How Much Does a Backup Singer Make? (2024 Numbers)

Author: James Potts | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Have you ever dreamed of being in the spotlight? It wouldn’t surprise me if you have – performing and being admired is something most of us would admit to dreaming about every now and then!

Perhaps you’ve even had a foray into the world of performing, or have a job opportunity coming your way. Or perhaps the spotlight isn’t for you, but you still want to sing and be on stage. Well, an integral part of many modern performers’ stage shows is the backup singers!

If you’ve got the pipes, there’s plenty of money to be made as a backup singer, provided you get in with a big enough act. The often-quoted average salary for a backup singer is around $44,000 per year, but that won’t be the case for everyone.

The salary range runs from around $18,000 all the way up to $100,000 per year, with the high-end reserved for the biggest artists.

Let’s take a look at what a backup singer can expect to make today!

Amateur Backup Singer Rates and Salary

To help paint a realistic picture of the industry, let’s imagine a backup singer for a small band who aren’t well-known.

If you break the job down to an hourly rate, your average backup singer can expect to make around $20 per hour. Given that most gigs last between 2 and 5 hours, that’s around $200 per gig, or $2,400 a week (assuming you’re performing three nights a week).

Due to the nature of the job, it’s unlikely that you’ll be working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Pay rates for rehearsals and recording are less than performing, too, so even if you’ve got three gigs a week and two nights of rehearsal, you won’t improve much on that figure.

Annually, this comes to around $28,000. This is a fairly respectable amount, but with the cost of living on the rise, and the expense of living in the kinds of cities where you’re likely to get the most work, it’s probably not enough!

So if you’ve got the skills and/or the connections, getting in with a big-time artist is the way to earn some serious money!

Professional Backup Singer Rates and Salary

If you’re lucky/skilled enough to land a job working for a superstar like Taylor Swift or Adele, you could be looking at some serious dollar to perform backup duties – we’re talking around $2,000 – $4,000 per gig!

That’s a yearly salary of $48,000 at the upper end! Bear in mind that the aforementioned singers are some of the biggest celebrities in the world right now, and are currently earning millions of dollars from tours.

Obviously, that’s a good deal more than what you’d get paid singing for a relatively unknown group, but these kinds of jobs aren’t easy to come by.

The key to success in the music business, regardless of whether you’re angling for a backup singer job or a session musician, is networking. It doesn’t matter how good of a singer you are, if no one ever hears you (or more importantly, if the right people don’t ever hear you!), you won’t progress!

You have to put yourself out there, keep grinding at the small gigs you currently get, and keep your eyes peeled for connections to larger artists. That’s where the money is!

The Life of a Backup Singer

Backup singing (or any performance job really) is a project-by-project kind of life. Your income is likely to vary from month to month, year to year, and what you got paid last month won’t necessarily be the same as next month.

Not only is it an incredibly hard job to land (especially the highest-paying gigs), but it’s a hard job to keep, too! It’s a competitive marketplace, and there’s always someone around the corner who might have a better voice, more stage presence, or better connections.

It might seem unfair, but that’s the nature of the music business!

In reality, if you’re starting this career at the bottom, you’ll really need to hustle and grind to make it worth your while. Singing for one artist is probably not going to be economically viable in terms of a livable paycheck, so you’ll likely need to spread yourself between two or three groups.

Then, you might run into scheduling conflicts, which could jeopardize your position in one or more of the groups.

This is partly why most backup singers would class themselves as semi-pro. A day job is essential to maintaining a good standard of living, especially when you’re just starting out.

On the plus side, if your group gets signed to a record company that has an agreement with AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists), you’ll have to first join the union – but you will then earn royalties on whatever you record!

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the money at the upper end of this career is tempting, to say the least. But it’s not an easily attainable figure. Although it’s more likely to be achievable than being a superstar celebrity artist yourself, being a backup singer for one isn’t something just anyone can do.

And remember the sacrifices you’ll have to make, no matter your level of success. Late nights, gigs all over the country (or even the world!), long tours that could separate you from your family, and the possibility of being replaced if you fall ill.

Having said that, there’s no reward without risk! If you make it, you could have a wonderful life earning great money, doing what you love!

So keep singing, keep hustling, and good luck!

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About James Potts

James is an amateur guitarist and home-recording enthusiast. He loves all things music related - writing songs, playing in a band, and finding the best ways to listen to it. It all interests him, from the history of acoustic guitars, to the latest Bluetooth headphones, to his (ever-growing) collection of vinyl records.

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