The Cost of Singing

In your regular life, you may know some musicians. You know, the ones who are always broke? Yes, them. The poor starving musician is so prevalent that it has become cliche. However, you may also have heard what musicians get paid. Sometimes it is a lot, and you think, “Why don’t these guys have any money? Did they fail economics in college?” First of all, if singers took economics in college then they would have had no time for rehearsing operas, sleeping till noon, and saying pretentious things about singing. Second of all, singing is expensive.

Let me break down the budgets of singing opera for you. I will take the highest and lowest paying contracts I have ever had and at the end of it you will want to send me a dollar, unless you are also a musician, in which case you will instinctively be holding onto your wallet and growling.

Contract 1

Opera Score: $60
4 Coachings at $100 each: $400
Flight to the gig: $400
Total Expenses: $860

Time spent at gig: 1 month

Total payment: $750

Net profit: -$110

Contract 2

Opera Score: Free
6 Coachings: $600
Flight to Gig: paid for by company
Agent Fees: $900
Total Expenses: $1500

Time spent at gig: 2 months

Total payment: $9000

Net profit: $7500

So in the case of contract #1 I would be making -$1870 a year, and in the case of contract #2 I would be making $45000 a year, if I was able to hold on to those contracts for a whole year, but of course most months I make $0. And I have not taken into account my monthly fee to my agent, plus the fact that when I am away singing I have to pay for childcare, which is crazy expensive. Luckily we have family and friends to help out there, but still. It is not cheap being a singer. There are also voice lessons, recordings (which I usually borrow) and a host of other expenses spent in pursuit of what is generally a very small monetary reward.

The truth is, most of my contracts are in between those two that I mentioned, and I usually do three to five a year, but someday I do hope to make an actual living at this. A living ehete I could actually support a family. It’s a tough environment out there for the arts. Big opera companies are struggling, and smaller companies are staying afloat, partially by paying singers less and keeping expenses down. We singers do this because we love it, but without the hope that that 5-figure contract is out there, will good singers still be able to afford to follow ther passions? The answer is: Yes, because they did not take economics in college.

Posted in Money, Opera, Singing.

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