Are Pay-to-Sing Programs a Good Idea?

For the longest time the pejorative label “pay-to-sing” has been hung on summer programs. To that I say, “so what.” Call them what you like, but look at the facts.
Summer programs are nearly all run by university professors or have a strong university tie-in. They are projects professors take on between winter and fall semesters of full time education. For the singer, they are a place to go to get some intensive education in an often foreign or distant location. Virtually all tout their credentials for their chances for you to perform. You pay to go to these summer programs and they train you to sing in a number of venues.
How is this a bad thing? It isn’t. The reasons for going to summer programs are nearly the same reasons for attending a university: structured training from accomplished teachers; training that points toward performance; multiple chances to perform. Again, how are these things bad things if that is what you need?
Universities are a longer version of a summer program. One advantage of a summer program is the fun location, a chance to broaden your world view and in many cases a much more personal relationship with the faculty.
As to the price, when a university education can cost $50,000 to $100,000 a year, another $5,000 to $10,000 hardly seems outlandish. And when you consider that none of these programs are getting rich off the students, and in some cases are hard pressed to make ends meet without additional sponsors, the pricing is competitive.
Just as you should do with deciding whether or not to attend a university, or get an advanced degree, with a summer program decide what you need. A summer program may just be perfect for your goals of polishing up your skills, having some fun and getting to perform. And performing is something every singer must constantly be doing. ‘Tis better to be a very good performer with a good voice than a very good voice but a good performer. Becoming a great performer takes many performances. A summer program may fill that bill. IMHO.
I’ve taught my courses on how to get jobs, negotiate, plan a career, etc. at AIMS in Graz and found the entire experience for the students a great positive. Programs are smart to add a practical side to the artful experience.

Mark Stoddard

About Mark Stoddard

Mark Stoddard is a business leader, professor, marketer and consultant who has been helping singers get jobs for more than 20 years. On the singing front he staged more than 100 professional shows aboard cruise ships that employed classical singers, pianists and strings. He's also coached singers on how to sell their CDs and other products, use the social media and how to negotiate contracts. He's been the CEO, President or Owner of the nation's largest financial newsletter printing company, a residential and home study education company teaching finance and business, an international cruise and tour operation, and a non-profit fundraising organization. As an author he's written 17 books on business and marketing (including one just for singers—Marketing Singers) as well as a full-length musical, several plays and a book of short stories and poems. His classes at the Classical Singer Convention are always rated with the highest ratings.


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You can buy Mark's book Marketing Singers at

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