What's the difference between jingle singing and session singing? Jingle singers are a sub-field of session singers, which is just an abbreviated term for "recording session singers". Session singers includes background singers for recordings, demo singing for songwriters, duet, solo and group singing for all kinds of media projects, and for which a singer is paid a set fee or residual schedule.
The niche of jingle singer has been drying up for many years. In times gone by, every product on the market had its own jingle... usually with a memorable melody AND lyric (which meant it had to be sung). Now there are few signature jingles you see on TV, and those that are on TV are often just instrumental. Nevertheless, jingles are still sung, and a whole lot of money is still made from them in residual income. There are local, regional and national jingles. $12,000 and more from a single 13 week run of a national spot is not uncommon.
On the subject of payments... Joining the singer's union AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Recording Artists) assures that you get these fees. Though I often disagree with AFTRA's policies, I do know that non union commercial work offers much less pay and gives no protection that the payments will be made.
What are the requirements of a jingle singer?
- First requirement of a jingle singer is that they be able to sing the jingle. Sometimes recording artists are chosen to sing a particular jingle that fits their voice, but true career jingle singers are "stunt singers". They never know what vocal chore they will have to accomplish before they get to the studio, so they have to be vocally ready for just about anything that could be asked of them.
- The second requirement of a jingle singer is that they have a great professional attitude. There is no one who is good enough to be a personality problem or a diva and have a session singing career. This attitude needs to include habits like showing up prepared to sing... on time, every time. Banter should be pleasant and friendly but should also be limited and respectful of the fact that the client is paying for studio time! The attitude also should include respect for the fellow session singer. Word gets around! Also, the singer has to be willing to change (sometimes every other take) the way they are singing. The client is always right, even when they are wrong (or have control problems, or just don't know what they want).
A list of things a jingle singer needs to be prepared to do:
- read music - but sometimes to wing it (head chart)
- sing any part assigned to them
- sound a lot like a particular hit artist that would cost the advertisers too much to hire
- sound authentic within a particular musical genre (i.e. be able to sound country, pop, r&b, jazz, or alternative)
- blend with other singers like butter
- have the extreme vocal control to be completely together in sync with other singers (follow the group leader's decisions about phrasing, tone color, cut-offs, glottal starts for vowels)
- clearly articulate the lyrics (the advertising message)
- have total control of pitch... able to lift or drop a pitch if necessary by a degree of a step.
If you think this takes training... drum roll.... YOU'RE RIGHT! Seek out a professional vocal coach who trains session singers and also do as much singing with other session singers as you possibly can. If you can get in to watch session singers work, do so with every opportunity. This is a specialty skill, and the best session singers perfect their craft carefully for years.
You must also have a "jingle reel". It's a bit like "which came first, the chicken or the egg", but you must have your voice recorded on 6 to 8 jingles recorded and have the snippets professionally edited together. Try to include as many different styles as you are comfortable singing. You can ask around or do a Google search for studios or engineers who do this; I don't want to recommend a particular company. I will tell you it needs to sound great and stand out from the crowd of jingle reels.
Then you have to do the researching and networking required to get the cd listened to. Search out jingle companies in your area; also find singers who do this work. Problem: many times jingle companies have in-house singers (who are sometimes the producers themselves) and really only need soloists. That's OK, submit the reel with some of your solos.
Here is a site I thought did a good job of talking about jingle singing. Beware of other jingle singing info sites that just want to sell you something. Make sure that reel they want to produce for you will be affordable and give you the quality you need. You might be better off getting it done locally.
The jingle singing field has always been lucrative. That's why people go to the trouble to train for it. If you are truly good at hearing parts, at reading music, and at blending your voice, try to do some recording with a group and see if you think this kind of singing could be a fit for you.
If you are a jingle or session singer, watch over your instrument. Stunt singing is a demanding business. If you:
- experience strain or vocal fatigue
- want to expand your vocal abilities
- want to get some protective vocal warm ups
... I can help you.
Call or email me at 615-834-4747, firstname.lastname@example.org . Power, Path & Performance is, most of all, a practical, real-world solution to vocal goals, and a jingle singer's voice is more than worth the investment.