Acting aside, if there’s one profession in the world anymore depressing it's singing. That's become the only profession in which you have to pay to do what it is you. Anyone with even superior vocal ability who: (1). Doesn’t sing opera (2). Isn’t a musical theater queen (under 30) with supreme fuckability and superlative skills in dance. (3). Isn’t a self-contained musician who can expertly read music like you’d read the Daily News and play like Les Brown and Oscar Peterson. (Good looks don’t hurt). (4). Born into a multigenerational theatrical or musical family with tons of connections. ( 5). A trust fund brat who can afford to sink a fortune into self-promotion and musical expenses. (6). A whore (worth having) proficient in anything under the sun who will gladly put out in exchange for a gig, DO NOT expect to be hired for your vocal wares.
While You Tube and I-Tunes have enabled independent artists to self-produce, it has also impeded more important labels from signing unknowns, where they would get the promotion, backing, and tour bookings to enhance their chances for success.
A singer (again, one who does not write or read music, or play a musical instrument) who’s doing everything he can just to live in a place like New York will often not have the cash to pay musicians the extraordinary money they charge (because they’re also struggling) let alone the cash to pay for arrangements, recordings, and promotion. Social media helps but it’s not a panacea. In years past, jazz clubs, (which are now restaurants that play jazz), would audition new talent and HIRE the singer with its built-in audience. Of course, the artists were welcome to invite friends and family. If the singer was a hit, they were asked back and sometimes received regular bookings with pay. Some of these bookings in 1960, yes, 1960, were upwards of $150 a week. An unknown singer wouldn’t make anywhere near that today!
A singer is now expected to fill a room, ask everyone they know, living and dead, to attend, pay a cover, purchase two drinks, and must often pay a lighting and sound fee as well. They are then relegated 100% of the take after paying musicians, makeup artists, if needed, wardrobe expenses (unless you’re borrowing from Edith Piaf), and rehearsal time. If this is a 99-seat house with a steep $20 cover, that’s about $2000, minus musicians, easily $500-$1000, a $100 tech fee, rehearsals, usually $50-60 an hour, some $200 bucks depending on the time spent, the cheapest outfit and makeup, $200, promotion $200, the singer will walk away with at best $500, and that’s assuming a full house, which it often isn’t. So cut that amount in half. Wouldn't even pay for a closet in NYC.
Yes, there are open mike nights for which you are required to buy two drinks or order food, and even pay a “music charge.” Otherwise, you could be the young Barbra Streisand, you will still be shown the door. I remember when singers who proved their stuff got tipped by the pianist. (Marie Blake was one of them). Now don’t dare not tip the pianist. They were also given a drink on the house (at least) and sometimes a meal, if the club served food. Now you must pay. Forget the karaoke bars, which opened up the playing field to every incompetent slob from here to Peoria, where they can revel in alcoholic fuckery and launder money. The music scene has devolved into a sewer of lousy tribute bands, has-beens that never were, and tragically some fabulous talent that will never see the light of day.
An actor can at least work for a sandwich. The real singer should just cut her throat.