Becoming a Wedding Vocalist – Introduction
re you looking for a career change? Or in my case, perhaps you are just looking for a career? Well I intend to give you a comprehensive look at how close you may already be to making that change, and if it is your dream, achieving that dream to becoming a Wedding Vocalist and evolve into the lucrative career of Wedding Vocalist / DJ
First of all let’s establish that these are 2 careers rolled into one convenient package for people to hire you and save. So we should look at each area separately, and of course, why not start with singing? The role of Wedding Vocalist / DJ and how to establish yourself as one will be dealt with in a separate post.
You, yes YOU can sing
and can achieve that dream…
Singing as a Wedding Vocalist
irst of all, I am not going to ask the obvious, “can you sing”?, because that is not as important as “do you have the confidence to sing?”. There is one thing that is going to make you marketable and employable. It’s having that courage to sing in front of 100 to 200 or even 300 people at a wedding or other event.
If you know that you personally can enjoy singing a song and not caring about what people think about the quality of your voice, you are half-way there to your voice actually improving.
A great voice is a confident voice and a controlled state of mind. It’s simple – as soon as any anxiety creeps in – it will affect your voice and worsen it. So it’s not about “trying” to sing better, it’s about not letting anything worry you. If you sound God damn awful, then you need to be totally honest with yourself. Ask yourself are you feeling relaxed, smiley and happy as you are singing, or worried about what other people are thinking?
You Can Achieve That Dream
Here are some examples that YOU, yes you can sing and can achieve that dream. You don’t need years of singing tuition. You have to stop thinking you aren’t a natural and that you have to be born special. Please, keep reading and don’t let what others tell you or your own stubbornness and low self-esteem prevent you from moving forward.
• It’s no coincidence there are lots of pretty decent performances in pubs and bars holding karaoke nights. People have had a little bit to drink, are a little bit tipsy and have fewer inhibitions. What has changed? Not their vocal technique, no. But the anxieties have lessened that would normally attack and destroy that vocal performance in a sober state.
Now, the whole experience of enjoying singing over time will strengthen their confidence and belief and ultimately their vocal technique which will lead to a more controlled sound.
• Another example is singing in the shower. Typically you aren’t drunk when singing in the shower. But because you feel secluded and the sound of the shower motor and spray is masking your voice making you feel safe no-one can hear and judge you.
As well as the natural reverb effect, your anxieties are fewer. You feel more confident and sing with more joy , resulting in a sound that boosts your own confidence.
Am I right or am I right?
Singing just for the joy of singing gives so much joy and is therapeutic. You don’t have to be doing it professionally to benefit. So I always try and encourage those who think they know they could never be a wedding vocalist. It’s a real shame if they have this belief as it releases endorphins as much as any workout in the gym. On top of that, if you’re physicalizing your singing in your whole body, is tantamount to a workout in the gym!
Getting your act together & building confidence…
o you’re happy you can sing well in the shower or at the local karaoke bar, but where do you take it from here? The dreaded thought of learning and performing 2 or more hours of material may be creeping in at this stage, but don’t let it! Think small and start small and let it evolve from there.
Let me give you an example – I trained as an actor and vocalist at drama school in the 1990s and was full of confidence when leaving and starting to attend auditions. Pursuing this actor/vocalist career for a good 10 years then took 6 years out to get a degree. Eventually I started missing the singing but had lost all my contacts and my confidence and self-esteem had dropped rock-bottom.
Having got my degree, but didn’t land a job straight away as I had hoped and had to start signing on at the local job centre. It was fair to saying my confidence was even lower than it was while at university studying computers.
I really wanted to earn money from singing, but knew I had no act. Without an act I couldn’t get an agent, but I had no motivation to learn 2 hours of material because I had no confidence. It was a vicious circle and I didn’t know how to escape.
Believe Me There Is A Way Out
I’m telling you this in case you feel you’re in the same situation. Believe me there is a way out and was for me!
Upon leaving the job centre one day, miserable and downcast, I just happened to spot a tatty poster on the side of the community hall. It was advertising the lunchtime ballroom dancing with free tea and biscuits served! It sounded such a quaint and non-judgemental atmosphere where I could possibly sing a few numbers and build my confidence. The idea struck me instantly as I stood with a new-found optimism in the job-centre car-park. So instead of going home I walked straight into the hall and introduced myself.
I stood with a new-found optimism
in the job-centre car-park
Yes at this stage I only knew 5 or 6 swing songs, but this was enough to start with, and over the next few months I attended once or twice a week , and sang to the dancers who were all in the 70s, 80s and even 90s, as they took their free tea and biscuits during the break. It was ideal and the perfect catalyst to not only boost my self-esteem and confidence but to motivate me to learn and perform new material. After 3 months, one of the elderly gentleman dancers asked me if I’d like to perform at a birthday party of his, and so it began.
This can be YOUR story too, or something similar.
Bridging The Gap And Building Confidence
Here are some other ideas of bridging that gap and building that confidence and repertoire. Remember start small or it will seem to daunting and you will achieve nothing.
• Look for community centres or village halls holding dance lessons, aerobics lessons or anything. Ask if you can sing a couple of songs before , during their break or as they are packing up. You can do this to begin with then increase it to 5 or so. I can guarantee everybody will appreciate your performance. You’ll gain respect from them for being brave enough to have a go. Seriously – it’s a win-win situation.
• If you’ve been accustomed to singing tipsy at your local karaoke, take it further and don’t drink at all. You’ll be one step nearer success. (and remember – who is going to know you haven’t been drinking?)
• Try out the many open-mic nights in your local area. If you’re feeling nervous, remember you never have to go back there again. Make it a point of attending all the different ones before returning to the first.
• Ask if you can sing your small set in a care home for free. If you say it’s for free then there is no pressure on you to be amazing. Remember less pressure means fewer anxieties which can only lead to a good performance.
• Join a local choir. This can be a church or community choir. There are so many out there these days. If you’ve never sung before this is the best way to build your confidence singing in public. I sang in 2 school choirs for 10 years as a boy before I ever sang solo.
How to get your first gig
K, so you’ve been building your confidence in whatever arena you chose, and you’ll probably find you’re repertoire has increased as you’ve been doing it. If you’ve come to the point where you are feeling confident enough to look for your first professional gig, you are going to need an act. But remember this is your career, your business and you can stipulate the maximum length of time you can sing to agents and if you go it alone, anybody enquiring.
You could start with 1 hour , or 2 sets of 30 minutes in the early stages, but typically people are going to want and expect 90 minutes of material :
- 2 x 45 minutes
- or 3 x 30 minutes
You are going to need media
to sell your act and get noticed
Don’t be daunted – If you have a new-found confidence from the 5 songs you started with, then you can build on this. Double it to 10, then double that to 20 and you’re practically there.
Now Is The Time To Market Yourself
Once you’ve achieved this and are as confident singing these 20+ songs as you were singing the original 5, now is the time to market yourself.
Whether you go down the agency route or promote yourself via your own website, you are going to need media to sell your act and get noticed.
If you want to acquire this media as quickly as possible and have budgeted for it, I advise you to
Buy an appropriate outfit.
This is essential before stage 2 the photo shoot. This is going to be your image. Your choice of image will imply a lot about how professional you are as wedding vocalist. You’re a wedding vocalist remember, not a rock star, and you dress smart as you are essentially a guest of the bride and groom at their wedding. If you can afford it, buy 2 outfits as you gig rate is going to increase in the summer and winter seasons and while one is in the dry-cleaners the other is available to wear.
Get a photo shoot with a professional photographer
Don’t waste time getting substandard photos done from your mate’s smartphone and using them only a year later realising they could be better. Do your research and see that all the working wedding vocalists have professional photos done with those expensive SLRs being using.
Go to a local recording studio and pay for a 1 hour session
I’ve seen this as little as £30 per hour. You could sing up to 15 songs within that time in a straight run, but you only need 3 of your best to add to a website. Seriously if you don’t have some good recording equipment at home, don’t compromise. Go to the studio and get something half-decent. You’ll be surprised how good the sound is at this rate. I wouldn’t recommend you worry about getting any sort of video yet. The video should be of you in performance at one of your gigs. If you hired out a studio and sang in an empty room without an audience, it really doesn’t look great and implies you don’t work much. Ideally you need a video of you entertaining and interacting with the guests at one of your wedding gigs. You should never leave it to the imagination of the buyer what you are trying to sell. But you haven’t had your first gig you shouldn’t emphasise that either with a video without guests. The photos and audio will suffice at this stage.
Buy your vocal equipment
This should ideally something lightweight. The last thing you want to do is pull a muscle clambering up some steps just before you’re going to sing. Don’t think it has to be giant DJ sized speakers. The equipment I use is perfectly portable and very powerful for its size. Most importantly as I have mentioned in another post, it is attuned to my ears and I know I will always be able to hear the beat and adjust the levels according to the size of the room. I use either
i) one or two Bose L1 compact system speakers
ii) a wireless microphone and reverb unit
iii) an iPod or mp3 player
iv) protective cases to store the microphone, reverb unit and iPod in.
Buy your backing tracks
Backing tracks for wedding vocalists are very high quality and affordable these days unlike some tacky ones you may have heard at karaokes. You can purchase backing tracks that have used real instruments for swing sets, but even the ones using artificially created electronic sounds can still sound great. Be careful, shop around and compare. I use:
i) Karaoke Version – they should be given more credit than their name implies as they offer very high quality tracks for £1.50 each that are customizable
ii) Amazon – go their their Digital Music section and type in e.g.
“coldplay karaoke” or
“coldplay backing track”
and you’ll get a whole list of different versions available
N.B. This generally doesn’t allow you to modify and lower down a semitone. So in the beginning if you’re worried about hitting the high notes I recommend sticking with Karaoke Version where you can at least download the tracks in a lower key.
Market your act!
Now you have your promotional media, equipment and backing tracks, you will be ready to market your act as a wedding vocalist. You can try one or all of the following routes to distribute your promotional material:
A) Build your own website
i) This is very easy with WordPress these days, and upload your 3 songs and photos.
ii) Then advertise with Google Adwords and Google Business.
iii) Add a Facebook Page and post for FREE in Facebook Wedding Groups
( This is a whole separate topic fit for a post. So if you’re not confident with online marketing as this stage, don’t worry, it’s not the only option)
B) Approach Wedding Vocalist and Entertainment agencies
i) The response from these will vary. If they like your audio and photos they will take you on their books.
ii) Unlike the acting profession, you can belong to multiple singing and entertainment agencies. Some agencies will ask you keep them up to date with your availability. Others will just ask you if you’re available in the moment.
iii) Depending on the repertoire you’ve informed the agency you perform, you may find you’ll end up doing non-wedding gigs. If you’re finding you’re ending up in pubs and don’t want to be, you should consider changing your repertoire to something more appropriate for weddings.
C) Use the Wedding Industry itself
i) Attend and perform at wedding fairs
Another great opportunity to showcase yourself with those 5 songs you’re really confident with. This time it’s in front of the right crowd who could potentially employ you. Exhibiting at wedding fairs can be costly but whenever I did it as a wedding vocalist I was charged half-price for my stand as I was providing entertainment for free.
The magazines will often hold their own wedding fairs, so people can be familiar with you before even attending if your advertisement has caught their attention. It also gives them a chance to see you in action as a wedding vocalist and enquiring about what you offer before booking you.
D) Approach local charities and offer your services for free
This an excellent way to market yourself for free. You get the potential to attract more customers. You’re also benefiting from not being under as much pressure to perform to perfection as you’re not being paid. So this could be seen as a dress rehearsal for the paid gigs coming your way. But ironically because you’re not being paid, you’re more than likely going to be more relaxed and give a better performance which will boost your confidence for the inevitable forthcoming paid gigs.
Working for free is something I advise you only do in the beginning or you’ll be bombarded with requests. Some of these may be morally difficult to turn down and leave you with a sense of guilt. But you need to make it clear to yourself and those that approach you that you are not a charity and are establishing a business. There will be charities that approach you and offer to pay your regular fees, but don’t sell yourself cheap in any situation if you’ve established yourself after a year or so.
Finally – How to keep getting gigs
be friendly and polite to the people that hired you and invite them to write you a testimonial
lways take and handout your business card at gigs – I don’t know one gig I haven’t been approached with someone saying they have a wedding coming up and are looking for a wedding vocalist, do I have a card? Always be friendly and polite to the people that hired you and invite them to write you a testimonial either by email, a review on facebook or if they allow, a video review.
Apart from repeating the advice above I’ve already given, I would advise you to keep on top of social media and always be learning new material to keep your website fresh. It also keeps your memory exercised for when you get new first dance requests at the last minute for weddings. That’s why I always ask for at least one month’s notice to learn and prepare a new song.
Finally be aware there will always be ups and downs in the rate of gigs you acquire in the life of a wedding vocalist. This generally will not be a reflection of you but will be due to other factors like:
• level of competition of other wedding vocalists
• people holding back on entertainment in general due to the current economy
• whether your website is as modern as it could be and optimized properly. Google makes changes to the search rankings periodically without telling anyone and these new factors could affect your website position.
But overall, if you follow all the guidelines you should be on course for a fruitful and satisfying new career. Good luck in your new adventure and keep moving forward with a positivity as I guarantee it is worth it.