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Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Tips & insights on the voice from professional vocalist, vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method

Monday, April 7, 2008

Jingle singing

I got a recent comment on this blog asking me to talk about jingle singing. Thanks very much for the comment and here goes...

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

http://www.wikihow.com/Sing-Jingles

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, rodmanjudy@comcast.net . 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.

9 Comments :

  • At April 8, 2008 at 6:54 PM , Anonymous Leigh Ann said...

    This is such a great blog. What an interesting post.

    One thing in particular struck me: The first requirement you listed was the ability to read music.

    My boyfriend and I have been church hopping, trying to find a good fit, and I tell you what: They don't use hymnals any more! They all have those big screens that project the words. You learn the tune by listening and eventually catching on.

    Since so many kids probably don't learn music formally these days, I'm bothered by this. To me, church has traditionally been a key place kids can learn or practice what they know about reading music. At least they could get an idea of what a scale looks like.

    So churches: Please use the hymnals every once in a while!

    Thanks. I feel better now. :-)

     
  • At April 8, 2008 at 7:45 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    HAHA... Amen, sister! That was one place a whole lot of people learned to read music... church. An unfortunate side effect of those big screens is the musical dumbing down of the congregation. Yeah, I feel better now, too.

     
  • At May 9, 2008 at 12:32 AM , Blogger Cynthia said...

    I have a company that wants to pay me $500 to sing a jingle. She says she wants about 4 different versions: (four versions..... 1st the top and bottom sing and then the full sing and possible a donut)
    Does that amount of money sound "Fair?" It's been years since I've done a jingle but I am a trained vocalist (Bachelor of Music/ Vocal Performance) and I usually sing all of the parts (Soprano, Alto, & Tenor) on the jingle. In addition to that, I am very versatile and quick.

    Also, I've recorded jingles with this company in the past and I did hear some of the jingles, repeatedly, on TV and radio. Were residuals in order?

     
  • At May 9, 2008 at 8:02 AM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Hi Cynthia... Jingle rates are a very complicated issue. If you are doing a "union" jingle (which you MUST do if you have joined AFTRA) you can go to http://www.aftra.com/contract/contract.htm
    where you'll see why I always just called my local AFTRA office to figure it out for me.

    The rates are determined by such things as region of the country where the jingle will play (local, regional or national), by the length and number of the edits, by the length of time the jingle will play. A 13-week national spot could make you thousands of dollars.

    If you are non-union, this $500 fee seems reasonable. Non-union work is usually negotiated with "buy-out" rates. Residuals are usually only something the union can get you.

    For this reason, if you start doing a lot of jingle work, you should consider joining AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). The website is http://www.aftra.com/contract/contract.htm

     
  • At January 22, 2009 at 11:38 AM , Anonymous Don Mosley - Sound of Birmingham said...

    Judy,

    You did a great job of explaining the "jingle" singing business. I am a commercial recording studio owner and music producer. I also sing. I got into this business some 30 years ago not to produce "hit" records (although we've had a few), but to produce jingles. I have produced over 500 jingles in my career. Most of them would be considered local....and as such, the budgets are proportionally smaller. We are a non-union shop and typically pay background singers $50.00 to $75.00 per hour. The typical session lasts 1.5 hours. Lead vocalists are paid anywhere from $200.00 to $500.00. The national jingles we have produced are usually done in conjunction with an advertising agency, and most of them are union (Aftra-SAG) affiliated. As a result, they cannot pay less than union scale. We then gladly pass these payments along to the singers and performers. I don't know anyone in this area that makes a "living" singing jingles, although it can amount to some nice extra income. As far as joining Aftra, that is strictly a personal decision. If you think you're good enough to demand Aftra rates, go for it! But be aware that it might prohibit you from being called at all.

     
  • At January 22, 2009 at 2:32 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    You are of course correct, Don. If a singer is doing limited jingles, it may not benefit them to join a union whose initiation fee may be more than the singer earns in a year :) At some point it gets to be "which comes first, the chicken or the egg".

    My thoughts are that

    1. Union and business agreements should be mutually beneficial, allowing both worker and employer to thrive, not just survive.

    The union can price themselves out of competition; business can pay so little that truly pro jingle singers won't exist, due to a lack of compensation to put food on the table.

    2. When it comes to recurring national or regional spots, I do think that residuals should be paid. The amt paid to talent here is low compared to the amt paid to tv and radio for time.

    I was abused terribly by a Memphis jingle company for which I was staff singer for 6 years. I sang many regional and national spots which paid the company handsomely, but got paid a small amt per week no matter what I did. So I moved to Nashville and joined AFTRA :)

    I do like the Tennessee "right to work" status that allows both union and non-union work to exist. As a singer gets more work and better at the craft, he or she can command higher prices, such as AFTRA rates.

     
  • At December 11, 2011 at 5:22 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Judy,
    I am writing my own reel, where can I get accompying music to go with it that has the capacity to have a jingle sound if needed?

    If that doesn't fly, who can create a really good jingle reel for a reasonable rate (under $500)

     
  • At December 11, 2011 at 9:07 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Hi... as to your jingle tracks needs, I would just call studios in your area and ask that question. If you know any jingle companies in your area, ask them as well.

     
  • At November 12, 2013 at 11:58 PM , Anonymous Music Production said...

    This blog post is relevant and to the point. I recommend it to everyone visiting this blog.

     

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