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The Path to Stardom: Navigating the Music Industry as a Singer


Singing is the act of producing music using vocal cords, sustained tonality, rhythm, and a variety of vocal techniques. The individual singing is called a singer or a vocalist. A singer performs music that can be sung with or without the help of a musical instrument. A singer may perform in a band or may perform as a solo artist. It is being observed that a number of young artists are finding singing a successful career option.

A singer is an artist that performs songs using various techniques and training. A singer may work independently or with a band/group after basic training and coaching to improve voice modulation. They may write their own songs and sing or may even sing songs written by others. Professional singers go through rigid training and have a more clear understanding of tone and pitch. Given that there are a number of genres in singing, below are the most sought-after choices to build a niche in singing: Indian classical singer, Playback singer, Indian pop singer, Ghazal singer, Qawwali singer, Western Pop & Rock singer, Jazz singer; Rapper.

Why become a Singer?

A singer is a musician, who sings the words, lyrics, or composition written by someone by applying their own knowledge of sur, taal, harmony, rhythm, melody, and voice production. As a singer, you will sing on stage, radio, television, or motion pictures (playback singing). You can be a solo singer, vocalist of a music band, opera singer, or choir member. You will perform live for audiences and perform at various venues such as recording studios. If you are a classical vocalist you perform in concert halls and auditoriums while other singers of popular music perform in clubs, parks, parties, or bars. You can be a lead singer who sings the main solo vocal portions of a song composed by a music band. To become a professional singer, you need professional training and a lot of experience with music.

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  1. Hindustani Classical Singer: A singer who is a specialist in Hindustani vocals which includes the explaining and improvisations of ragas. A classical singer belongs to a special Gharana. Gharana is a style of singing. There are so many Ghranas like Agra Gharana, Kirana Gharana, Jaipur Gharana, Patiala Gharana, Delhi Gharana, Banaras Gharana, Mewati Gharana, etc. Classical singer practices for many years to hone their skills.
  2. A Carnatic classical singer practices the music of south India including the states of India (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu). This music also includes various forms of gayakis (singing styles).
  3. As a folk singer, you learn the various forms of music like bhangra, lavani, dandiya, Sufi folk, Rajasthani, etc. which tells about India’s diverse vast cultural diversity.
  4. Baul Singer: A singer who is a specialist in the music forms or styles belonging to the Bengal region which includes Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam’s Barak valley. As a Baul singer, you will perform in a group that constitutes the religious sect and a musical tradition.
  5. A Bhajan Singer usually sings a song that refers to any religious theme or spiritual idea in a regional language from the Indian subcontinent.
  6. Singer (Rabindra Sangeet): A singer who sings the songs written and composed by Rabindranath Tagore who have their origin in Hindustani classical music, western music, Bengali folk songs, and kirtan.
  7. Thumri/Dadra singer: As a thumri singer, you are specialized in semi-classical Indian music, this form relates to dance, dramatic gestures, poetries, and folk songs of Uttar Pradesh. As a specialist in Dadra, you perform the Hindustani classical music of South Asia (India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.)
  8. A Sufi Singer sings the work of Sufi poets like Rumi, Bulleh Shah, Amir khusrow, Khawaja Ghulam Farid. You can be specialized in the form of Sufi music like qawwalis, ghazals, and kafi.
  9. A Bollywood Singer sings the songs of Hindi films that are featured in Bollywood or Hindi cinema. You can be a playback singer.
  10. As a Western Classical Singer, you learn the art of music which belongs to the western culture like American classical music, in the United Kingdom. Your singing will include chants, carols, symphonies, mass, requiems, opera, etc. You practice in the tonal system, standard musical form, fixed notational system, and instruments. Several forms of music that you will sing include pop music, blues, jazz, rock, rock and roll, and hip hop.
  11. Hip Hop or Rap music is a genre of music created and developed mostly by African Americans and Latino Americans in New York City in the late 70s. The key feature of Hip Hop of Rap music is a constant rhythm or beat which accompanies the vocals. The lyrics are mostly based on everyday issues, problems, triumphs, and aspirations of underprivileged communities. The vocals are almost chanted and often sung rapidly.
  12. Jazz is a music genre that originated in New Orleans, the USA in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Like Hip Hop, it is also created by African-Americans. Jazz singing is now quite popular worldwide.
  13. Western Pop/Rock Singer: Pop music is a popular music genre while rock music is a music genre with a large range of styles of renditions. Rock music was created in the USA in the 1950s as part of the rock and roll genre. Later, rock music diversified widely to include various sub-genres such as classic rock, hard rock, acid rock, techno rock, alternative rock, blues rock, etc.
  14. Ghazal Singer: Ghazal is an ancient poetic art form, that originated in the 7th Century in Arab. It spread to the Indian sub-continent from the 12th Century. The Ghazal genre is always based on poetry and there is a strong Sufi influence. Ghazal lyrics or poetries talk about humanity, spirituality, love, and other human emotions.

What does a Singer do? 

  1. As a singer, you must have the ability to perform in front of the public.
  2. As a singer, you will memorize the musical selections and routines and sing following the printed text, musical notes or as per instructions. 
  3. You memorize the songs, sometimes create a composition and provide the musical notations for the compositions written by others.
  4. You may play a musical instrument yourself when you perform.
  5. You seek out and learn new music that is suitable for the performance.
  6. You give live or recorded performances for the TV audience, live audience, radio, movies and music videos. 
  7. You help the other members of a vocal group by creating vocal arrangements.
  8. You negotiate the contract to hire the agents with managers and agencies.
  9. You practice singing exercises and study with vocal coaches to develop your voice and skills.
  10. A singer pursues with an instrumental accompanist or sometimes without an instrumental accompanist.
  11. You sometimes have to travel to book music venues.
  12. As a singer, you sing during a studio session until the desired recording is created.

How to become a Singer – Eligibility Criteria 

To become a singer, it’s better to start learning classical music from an early age. There is no hindrance if you want to start later but to develop your voice, learning classical is a safe bet. It’s not as if there is no reputed singer who hasn’t succeeded in spite of not learning classical music, but if you want to start early, learning classical is a good beginning to prepare your voice. It gives you a choice to choose your genre later on – you can become a classical singer or a contemporary Bollywood singer or take up anything from pop and rock to hip-hop and jazz.

You can learn classical music from a reputed classical vocalist who would be your Guru or you may learn from a reputed classical music school in your city. Some schools and universities offer a 5-year Diploma post your class 10 as well.

If you have been learning to sing and singing at private do’s, you can opt to do a Bachelor’s degree (Bachelor of Performing Arts or Bachelor of Music) in Vocal Music. Mostly, at this level, you have to choose among the various classical gharanas (genres) of Indian classical music such as Hindustani Classical and Carnatic. Then, you may do a Master’s degree (Master of Performing Arts or Master of Music) in your chosen genre.

Educational Fees

The cost of becoming a singer in India can vary depending on various factors, such as the level of training, equipment, and marketing expenses.

  1. Training: A good singing coach can charge anywhere between Rs. 500 to Rs. 5000 per hour, depending on their experience and reputation. A singer may need to undergo training for several years to hone their skills.
  2. Equipment: A singer may require equipment such as microphones, sound systems, and recording software, which can cost anywhere from a few thousand to lakhs of rupees, depending on the quality of the equipment.
  3. Marketing and promotions: Building a career in music requires a lot of marketing and promotions to gain visibility and attract an audience. The cost of promotions can vary, from hiring a publicist to creating music videos and advertising campaigns.
  4. Studio costs: Recording songs in a professional studio can cost anywhere from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 50,000 per song.

Overall, becoming a successful singer in India can require a significant financial investment. However, with talent, hard work, and dedication, it is possible to achieve success even with limited resources.

Job Opportunities

You can get job opportunities in recording studios maybe as a solo vocalist or in a choral group.

  • You can become a music teacher in a school and a professor in colleges and universities.
  • If you are a specialist in composing music, then music production companies may hire you as a music composer, or music director. Remember that there is no permanent job here. You are hired only for a project.
  • You can become a playback singer in the music industry (Bollywood, Tollywood, and other film industries as well).
  • Music companies like T-series, HMV, saregama, etc. will provide you with the opportunity to launch the covers of songs.
  • As a singer, you can also get various opportunities in theatres, music bands, etc.
  • There are various opportunities for professional singers on a temporary basis as they hire for their events and functions.
  • You can start your youtube channels and various pages on social media.
  • You can start your own band of music or work with another band.

Salary of a Singer 

  • Singing is a creative career. Your earning will depend upon your hard work, your talent, your performance, and to some extent your luck. You may sing just one song and it may become viral on Youtube to bring you overnight fame. You can encash the fame and start charging Rs. 1,00,000 – 2,00,000 or even more per performance in a concert. You can earn from your own Youtube channel too. You can be rich in just 2 years. 
  • Or you may struggle a lot for many years without being able to make your name established in the industry or gain fame and popularity on Youtube.
  • Getting a chance into playback singing is extremely tough but if you can make it and produce a hit song (well, whether a song will be a hit or not, will not exactly be in your own hands), you will definitely start commanding something between Rs. 1,50,000 – 3,00,000 or even more per song, depending upon your popularity. For a concert, you can charge similar fees.
  • If you are famous and popular (you may achieve this in 1 year or many in 20 years or maybe never), you can charge on an average Rs. 1,00,000 – 25,00,000 or even more for a song in a movie (the lower side in regional movies and higher in Bollywood or Tollywood) and anything between Rs. 5,00,000 – 30,00,000 or even more per concert.
  • If you are part of a music band, your fortune will be as same as above. However, in such a case, your earning will be less as money is generally divided equally among band members. A band may also hire you and pay you separately. 
  • However, to earn your daily bread and butter, you can apply and get a job as a Music Teacher in a school, which will get you a decent Rs. 20,000-25,000 a month. If you have a Ph.D., then as an Assistant Professor, you can get about Rs. 60-65,000 a month.
  • Senior Music Teachers can earn about Rs. 40-45,000 a month and Professors earn about Rs. 1,80,000-2,20,000 a month.
  • You can open your own music school or offer tuition at your own home or at the learner’s home. This is another way to earn your daily bread and butter while you attempt to establish yourself in the music industry. For an hour of tuition, in cities, you may get about Rs. 200-500. Growth in your income here will also depend upon your reputation.

 Career Progression of a Singer 

  • Career growth in university and college states with the assistant professor and then associate professor, professor, and professor emeritus. Professors can also get administrative positions such as Director/Dean/Vice Chancellor etc.
  • If you are working in a band, you will be a lead singer. You may continue to work in the same band or you can start your own band.
  • If you are working in a music company as a trainee singer, then you will become a singer then a senior singer, and then a lead singer.
  • In schools, you will start as a music teacher and then become head of the department. You may also move to the administration side later.

India is one of the biggest markets for the music industry. Currently, there are over 18 million users of online music streaming in India, and there are over 4 billion monthly streaming in India. The biggest reason for the expansion of the music industry in India is the rise of the population using the internet and a further increase in data consumption. From 1 GB per month in 2017, today Indians on average consume 13 GB of internet per month. And by 2019 end, it may be 30GB per month. Music videos consume 58% of this data. With such growth, India is poised to become one of the 10 biggest music markets by 2022. In such an era of growth, the rise of online channels, YouTube’s popularity in India, opportunities for musicians and singers don’t end in India, and they are going to rise further in the future. 

India is the largest producer of movies in the world. Movies in Hindi, English, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayali, Bhojpuri, and Punjabi are regularly produced. Each of these movies does have 4-5 songs. Thus, even the movie industry provides a wide opportunity for musicians and singers.

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