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Studio Singing, Jingles and the Big Bucks

By Tom Gauger As a music industry professional, I’ve had the pleasure of watching numerous young artists and studio singers develop into what seems as unstoppable marketing machines.  I’ve also witnessed the untimely passing of many a would be talent whose career ends as mysteriously as it started.  What makes for a great session singer?  Who makes the big bucks singing jingles and commercials?  Why do some make it with what would seem little talent and others, with impeccable style and delivery, never even given the slightest acquiesce from industry insiders?  Let’s take a look at some basic ideas and concepts, and hopefully you can take away some understanding to gain traction in your singing career. First off, as a former talent booking agent with the William Morris Agency, I can not tell you every how or why to every act that has or hasn’t made it whether in the studio or as an artist.  Let’s get that right up front.  Anyone who professes that they have all of the answers if you will pay them so much money for some “industry secrets” is a fake.  There are some concepts that can be learned and utilized, but nothing is foolproof, luck has its way of entering the picture and quite honestly the “I don’t know how it happened,” is reality.  But, there are ideas that can give you an edge over your competition – Let’s look at some. Jingle singers and great session singers are a breed apart.  There’s no mistaking it.  I’ve sung on numerous commercials with some incredible singers, often leaving the session going, “What the heck was I doing there,?” but called back time after time – You know why?  It’s called attitude.  Sure singing on the money every time with consistency is incredibly key, but so is the attitude.  So our most basic, yet almost critical element to singing in the studio with the elite crowd is attitude. As you look at your career, one of your first questions to answer will be, “What do I bring to the table?”  Another way to put it is, “Why should they hire me?”  What niche of the singing market does your voice encapsulate?  In other words, you need to figure out why someone will pay you.  Now there’s a multitude of genres and singing opportunities out there, so don’t think too narrowly and don’t get discouraged if you don’t think that your vocal abilities command significant attention in multiple arenas.  The fact remains that many new comers to the market do make it and are successful within their niche.  You just need to be able to capitalize on your strengths – the “This is why they are paying me,” factor. Once you’ve established your strengths and real abilities, not the abilities you wish you had or that close friends nicely tell you that you have, you will be ready to start figuring out what your demo reel should consist of and sound like - This is key.  You need to know your strengths and abilities to minimize your weaknesses and bolster your strengths.  A first class jingle or session singing reel is your ticket to success.  If you’re not getting much session work, you’d better start looking at your reel.  If I’ve stated it a thousand times, you can not compete in the privileged singing arena going for the big bucks with the “My friend has a studio with a keyboard, mic and computer.”  It’s not going to happen.  You have to be willing to spend not only time, but money on your demo.  Once you’re in, you can get copies of the session work you’re called on to be included in your next reel, but starting out, your jingle demo has to scream quality, like you’ve already arrived on the scene.  For further insight and demo ideas you might consider looking up and free e-books on jingle singing and song demos are available as well.  If you get nothing else out of this article, make sure your jingle reel is a knock out! The big bucks in the session world are made in singing national 13 week spots.  Many singers who have successfully entered the jingle singing market travel to Chicago, LA, New York, Atlanta, Dallas and other secondary jingle markets to sing on these types of jingles.  A 13 week McDonalds spot could earn you $15,000 to $20,000 or more on one commercial!  Sounds too good to be true, but it’s the truth.  Now before you think you can enter this market you’d better have a “make your socks roll up and down” jingle reel in hand.  Oftentimes these 13 weeks spots are repeated and you know what that means, you get an additional fee.  Once you have your jingle demo in hand you have to figure out who and what to do with it, how often do you submit it and to where.  These are great questions and I’ll attempt to answer these critical questions in our short time remaining.  I realize that most reading this article have interests that are only piqued, but there are a number of you who could probably do very well in the jingle singing arena and will.  With that I will embrace a few key ideas here and hopefully you can email me with some of your success stories. You will want to start by locating, calling and sending out your jingle reel to individuals and companies in your local area.  There are listings of production and jingles houses along with ad agencies if you will Google it.  You will want to send them your jingle reel with your name, contact number and year and season of the year, directly on the front sleeve along with your cover letter.  You will also make sure that all jingles and musical snippets are listed in order on the inside cover along with all of your contact info again. You will then, after submitting your reel locally will, be ready to start branching out to larger jingle production communities.  You will keep a detailed log of who, when, etc you talked to and sent out your email and all responses.  You may want to follow up with some individuals with another professionally produced jingle reel to get your name across their desk another time.  Keep emailing and conversing with interested parties.  Call and gather contact info from other successful session singers.  In time if your reel sizzles, you should be acquiring work.  Good luck and we look forward to hearing from you!

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