There are countless economic reports for just about every industry, except a cappella. Until now.
Here are the 3 largest growth markets in a cappella currently:
1) High School Groups
Twenty years ago, high school choral directors didn't think about contemporary a cappella, because they didn't know what it was. Ten years ago, high school choral directors largely avoided contemporary a cappella as they avoid all popular music, due to the large chip on their shoulders hoping to justify their life's work to the world as being on par with classical instrumental music.
Today, many high school choral directors are embracing contemporary a cappella ... because they sang it themselves, and realize it's the single best way to address their largest problem (besides funding cuts): attracting male singers. I call a cappella the perfect choral gateway drug: start with some Beatles, and before long they'll be singing Bach. You don't start young readers on Shakespeare, so why should they start by singing classical music?
There are well over 1,000 collegiate groups around the US, with new networks of college groups found from London to Beijing, and for the most part they're well served by the current infrastructure. However, the small number of high school a cappella programs is growing at an alarming rate, and could easily reach 10,000 groups in the US alone, both within the school's music departments and without (student run at lunchtime, afterschool groups drawing from several schools). High school groups need coaching, arrangements, recordings, performing opportunities, etc.
2) Post-Collegiate Groups
As I have been saying since the birth of the Contemporary A Cappella League, there are hundreds of thousands of adults who do wish they could sing but the constraints of life make it difficult for them. We're graduating over 5,000 collegiate a cappella singers each year, and most are not looking for a classical, barbershop or church choir. Multiply that by 40 years, and you're looking at 200,000 ex-collegiate a cappella singers alone.
And then there are the countless former choir singers who didn't sing in a collegiate group yet still miss it, especially now with frequent exposure to "Glee", "The Sing-Off", etc. I might be overreaching a bit, but I'd put that number near 500,000.
The hurdle of starting a group is basically insurmountable for them, considering their distractions and obligations, but it is not for you. CASA has materials and training to help you start a CAL group, and it does not have to be a non-profit organization or enterprise, as many adults happily pay up to $200 a year to sing in a barbershop quartet or community choir. And your group does not have to remain small; in Europe there's a healthy tradition of adult pop choirs many of which have 50 members.
That's $10,000 a year. For you. To rehearse once a week, set up concerts, and the like. Sure, you'll have some expenses (like hall rental and music copies), but there would be plenty left over. Some successful directors have more than one group. Consider creating an all-star high school group that draws from different high schools in the area (like Marin's Til Dawn, directed for the past 14 years by my House Jack partner in crime Austin WIllacy). You could have a small elite group drawn from your adult chorus who generate income by performing at private parties in the like. And so on. There is an initial investment of time up front, but unlike most businesses there is (almost) no startup cost.
The United States and Europe, especially Northern Europe, have strong a cappella infrastructure in place. Scholastic groups, casual groups, professional groups. All growing with plenty of room to grow. Other English-speaking regions, like Canada and Australia, are keeping pace as well.
South America and Africa have a couple of small fires burning, but for the most part don't have much interest or activity, which hopefully change one day, but there's no immediate catalyst.
There is one region, however, that is poised for explosive growth in the next couple of years, and that's Asia.
Japan has had a cappella for a long time, with a strong somewhat cult-like a cappella fan base. Singapore has been interested in a cappella for the past 15 years, and Taiwan for a decade. Hong Kong, Korea and Manila are all now stepping up, with a cappella festivals and professional touring acts of their own.
And then there's China. 1,200,000 people were recently introduced to "The Sing-Off". There are groups forming at all the major universities right now, and they're eager for outside sheet music, coaching and community. Vocal Asia has been fantastic in their work to unify the Asian a cappella community, generate interest and take steps large and small (for example, they convinced the Strawberry Music Festival, the largest music festival in China, to have an a cappella stage this year for the first time, and it featured 20 groups from around Asia).
If you're in Asia, if you speak Chinese or another Asian language, there will be many opportunities in the coming years for your work, be it arranging, coaching, directing, producing, recording, editing and the like. If you're the kind of person who wishes you'd gotten involved in professional a cappella sooner as you look around and see well-established professionals in the US and Europe, this is your chance to be one of those people in Asia.
Of course there remain plenty of opportunities in other realms and markets within a cappella, but these three areas will see explosive growth in the next few years, especially if they're well served by our current community. For example, the difference between 100 and 1,000 new adult groups by 2015 is up to us. And I'm not asking you to volunteer your time; for the first time since I started writing the CAN, I'm able to state that there is full time work on the horizon for many experienced a cappella folks, if only they put the time in and realize the potential.
Most other industries are contracting or stagnant. You're standing on the brink of some serious growth in a niche industry, and there are very few people experienced enough to take advantage of the opportunities above.
People tell me all the time "I wish I had your job." Now you can.
Go make some money AND spread harmony through harmony.