product niche and turn that into a profitable enterprise like the lovely ladies behind https://shoperatic.com.
Unless you are one of those lucky lottery winners, financing your early career in music can be difficult. Some musicians are lucky to have the support of parents or a spouse to back their dreams financially. Some musicians must go it alone. Either way, this career is not for the faint of heart! Financial planning can be scary and difficult, but not impossible with a little creativity and hard work.
Aside from performing in operas, how do you make money? What are creative ways you have inflated your salary? Please share in the comments!
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Hello, I am Christine, the director of GVAI, a passionate singer, German diction, voice and performance coach. I love music, singing and dancing. Life is an exciting journey and I invite you to walk with me....
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