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Everything I Need To Know, I Learned As A Jingle Singer

Before I started my current career, I was a jingle-singer in New York. My job consisted of going to recording studios and singing commercials and doing voice-overs for advertisers. I sang for Coca-Cola, Ford, Clairol, Hasbro, McDonalds, and hundreds of other top brands. It was the perfect job for me because despite the fact that I had been trained as an opera singer, and thought I would do Broadway, I didn’t want to work nights and weekends. Go figure. Jingles and voice-over work, I soon discovered, were recorded during the 5-day workweek and were very lucrative, to boot.

It was a heady time and a lot of fun, but the fun didn’t last. Turns out, I entered the business at exactly the time things were beginning to wind down. Until that time, big musical themes for products were the norm and there were always lots of singers on the recording sessions. But fashion and tastes change and advertisers, in an effort to tighten budgets saw this as a good place to cut back. Soon, the work was no longer pouring in and though I had done extremely well, the handwriting was on the wall. I had to find something else to do.

Fortunately, I had the time and the wherewithal to explore other fields. After experimenting in law and much searching of university catalogues — and my soul — I settled on communications. I believed that I could parlay all my extensive training and experience into teaching other people to communicate more effectively. After all, I was an expert performer with a trained speaking voice. And what is putting across a song or a jingle anyway but a way to tell a story, to deliver some information, to communicate with an audience.

So here are 10 lessons I learned as a jingle-singer:

1.Self-motivation. Being an independent contractor, which is what all performers are, gave me a real leg up when it came time to make it happen in this new field. No work/no food is a powerful motivator.
2. Cooperate. Whether doing a 3-hour show, a 1-hour cabaret act or a 15-second jingle, there were always a lot of other people who helped make the job a success. Teamwork was and still is essential.
3.Treat clients well. Clients are golden; they are always, always right, even when they’re wrong.
4. Early is on time, on time is late. When the client was paying hundreds of dollars per hour for recording studio time, a late arriver cost money and didn’t get used again.
5. Be prepared. This is the only currency a performer has. It’s the same for entrepreneurs. Do your homework.
6. Don’t let people defeat you. The music business is so competitive, there was always someone take you down. There will always be people, who for one reason or another will tell you you’re no good. Ignore them or fight them, but don’t give them that tremendous power over you.
7. Become a connoisseur. I learned what good, high-quality work looked and sounded like, even when there were no metrics to determine it. This connoisseurship has been an immense help in my current field.
8. Spend wisely. I never knew when the next job, thus the next paycheck was coming so I always saved for that rainy day. Even today with every expenditure, I ask myself how it will help my business or me. I am very careful not to get caught up in the mob mentality of having to own the latest gadget, car or another of today’s emblems of success.
9. Work hard. Harder than your competition. I practiced constantly and took voice, acting and dance lessons throughout my career. I still go for advanced training when I need it. Funny how the harder you work, the luckier you get.
10. Listen. If we didn’t listen to the instrumentals or other vocals, we came in on the wrong note or at the wrong time. This delayed completion of the job and cost the client money. In any business, listening is the most important and most underused communication skill.

Copyright 2007 Ruth Sherman. All Rights Reserved.

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