Your parents put you through years of piano, violin or flute lessons, and now the only thing you can play is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. If that’s the case, then too bad. But if you actually managed to pick up some decent skills from all those thours of music lessons and nerve wracking exams, then you might be able to earn a little money out of it. Before you attempt any of the below, please note that you need to actually sound good to pull them off, otherwise we shall not be held responsible for any injuries you might sustain from anguished listeners.
Gone are the days when the only legitimate buskers around were the blind man at the Orchard underpass (he has since moved to Bukit Batok, if anyone’s wondering).
While busking has always been legal provided one obtains a permit, there are now more areas than ever where you can choose to lay out your hat and hope someone throws you a few coins. Yup, you heard that right, there are now 15 MRT stations where buskers try their luck.
Earning potential: Really depends on how good you are at mobilising passers by to donate. Still, don’t expect to become rich doing this—on bad days, mediocre buskers might earn only a few dollars for a day of busking. If you’re good, however, you might be able to earn over $100 for a couple of strategic hours of busking.
The biggest bucks in the music industry are probably made by the hordes of piano teachers whipping children into submission, all in the name of preparing for the ABRSM exams.
If you are good at your instrument of choice, teaching is the most lucrative career option, as well as one that’s relatively easy to get into. It’s the musical version of math tuition—the teacher shows up at the students’ house or vice versa and offers a private lesson in exchange for an attractive hourly fee.
If you don’t fancy teaching at home or travelling to students’ homes, a low risk option is to conduct lessons at community centres or offer group classes on Meetup in exchange for a fee.
Earning potential: Very high. A piano teacher with a Grade 8 certificate (generally considered the bare minimum needed to teach beginners) can easily command at least $40 for a 45 minute beginner’s lesson.
Gigging at pubs
Anyone who’s ever jumped around on their bed playing air guitar has dreamt of playing at a pub to the adoring gaze of attractive listeners who will make eyes at them over their beers.
Playing at pubs in Singapore is certainly possible if you have the equipment and the chops to back it up. If you’re not able to play an entire show on your own, you’d best look for bandmates who can keep you afloat.
Walking in and requesting an audition is the easiest way to do this if you don’t have industry contacts. If you’re relatively unknown, set your sights on smaller bars first, and don’t expect to be given the Friday night slot.
Earning potential: Pay can vary wildly depending on whom you’re dealing with, how good you are and whether you’ve made a name for yourself yet. Some new bands are hideously underpaid, taking home very little after deducting the cost of transportation and so on. On the other hand of the spectrum, if you are passably good, you can earn about $100 to $150 a night per person. Make a name for yourself and you’ll earn much more. Obviously, you shouldn’t expect the barrier to entry to be anywhere as low as that for busking—nobody is going to pay you to shut up.
Performing at music shops
So you want to play but don’t have a band? Instead of putting together an entire show at pubs or weddings, see if a music shop carries your instrument of choice and is willing to pay you to demonstrate.
Yamaha regularly hires musicians to perform on their pianos in hopes that that will inspire potential customers to cart home a piano of their own. Just be warned that you might have to double up as a promoter or salesperson as well.
Earning potential: If you’re doing this on a part-time basis, expect to be paid by the hour. As with most jobs in the service line, you’re not going to become a millionaire, but thanks to your musical chops you should be getting more than the average retail salesperson.
Have you ever earned money by playing a musical instrument? Tell us in the comments!