Although some musicians dazzle listeners by playing instruments, some musicians are able to use their bodies as instruments, contributing vocal talent to a performance. Like other musicians, singers earn much of their income through live concert performances. Pay varies widely for singers, because experience, musical style and natural talent is unique to each artist.
Because most singers do not receive general salaries, but instead work gig-by-gig, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports hourly rates for singers and musicians. The bureau indicates that, in 2010, a rate of £19.60 per hour was average, with pay ranging from £5.50 to £32.50. Assuming at least two or three hours per concert, singers thus appear to earn an average of around £39 to £58 per concert. David J. Hahn of the Musician Wages website reports that singers may earn up to £520 per gig, however, depending on the size and location of the venue.
Singers such as Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber, Madonna, Beyonce and others who have become household names earn much more than the typical singer, as shown by Peter Kafka of Forbes. For instance, artist Rihanna reportedly earned £266,500 per concert in 2010, according to the MTV website. Renee Fleming earned £9,750 per concert with the Metropolitan Opera, according to 2011 information from the New York Guides website.
Those who are just starting out as singers may give some concerts for free to build their resume. In many instances, entry-level singers may start off as members of choruses; these singers rarely receive compensation, and even paid professional chorus members earn less than soloists. In fact, some chorus members pay to be members of choruses, with fees covering expenses like the hiring of an orchestra or paying the conductor. Depending on the genre a singer prefers, some singers entering the field also can find lower-paying jobs as backup singers for lead artists. Starting compensation usually is no more than £65 per concert, but this depends on how many rehearsals are held and the duration of the concert, as well as who the backup artist is supporting.
How much a singer earns per concert relates directly to the number of tickets sold. For this reason, a singer who wants to be successful must make an effort to find a good marketing and promotion manager. Additionally, singers do not make money off concert tickets alone. They also can earn money from the sale of CDs or individual tracks from recordings of live concerts, as well as concert memorabilia. Singers also must consider the cost of the concert and the number of artists with whom they perform. For instance, a major singer like Celine Dion can bring in thousands of dollars per concert easily, but she must pay her band members, and has costs for renting venues, travelling and providing a secure concert environment. A truly accurate picture of earnings thus comes from net, not gross, revenue. Lastly, some singers opt to become members of unions, which provides some compensation protection. Entry-level artists usually are not union members because of previous experience requirements.