Rick Gabe

Vocal Instruction

Making money singing- part 6- Marketing the brand

Here we briefly discuss the tools you will need to promote yourself as a singer- and to develop your “brand.”

Business card- Every singer needs a business card. You will want a card that is not paper thin and a color that is not bright white. Ivory, off white or a neutral color are good options. Avoid raised printing as well. Perhaps you or someone you know can design the card. If not, VistaPrint has hundreds to choose from. For the design and printing of your business cards, Vistaprint is the best source: http://www.vistaprint.com/.

The basic info on your card should be: your name and then identify yourself as a vocalist or singer; Contact info: phone number, email address and web address if you have one. All other info on the card is personal and artistic choice. Refrain from using clichéd music notations such as clefs, staffs or notes. A graphic of a microphone may be used.

Always keep some cards with you for networking as you never know who you may meet. Opportunities may come up when you least expect it. Look for opportunities to leave your card at businesses and on community bulletin boards in places such as libraries and supermarkets.

A website is necessary for every singer. You can have a professionally designed site, or you can use many free site design services. First step is to choose a URL which is the name of your site. Many people use “Go Daddy” as a source for web names. I.e., johnsmith@comcast.com. If not, vary the address until the address that you seek is available. Once a site URL is established you then pay for that domain name. You can start for as little as 10-15 dollars and then you can get started building your site.

Your site should include your picture, your contact info, demo, songs, videos, bio, testimonials (fan or industry quotes) and a digital press kit. It is your choice as to whether you want a basic site and include minimal information or you can be more elaborate- it just depends on how much information that you have and want to share.

Social media should include the following, listed in order of importance: Facebook, Twitter, Google plus, You tube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat. Also look for music related social media, such as Reverbnation or music blogs.

Look to future installments here for more details on how to develop and market your career

Making money singing- part five- The recording market

Wherever music is recorded- singers are needed. Recording Studios vary in size and sophistication from major record labels to small home studios. Virtually every city and suburb has multiple recording studios. If these studios are in business- they are making money- and in the process they are recording vocals.

In the studio, you would likely be hired to sing lead vocal on an original song, and there may be a need to record a vocal for a band demo. Be mindful that background vocals are in demand as well . At one time three or more singers would be hired, but with today’s economy it’s more common for one singer to sing all of the background parts.

Do not overlook home based recording studios. These may be difficult to find as they are not typically advertised. You may find these “hidden studios” by talking to local musicians. You may also search craigslist or other internet listings of studios.

Versatility is always an advantage to a recording singer. Some assignments require a comedic approach, perhaps a Bronx accent, or a foreign language. There is also a demand for sound alike singers such as Elvis Presley, Barbara Streisand or Beyonce.

In short, there are many options to gain recording studio work, it just takes some networking and leg work on the part of the singer.

Making money signing- part four- The Media market

The media market is a field that includes jingle singing as well as vocal work in video production of all types. TV radio and film are in this market which also includes corporate work.
Corporate work is typically contracted through audio and video production companies.

Be mindful that radio commercials are produced in audio production companies; TV commercials are produced in video production companies; Films are produced in film production companies.

Jingle Singing is part of the advertising industry. It is the vocal part of radio and television advertising. Whenever you hear vocal on a commercial- it’s a jingle.

Who hires jingle singers? Since advertising agencies typically create radio and TV commercials they are an obvious source of work. When you seek out advertising agencies, be certain that they focus more than 50% in radio or TV. Trade publications such as Advertising Age list advertising agencies geographically, as well contact info and percentage of work.

Audio Production Companies are responsible for the creation of recordings which are used in the jingle market. These companies either own a recording studio or they are affiliated with one. Audio production companies hire writers, musicians and singers on a regular basis.

The nature of each commercial dictates the age and type of singer needed. The more versatile you are as a singer, the more opportunities you will have in the jingle market. It is advantageous, though not essential, that you learn to read music. New York singers are frequently excellent sight readers, but smaller cities and markets typically do not require sight reading.

Recording studios don’t produce jingles exclusively but since they are recorded there investigate which recording studios do jingle work and make contact with them.

If you can make contact with jingle writers they can become a good source of referrals. It’s not so easy to find jingle writers. Be aware as you talk to musicians, and in your overall networking, to ask about jingle writers and how to reach them

Though voice over is not strictly a singing category it is a common source of income for singers. It is the spoken-word part of the audio production. The pursuit of this work is identical to the pursuit of jingle singing. It is not unusual for a vocalist to also provide the spoken word part of a jingle.

Making money singing: Part three-The religious market

Music plays an important role in special events- and especially those events at churches. Weddings and funerals and regular services offer many opportunities for singers. The music can be instrumental, vocal, or a combination of both. Of course, our interest here is vocal.

For example, in the Christian church market, singing is part of the Friday, Saturday and Sunday services as well as with virtually every wedding and funeral. The music often will feature a vocalist.

Vocal work within a church is as simple as learning the songs, and then finding the contact within the church that is responsible for contracting the music. This person may be in the position to employ you on a regular basis in the role of singer as events are scheduled.

This hiring contact may be the organist or pianist, or someone in charge of music and/or the choir, Often the pastor, priest, minister or deacon who conducts the services is responsible for hiring the singers

Beyond the regular services on Friday through Sunday, there are Holy days as well as the seasons such as Christmas and Easter.

Some of the songs are traditional liturgical songs, but there may be a custom song list that is requested by a church patron for a specific event.So you must be open and flexible to learn new material.

The combined number of services along with the number of churches that exist, results in a tremendous potential for work opportunities in this market.

To begin the search, pick your geographic area, and search churches online.
Contact each church and introduce yourself as a singer. Identify the individual responsible for music in the church and make contact with them.

Here it is essential to have a business card, demo and ideally a website with which you display your singing abilities and availability. It will also be quite helpful to provide any references.

Making money singing: Part Two- How to choose the right band for you

In Part one of Making Money Singing, we looked at the various options singers might explore to locate paid singing work.

At the point where you have identified a desirable band(s) for you, it’s time to take the next steps in the process.

Perhaps you already have a clear picture of your ultimate band? Whether you do or don’t, as you begin to target bands, it becomes necessary to get answers to your most important questions about the band- so that you have the best fit for you.

First ask yourself, is this music something you really want to sing? Can you see yourself singing these songs? The band will not change their song repertoire for you.

Let’s look at some of the important questions you will want to ask a bandleader:

-Are you expected to supply a PA system and/or microphone?

-What is the location of rehearsals? What frequency, days of the week and what hours of the day? are rehearsals?

-How long has the band been together? Are they working now and how does the band get booked?

-Current amount, or projected amount of work, and the location of the jobs. Is this amount suitable for you (too much or too little)?

-Does this band specialize in one type of music?

-Who chooses the songs?

-What is the pay scale?

-Will there be choreography (Dance) in the performances?

-What is the attire (especially for women)?

-Is this a club band or an outside band

-Am I replacing a singer?

-Am I expected to play any instrument?

-Am I the only singer and will I need to sing harmony?

These are important questions to ask right from the beginning as a way to get you closer to identifying your ultimate working band.

End of Part Two.

Making Money Singing: Part One (Overview)

Here begins an in-depth discussion on singers and income sources. This discussion will be in multiple parts beginning with: How do singers make money?

When it comes to singers and income, the very top of the spectrum would be the superstar recording artists who make sums well into the millions, such as Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. But even the superstars started somewhere and that is where we begin the discussion.

Band and solo public performance work:
Many singer-songwriters find solo work in venues such as coffee shops, clubs and listening rooms; but there are also many options for those singers that seek to be in a band.
There are bands to fit most music genres, such as rock bands, country bands, reggae bands, jazz bands, and also blues bands, pop bands and folk bands. Beyond genre specific there are also wedding, party and club bands. Some restaurants have singing waiters and waitresses.

Let’s look at another segment in the singers and income category:
Freelance singing: Singers for hire in this instance may not be looking to join a band, but still still have opportunities to fill a need for music that includes vocal:
-A church singer for weddings and funerals.
-“Media work” is Jingle singing for radio and TV.
-A recording studio singer aligns with a studio for projects such as demo recordings that require vocal.
-Singing telegrams are yet another opportunity for singers.

Next begins the process of research and networking to locate the situations that may be a fit for you. Begin to reach out to every musician that you know and also those that you meet along the way, and let them know that you seek singing work. To accomplish this it will be best to hand out a professional business card. These are relatively inexpensive to create as well.

Websites such as Craiglist are a good start. Within Craigslist, the musician board often has listings for bands that need singers. Bandmix and Reverbnation are band sites to search for those band styles that you are most interested in. As you begin to identify types of bands here, reach out via email to let them know that you’re looking for work.

Another search option would be to search online for live venues in your area or the area you would like to perform, and then visit these venues and talk to the band members on their break between sets.

You may consider karaoke or open mike venues as a means to get singing experience though these would be without pay. At some of the more established and respected open-mike venues you can also network with musicians and other singers.

Look for part 2 coming soon.

Songwriting and the creative process

Thought I would take a departure from a purely vocal topic in this post and discuss songwriting. Included here in the link below is a fascinating approach to song composition and the creative process from Jazz composer, Kenny Wheeler who died recently at the age of 84.

A lot of theories and ideas have been bandied about in regard to the songwriting process, both in terms of song structure, as well as the ways in which creativity might best flourish; The question often raised is, what comes first in song composition, the melody, the lyrics or the melody accompaniment (chord structure)?

Historically, songs have been created at the keyboard or guitar, and for many writers the chord structure comes first and then the melody and lyrics follow. But many a song was born with the melody or the lyrics first. So this “song structure” in reality is wide open and dependent on the songwriter and their training, experience and musical/artistic influences.

But what about the creative process? Is it purely serendipitous, or is there some tangible, yet magical process where creativity flows like an open faucet? For me, as a songwriter some of my most fruitful outcomes have occurred when I’ve had a strong feeling about a given topic that I then channeled into song. Of course, it’s different for every writer, but that’s part of what makes the study of music and song composition such a joy.

Click through the link and follow the short article from my friend, Deni Kasrel, and how she happened upon this great story, as told by Mr. Wheeler on how the creative process happens for him. Enjoy!


Resources to enhance your act, band and music career

Hey all, just wanted to share that I have expanded the “Resources” page here at Rick Gabe dot com recently with some web links that I believe you will find useful and rewarding. I will continue to add web links to this page in time, and will continue to include blog posts on topics that help singers and musicians, as we progress on our own unique musical journeys.

Click through the “resources’ button at the top of any page.


Songs and key choice

As both an educator and singer, I have always been fascinated and stimulated by the process of analyzing options for the key that a given tune might be played and sung. Of course, the ultimate choice is up to the singer performing the song.

As a vocal instructor, I notice that students will sometimes question, or even resist, changing the key of cover tunes that we work on in lesson.

I’ve found that at the outset, it’s a worthwhile exercise to examine a tune’s melodic range, as well as phrasing, potential breathing challenges and then the movement of the melody ascending and descending.

Sometimes changing the key is the answer if we can’t reach a note, but sometimes we can alter the melody slightly, and keep the key the same- without changing the overall “feel and sound” of the melody. Additionally, we may consider a key change just to create a unique overall sound of a song- regardless of any technical vocal challenges.

Remember that the singer in the original recording of a song has their own unique vocal range. And then the key of the song was chosen according to that range and voice. Unless you have the exact same vocal range and voice, you must choose the key that is right for you.


Singers and Microphone selection

When it comes to a singers preparation, one area that we cannot take lightly is equipment and specifically the choice of the right microphone.

Thought I would share a great site link that contains some basic technical information that  singers should be aware of as they approach the studio, as well as the stage. Topics include the “How and why” and importance of microphone impedance and polar patterns. And there is an overview on Mic selection for studio and stage for both singers and instrumentalists. There is also a list of the top 5 microphones with an option to order if you wish.

Glad that I could pass on another valuable resource for everyone.