Case Study: Singer - Cliff

What do you do?

I sing and I also play various instruments. I do gigs mainly in pubs, but also at festivals. I've also done a couple of weddings.

I'm fairly self-contained in that I arrange my own gigs and maintain my own equipment. I record my own backing tracks because I am a solo performer. I make CDs of my original music and sell them at gigs and exhibitions.

What is your background?

I was a bass player in various bands from the age of fifteen. I gradually started to do a little bit of backing vocals as I've always loved singing, but it was nothing too serious.

When I was in my twenties, the band I was in lost the lead singer, so I took over as well as playing. Now, I've been singing professionally for six years.

What characteristics do you need to be successful in your job?

An ability to sing in tune and have a pleasant sounding voice is obviously essential. Having said that, one person could listen to you and think you sound wonderful and another will think you sound awful.

You really need to be able to judge the audience you are performing to. If you play the wrong stuff to the wrong people, you can make yourself a laughing stock.

What other jobs could you do using the skills from this job?

You could go into theatre work, because this would use your knowledge of the technical side of performing as well as the more creative side.

You could do things like radio jingles or television theme music. Or you could go into music retail or even teach other people how to sing better.

What changes will there be in the future?

Music styles will change and there will be a demand for different types of songs in pubs. But I think the main thing is that pay seems to be getting worse relatively, and the line up of bands is going down, so there are more duos and solo performers than before.

As for other changes in the wider music scene - who can say?

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

I think the main one, and it's something everyone seems aware of, is remembering so much stuff. You need to memorise an awful lot of songs in order to entertain a wide variety of people. I probably know about eight hours of music as well as words, and it's hard to commit that much stuff to memory, but it's something you need to do.

Are there many opportunities to enter this career?

I think a lot of people think it's quite easy to get into this work, especially because there are so may 'karaoke' singers on the pub circuit these days. But you need to put a lot more into it if you want to make a career out of singing.

Firstly, to get a record deal you need to have your own songs. Even if you have got good songs and a band behind you, it's still a long-shot. And getting a deal may only lead to marginal success for a limited amount of time.

What do you like about your job?

I think I'm really fortunate. Most people who see what I do for a living think I'm really lucky and I am. I love going out and singing, and writing songs and recording. I even enjoy doing the business side of things.

What do you dislike about your job?

There is a lot of tedious stuff I have to do, like going down lists of pubs to contact, cold calling them and asking if they would like me to do a gig. Some people can be very unhelpful and others give you a gig straight away.

What are your ambitions?

I hope to get a publishing deal for my songs, so that I can pick and choose which gigs I go to and spend more time in my studio. I also want to keep improving as a singer and be as good as I can get.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?

Work as hard as you possibly can, and as early as you possibly can. Don't put things off and say 'I'll work harder next week or next year' - do it now. Get as good as you can because if people are paying to hear you perform, then it should be good.

The other thing is to get to know as many different styles as you can - if you want to work all the time, then you've got to be versatile.

A day in the life

8:30 am - 9:00 am

Get up. Breakfast with my four-year-old, Joe.

9:00 am - 11:00 am

Music practice.

11:00 am - 1:00 pm

Exercise, eat lunch, walk Joe to playgroup.

1:00pm - 3:30 pm

Pick Joe up, do banking etc.

3:30 pm - 4:00 pm

Music practice.

4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Housework.

5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Break gear down, load car and have tea.

7:00 pm

Leave for gig.

1:00 am

Arrive home, unload car and go to bed.

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