Diversity Career Stories Music

Black Professional Singer Finds His Calling Connecting with Audience Through Song

Have you ever considered a career as a professional performer? In this interview, Milton Davis shares his story of how he went from singing in the church choir, to making a living as a professional musician and singer. He shares the ups and downs of living on a fluctuating salary, and explains how he has handled some surprising situations!

My name is Milton Davis, and I work in the entertainment industry as a singer. I have been involved in this field for approximately 8 years. I would describe myself in three adjectives as “artistic” (hopefully), “sensitive,” and “impatient,” especially when it comes to inspiration.

My ethnicity and gender are black and male. I think that everyone’s ethnicity and gender hurts and helps them to a degree. If an audience is used to seeing a certain type of music that is stereotypically associated with a certain ethnicity and gender, then whatever you do will go over well. For instance, as a black male, it is easy for me to “put over” a rhythm and blues or a jazz song to an audience. They may be less enthralled with my performance of “Sweet Home Alabama,” no matter how well I perform it. I have experienced discrimination, but the good thing about the entertainment business is that if you have enough talent, you can overcome anything. Talent wins the day. Simply sing the song as best you can and let the chips fall where they may.

What I do is try to give people a feeling that they have had before. I give people comfort. I am a mental doctor – a mentalist! My work entails not only singing, but many times creating an entire program of entertainment for an event. At my level, people really hire me off of my reputation and expect me to come in and wow the crowd, no matter what. The most common misunderstanding that people have of my profession is that it is not mostly business. The music business is 10% music, 90% business.

I rate my job satisfaction at a 10, without a doubt. There is nothing that I would rather do.

This job does move my heart. I get to connect with people in a way that most people only dream of. I have definitely found my calling in life.

Something unique that readers should know about my situation is that my entire family was into music. They used it as a way to escape the hardships that they faced. Since they faced a lot of hardships, they got pretty good at performing music, and I just followed along and turned it into a profession!

I got started in this line of work by performing at my local church. I was soon discovered by some promoters who had me travel to do some gospel shows, and my reputation just grew from there. I took time off to go to college, but after that it was right back to professional singing. I would not change a thing about how I got into this business or my experiences with it.

What I learned the hard way is to get paid before you sing, even at a gospel show! The audience might be “righteous,” but the promoters and the event planners are all business. So when you deal with them, you have to be a complete businessman as well.

The strangest thing that has happened to me is a friend of mine calling me to do a country themed show. I thought that he was asking me to do a more jazz oriented show, because that was what most of his bookings were. I walked in, and everybody looked at me strangely. Fortunately, I practice all types of music, so when I got on my piano and started playing “You’re My Honeybee,” they all accepted me. It was a great show.

I get up and go to work to make people happy. I get proud when someone comes up to me and says that my music has helped them through a tough time.

My job is stressful only because I have to do so much to just sing. However, I can take time off whenever I want to.

Here is the part that everyone will want to hear. A good salary range for a working singer like myself is anywhere from US $40K to about US $90K. I do live within my means and it is ok.

I do not really take any vacations, because I love what I do. When I am not touring or gigging I am writing.

The single most important thing that I have learned about the working world is that you are really responsible for everything that you have. Look around you. If there is something that you want that you do not have, then there is something that you need to do that you have not done.

I would tell a friend considering my line of work to make sure that he brushes up on his business administration skills and maybe take a tax preparation course at a community college.