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Background Vocal Careers

By Tom Gauger As a jingle singer myself, singing on numerous commercials such as FOX TV, UPN, O’Charleys and many others, and as a former talent booking agent with the William Morris Agency booking many a household name artist, I have concluded that there are many reasons to strategize in background vocals as opposed to an actual artist career.  The reasons are many, but mainly because, like many of us, I like creature comforts.  I like knowing what bed I am sleeping in, or the comfort that I am watching TV at night sitting on my own sofa.  Sound shallow or superficial? – I don’t know, but what I do know, is that I have enjoyed a career in background vocals since my early teens when I started singing radio spots and continue enjoying session work to this day. As you begin to ponder while reading this article, trying to figure out your own singing career blueprint, try to stay not only focused, but open to new ideas thinking outside the box.  I will try as best I can in the next few minutes to discuss, outline, and offer suggestions that you might try, as you not only figure out where you want to go with your career, but how you’ll go about doing it. If you’ve read any of my past articles, you will notice a certain theme that permeates through most ideas and “how tos” that I’ve written, and that is attitude.  I’ll say it again, that attitude is everything.  Ever meet an individual, at a store, gathering of some kind, and they are just as kind as they can be and are authentically caring and not a “taker,” – You want that.  Superimpose that onto your singing career.  When individuals meet you, they know that you are not a pushover, but a kind and easy to work with kind of talent. Let’s start with being honest about your singing abilities.  To be a background singer, you must be incredibly flexible.  One minute I’m singing a real smooth lead spot, and the next they’re wanting a gritty sound and then a mixed black/white sounding choir backing up a lead singer for a commercial of some kind.  How flexible are you?  That will determine the amount and scope of work available.  But don’t fret.  There are plenty of singers out there who specialize in a particular style, simply because they couldn’t sing a smooth spot for anything – But keep that in mind as you look at a career in background vocals. How good is your demo?  Let’s rephrase – How really good is your demo.  There is too much competition out there to be kidding yourself about a career in BGVs if you don’t have a master quality demo.  Don’t be fooled by “My buddy has a computer and a couple of mics and keyboard and can do my demo for free,” deal.  Your demo has got to sound like you’ve already arrive, been doing this work for years, and that your already an insider as a background vocal singer.  That’s the quality of demo that you need to be sending out.  If you feel you’ve got that great, if not do some research or call at 615-300-5030 who specializes in master quality singer demos. Your next line of business is to look at the packaging of the material that you are sending out.  Don’t be putting cheesy artwork or half baked pictures of yourself on the front.  Again there is too much competition and you need to look like you’ve already been singing national commercial campaigns.  Invest in a nice photo of yourself – black and white vs color is merely preferential in nature.  Make sure that the date is on the front of demo along with your name – i.e.  John Doe – Fall 2016.   Include on the inside cover a listing of all commercials or song demos that have been used along with contact information.  You will want to pass this CD out and mp3 to any and all individuals that you think can help you in your endeavor to become a session singer.  Jingle houses, record producers, industrial music houses, ad agencies, etc.  You will want to incorporate a number of demos over the course of time.  You may want to email or mail out another CD and this might be labeled John Doe Spring 2007.  This way you can keep getting your name across the desks of individuals who might hire you.  You will want to attend artist showcases and mail congratulations to individual writers who win awards for their commercials that they have written.  Keep a detailed log of everyone you come in contact with and note date and time of the conversation, contact numbers, scope of conversation and follow up info.  You must treat this like a business, because it is a business and can be very lucrative in time.  You will want to develop a low cost web site devoted to your career.  Include a page for contacts, gig info, mp3 samples, links, bio and photo page.  Websites do not have to cost very much at all.  It might cost $5 - $10 a month to maintain – not a big deal. In closing, if you really feel like you have the talent to break into the jingle singing and background vocal market, then follow some of these ideas.  Go to Starbucks, grab a cup of coffee, and write down your goals starting with today, this week, this month, year and then 5 and 10 year goals.  This is an important step in your career to help you visualize some of your goals already accomplished and then a blueprint for success to help you push towards other goals.  Don’t get discouraged.  Be honest with yourself about singing abilities and your demo.  Your demo is your business card and you can not afford to spend all kinds of time pitching your demo if it is not up to par.   You may contact for an evaluation.
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