People are often shocked when they ask me how to become a professional session singer and I give them a long list of things to buy. Like any business, you need to spend money to make money. For some things, you save until you have the funds, but some things are better to splurge on up front.
I’m going to give you a list of things that I feel are worth the investment, along with what I use personally. There is always a cheaper version in case you’re not ready to make that leap, but I feel it’s important to show you the reality of the business.
Things Singers Should Invest In
Before we get started, I need to state up front that none of these are stocks. I know very little about investing in that sense. This is about physical, tangible investments you’ll need to make to become a pro session singer.
If you decide to make any of these investments today, please let me know!I'm investing in my #music career today! Click To Tweet
This one is always first because if you have cheap equipment, you’ll sound like crap and no one will want to hire you. Here is a rough estimate of what you’ll need to get started:
- A Laptop or Desktop Computer – You’ll want a computer with a lot of space and speed to handle all your recording projects. I use a Mac but you can go with a PC if you need a cheaper option.
- A Condenser Microphone – You can get used ones online, but the quality is important so make sure you get at least a mid-grade one. This is the one I use, but I started with much cheaper options.
- A Microphone Cable – Don’t get cheap cables! Just don’t. They’ll cause endless issues and it’s not worth the hassle.
- A Pop Filter – If you’re going to cheap out anywhere, this would be the place to do it. You’ll need one regardless though.
- A Recording Interface – A condenser mic and interface are a must. People try to get away with using a USB mic and the quality difference is huge. Just get a condenser and interface! I use the Scarlett 2i2 which is pretty standard and easy to use.
- A Set of Headphones – I would get at least a mid-grade pair of headphones. If you’re going to be recording extensively, you want quality headphones that won’t hurt your ears or give you a headache. I’m currently using and loving these by Shure, but I have several pairs I switch between.
- A DAW – Garageband is free so you can start there, but eventually you’ll want to upgrade to a more professional DAW with bells and whistles. I started with Garageband and then upgraded to Logic Pro X.
This is the bare bones minimum, but you’ll also want to consider what type of room you’ll be recording in and invest in some type of soundproofing. I built a booth for myself so you can definitely make one on a budget, but everything on that list should be carefully considered. If you skimp on any of them, you run the risk of it malfunctioning, breaking down or wearing out, and you might be in the middle of a project.
Of course, if you do your session singing at someone else’s studio, you can skip this first one. However, I would suggest getting at least a few of those things in case you have a last-minute gig or a quick edit to make!
2). Your Business Appearance
You are the face of your business, so you’ll need good photos of your face. Get professional headshots taken (see my post on how to get some good ones here). Not only am I a session singer, but I often hire session singers as well. It’s unnerving to see people with no photo or a bad selfie. You’ll need good photos to put on your social media, your website, and your business cards. Speaking of your website…
3). Your Website
When I first started my blog, I wasn’t sure how serious I was about it. I had something like mellassessionsingingblog.wordpress.com. How terrible is that? If I can’t show that I am capable of maintaining a professional website, it leads to a lack of confidence in my other abilities. You can make a website for free to start. When you’re ready to make it a serious business, you’ll want to upgrade to a paid site. You’ll also want to invest some time into making it look nice, or hiring someone to make it nice. Your website is the first impression clients will have of you. I have seen way too many sites that made me cringe because they had a blinking lime green background with hot pink, comic sans font. Don’t be that person. Put some thought into your brand and style and implement that into your website.
4). Your Education
You don’t need to get an MBA, but anything you learn for your business will help. Coursera and Udemy are great options for cheap skills you can apply to your business. A few classes I would suggest are music theory, marketing, entrepreneurship, sales and customer service. These are all things you’ll need if you want to go far in this business. If you’re planning on going to college anyway, here is my post on college majors that will help your music career.
5). Your Health
Obviously, this is an important investment for everyone. For singers, it’s worth the extra money to get a good ENT (Ear/Nose/Throat) doctor, a general practitioner who will see you right away for strep throat, and of course, food. Splurging on a good throat tea and keeping your diet healthy are important for keeping your voice healthy. I absolutely love fast food so I’m not judging if you do also. I’m just saying it’s important to spend money where it counts.
6). Vocal Coaching
You can find free coaching videos on YouTube and those are a great start, but ultimately you’ll want a coach to work with YOU personally. A good vocal coach might be expensive, but a reliable set of vocal chords that don’t hurt or fade over time is priceless. If it’s hard to find a coach in your area, some coaches will do lessons online.
7). An Accountant
I waited so long to get an accountant and now I don’t know why I took so long. Yes, there is an up-front fee that scares a lot of people away, but the benefits are HUGE. They will look through everything you did that year and see if you qualify for deductions. They’ll file your taxes for you (which is worth the money alone for me), and they’ll help you out if you ever get audited.
Just because this is my post and I have the ability, I’m going to also shamelessly suggest that you get my book, Way Less Cowbell. It’s about how to communicate with clients and avoid costly edits. It’s not really an “investment” at 99 cents, but it might help you with your gigs! Check it out here.
I am also currently giving private consultations for session musicians. We can talk about whatever you like, whether it’s investments, singing, or any other aspect of running a session business. Feel free to contact me about it here!
I hope this list gives you a good overview of what you’ll need! If you need help deciding on where to spend vs save, please drop me a comment and let me know! If you can think of any other important investments, please let us know in the comments!