Close up of a beautiful African-American female vocalist singing into a microphone, with one hand on the headphones around her neck in a professional recording studio

How to Become a Singer: Transitioning to Pro

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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The music industry is constantly changing and evolving. And thanks to continuously advancing technology, streaming platforms, and social media, opportunities for new artists to get themselves out there and connect with listeners are more abundant than ever.

That means that the dream of becoming a professional singer in today’s music world is more accessible than ever — with the right approach and strategies. Whether you’re just starting with singing lessons, singing into your voice memo app in your bedroom, or are a seasoned performer looking to turn your passion into a profession, understanding the practical steps to transition to a professional singing career is essential to finding success and making it last.

Is it hard to be a singer?

Let’s get right to the point: choosing to be a professional singer is not without challenges. You have to truly, truly love it to decide to pursue it as a full-time career. Many singers, myself included, will actually tell you that they don’t quite have a choice but to be a singer — that we can’t remember a time in our lives when we weren’t singing, and it was just always what we wanted to do.

All that being said, it’s not the most cut-and-dry road you’ll take. While having easier access to get your music heard is amazing for aspiring artists, it also means that there are a lot of new artists out there. You’ll want to stand out among the rest without looking inauthentic, which can be tricky. If you have a clear strategy and defined goals for your music career, it’s absolutely achievable.

The importance of resilience and adaptability

The music industry is definitely a game of resilience and adaptability. You’ll feel rejected, you’ll second guess yourself, you’ll face a lot of insecurities, have to answer people’s questions about your career choice, listen to people’s stories about their friend who made it to the final round of American Idol before they got kicked off … the list goes on.

But through the insecurity, rejection, and annoying stories, you learn to be persistent; you gain a deeper look at yourself that you might not otherwise have had, had you wanted to follow a more linear career path. You learn how to be adaptable and open to evolving as an artist and in life in general.

Staying motivated as you navigate challenges along the way requires setting realistic goals, celebrating small victories, and surrounding yourself with a supportive community. Being adaptable as an artist means diversifying your skills and leaning into other avenues, such as songwriting, production, or collaboration opportunities, to expand your marketability. There are plenty of online and offline resources to help with this, including:

  • Music production: Websites such as Coursera and Point Blank Music School provide information and tutorials on how to use music production software at little to no cost.
  • Industry knowledge: Check out resources like Soundfly and Berklee Online for courses in the music business, marketing, and more. Local workshops and music conferences can provide networking opportunities that will enhance your industry knowledge, as well.

What do you need to become a professional singer?

Developing your vocal skills

This needs to be said more than you’d think. To be a professional singer, you have to continuously develop your vocal technique and skills. That means consistent practice and professional training are crucial, as they’ll enhance your vocal range, control, expression, and help you to find your unique voice. Get yourself a vocal coach who can share singing tips and improve your singing skills. Every professional singer — from Adele to Idina Menzel — has one. While I’m not against online courses and apps, having a voice teacher work with you one-on-one is going to garner the best results.

Building a strong portfolio

Having a strong music portfolio is key in the music industry. This showcases your range, style, and identity as an artist. You can start by recording high-quality demos that show some of your best work. Be sure to choose songs that highlight your unique vocal abilities, and make sure they align with your vision for yourself as an artist.

A diverse portfolio will also open you up to different career paths as a professional singer. Beyond the more typical path of a performing and/or recording artist, you might also find that you’re interested in becoming a session musician, background singer, vocal coach, music director, or songwriter. Try not to box yourself in. Explore opportunities as they come along so that you can create a lasting career.

Understanding the business

To find success in the music business, you absolutely, one hundred percent need to have a solid grasp of the industry and how it works. This definitely isn’t something you want to walk into blindly. Familiarize yourself with copyright laws to ensure your work is protected, understand the basics of music monetization through streaming, sales, and performance royalties, and learn about contract negotiation.
Networking also plays an instrumental role in advancing your career. Building relationships with fellow musicians helps you to book more gigs; getting to know industry professionals can help your songs get heard; having mentors can help you stay apprised of your goals and your progress along the way. You can expand your network by checking out music conferences and local shows and utilizing your social media platforms.

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Promoting yourself as an emerging singer

Crafting your artist brand

Creating your artist brand is vital when it comes to standing out in the crowded industry — and it can also be a lot of fun. Your brand is your music genre and sound, your persona, as well as your story and values. Then, that translates over to your visual and online presence: from your logo and promotional materials to your social media profiles and website.

Start developing your brand by looking at what’s true for you: your musical influences, your personal experiences, your story with music and why it’s your passion, and the messages you want to convey to your listeners. This is what will help your brand to not just come off authentically with your audience, but to resonate with you, as well.

Leveraging social media and streaming platforms

Say what you want about social media and streaming platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Spotify, but they’re invaluable tools for emerging singers looking to grow an audience. Be sure to develop a strategy for each, as they all have their own audience behaviors and different features to utilize.
For example, Instagram is great for showcasing aesthetically pleasing photos and videos — more promotional material — while TikTok works great for putting out short clips that show your personality or snippets of performances. All platforms are great for engaging with fans, too. Be sure to respond to comments and create content that’s engaging and interactive, letting your audience know how much they’re appreciated.

Performing live

Live performances are also a key component to building a solid fanbase as an emerging singer. There’s no better way to connect with current and new fans, show your personality on stage, and make your music an experience that will have listeners looking to find you online. More gigs = more fans = more online followers = getting booked for more gigs. Easy enough, right?
You can get started by heading over to your local open mic night. If you don’t play a musical instrument, they’ll usually take karaoke tracks or have a house band on site. Do your homework and prepare a live audience performance — open mics are a great way to network as well. Then, start connecting with local musicians and other professional singers who have some traction in the area and offer to open for them. Before you know it, you’ll be playing venues in your area and beyond.

Let Disc Makers support your music career

Disc Makers offers a suite of customized products designed to support new and emerging artists in getting their music in the hands of listeners — literally. We provide the highest quality physical media products — from CDs to vinyl records – making sure that your music sounds great and looks professional, with a wide range of packages to match your style or budget. Having physical media is great for selling at your shows or distributing to fans so that you’ll leave a lasting impression.

Additionally, we offer tons of other resources and services that will help get your music off the ground. Our SoundLAB audio mastering services will ensure your music sounds top-notch on digital and physical media, while our music distribution services help your music to get heard around the globe.

Get your career as a professional singer off the ground by contacting us today!

The Musician's Guide to Vinyl

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About Lauren Davish

Lauren Davish is a writer, singer/songwriter, yoga instructor, and voice coach. She received her MA in Creative Writing with a focus on creative nonfiction in 2019. Her favorite types of writing include blog posts and song lyrics.

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