Vol 2, Issue 14: Alternative Sources of Revenue Pt V: Jingle Writing

Continuing on a similar note from last time's discussion of licensing, today we will be uncovering the world of jingle writing. Though this avenue draws many similarities with that of songwriting, it’s important to distinguish between the two for one central reason: the need for resources (both money and expertise). Although virtually anyone with some talent and a guitar in hand can approach a music publisher in order to get their songs accessible to potential purchasers, embarking on a career in jingle writing requires access to some serious dough (at least enough to equip yourself with a professional home recording set-up) and a business plan.

According to Jason Chapman of Boreal Forest Music Productions Ltd, a successful ex-jingle writer and producer of several years, if you’re serious about getting into this area of the biz, he recommends establishing an alliance with at least two other partners including an advertisement professional, and a graphic designer/videographer. That way, he says, you’ll still be able to focus on the area that you love; the music. However, he cautions that this avenue, unlike the other alternative sources of revenue that we’ve been discussing, isn’t one that has the potential to bring about immediate results and additionally, it will ONLY be an effective means of supplementary income if you work/live in a city with a strong advertising sector.

Anyone who has worked within the media or marketing domains knows that building up one’s reputation and establishing loyal clientele requires a substantial amount of time and effort. For that reason, Chapman does NOT recommend this avenue to those who are not fans of networking, as his willingness to meet and greet with new people is one of the primary reasons as to why he was so successful in this field. In fact, his first clients were snagged through cold-calling, and special events hosted by the London Chamber of Commerce. Once his rapport began to grow, referrals played a prominent role in keeping business steady, but equally important was his available portfolio demonstrating his diverse ability to create the perfect jingle for any business. Chapman also strongly recommends having a professional web presence.

So why is having a PR rep and graphics expert as part of your team so essential? With the energy it takes to coordinate the writing, editing, and recording of a jingle including the selection of appropriate session musicians to play on the track, one simply does not have the time to manage all of the necessary paperwork and contracts that a business requires, nor does one want to overexert oneself artistically speaking. Seeing as musicians, at least the majority of whom I’ve dealt with, are not business-minded, it only makes sense to have a salesperson doing your “dirty work”. As for the graphics designer, in Chapman’s experience, creating tv jingle commercial campaigns is the more lucrative end of the business (as opposed to audio only jingles for radio), so it only makes sense to have a design expert on staff if you’re interested in maximizing your potential profits. Additional support to the idea that tv may be a better bet is the fact that, apparently, many radio stations have their own in-house jingle writers. So, when a company calls to inquire about on-air advertising, instead of outsourcing the work to freelancers like Chapman, radio stations are able to maintain a mini-monopoly over this arena, therefore limiting the available opportunities to outsiders.

The best campaign a jingle writer can hope to work on would be one for a national company as fees are set depending upon a client’s ability to pay. While a “mom and pop” store may be charged between $500 to $1000 for a jingle project, a national company could expect to pay between $5000 and $10,000 for a jingle of equivalent quality. While these numbers may seem pricey for an audio/video soundbyte that at the most runs about 60 secs, one needs to take the high overhead expenses and inevitable stress involved with each project, into account.

Each standard contract for a jingle campaign demands 12 different versions to be completed on an average two day turnaround. Each session musician who contributes their talents needs to be remunerated for their services EVEN if their efforts do not make the cut in the final edited version(s), not to mention that each member of your team will be entitled to a share of the fee based on their involvement with the project. To make financial matters more complicated, some session musicians demand upfront payments requiring you to take a major risk in the event that things just don’t seem to jive with that player. To this point, Chapman adds, that finding the right vocalist often proves to be an extremely difficult task. Generally, if campaigns are fairly low budget, those involved will be compensated through “promisary agreements” stating that if their lendings to the project are successful, they will be hired again to work on future campaigns.

In terms of the creative process, Chapman says that undertaking a part-time career in jingle writer will improve one’s songwriting ability as you’ll need to learn how to exercise the most effective aspects of songs (hooks, catchy choruses etc.) into very short time periods. Usually, you’ll be provided with a tempo and genre description (often ambiguous), the company’s motto, and examples of past adverts, but if the company is looking to overhaul their image, you’re essentially given very little to go on. However, listening to the jingles on the radio that are currently being responded to positively, may help generate ideas.

All in all, Chapman feels that jingle writing can be a successful and rewarding endeavour, however he caveats this point by stating that for those who have gotten into the music industry to do something artistic, it can be difficult to have this as an outlet. Additionally, it would seem that today’s commercial campaigns are relying more and more on licensing already popular songs. For more information on jingle writing, he recommends checking out Jeffrey P. Fisher’s book, How to Make Money Scoring Soundtracks & Jingles.

Chapman’s official website is http://www.borealforestmusic.ca/

About the Author:

Rose Cora Perry is the frontwoman for Canadian hard rock band ANTI-HERO known as “The 21st Century Answer to Nirvana”, as well as the sole owner and operator of HER Records, a management company in which she offers marketing, promotion, publicity, tour booking, and artist development services.

Her band ANTI-HERO has toured extensively across North America playing notable festivals such as Warped Tour, Canadian Music Week, NorthbyNorthEast, Wakefest, and MEANYFest.Voted “Best Rock Act of the Year” by numerous industry publications, their critically acclaimed debut album, "Unpretty" is available worldwide for purchase.

Rose Cora Perry is a dedicated promoter of D.I.Y. ethics, and an avid supporter of independent musicians.For more information on Rose Cora Perry and her band's accomplishments, please visit
http://www.anti-hero.ca/ or http://www.rosecoraperry.com/