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Sunday, November 27, 2011
6 Tips For Writing Jingles
That said, Discmakers recently posted a great article about the jingle business on their blog. You can read the entire article here, but I thought I'd excerpt a few points that I thought were especially appropriate.
"1) Research Other Jingles
“Listen to everything,” says Richard Leiter, a California-based composer who has created jingles for Walmart, Tropicana, the American Red Cross, and Microsoft, among others. “When it comes to the quality of your work, you need to match what’s on TV.”
Lloyd Landesman, a New York-based musician and jingle writer who has worked with Budweiser, Capital One, Dr. Pepper, Ford, and many others, agrees. “Pay attention to commercials and watch channels that are more youth-oriented, like MTV and Fuse,” he says. “What kinds of music are being used in those commercials? Are they dance tracks and electronica, or more quirky, acoustic songs from artists like Ingrid Michaelson? Watching and listening to what’s out there can give you an idea of what the industry is looking for.”
2) Understand The Landscape
While Leiter does most of his jingle writing directly with advertising agencies, Landesman points out that specialized music production companies — a.k.a. jingle houses — employ or contract with composers. When such companies are approached by jingle-hungry ad agencies, the production houses often generate multiple musical options and the agencies choose which they like best.
Leiter points out that the jingle market has shrunk “tremendously” in the last five years, so whether you’re seeking to network with ad agencies or production houses, be sure to set your expectations accordingly. “People are using existing tracks like crazy,” he says. “Writing custom jingles used to be a much larger world, but now people are licensing tracks from bands, or having their kids whip something up in GarageBand.”
There are still opportunities out there, affirms Landesman. “Everybody’s interested in finding new talent,” he describes. “When I was a staff writer for a production company, the owner would keep bringing on new writers, both to bring new ideas to the company, and to keep the existing composers on their toes. You do need to maintain a sense of persistence as you’re going to get a high rate of rejection early on,” he continues. “But it’s just like starting a band and building a following, getting people out to shows. You’re going to do a lot of research and legwork before anything catches on.”
3) Understand Your Role
“Jingles are custom-written works for specific companies that have both words and music,” says Leiter. “Your goal as a jingle writer is to understand what a company’s message is and to translate that into a song. In other words, it’s their message, but your illumination of it.”
Landesman echoes the point, emphasizing that aspiring jingle writers need to be open to suggestions and compromise. “You’re providing a service,” he says. “You want the client to be happy with what you’ve done, so if within the 30 seconds of music you’re writing there are 10 seconds that the client isn’t thrilled with, it’s your job to find out what’s wrong and correct it. Don’t be married to anything you’ve done and be very careful about picking your creative battles. Will changing this guitar part to make your client happy ruin your spot? Probably not — and sometimes listening to your client’s ideas can actually make your work that much better.”
4) Ask Questions
Once a client asks you to put something together for him or her, remember that creating a jingle is a collaborative process, says Leiter. “Get inside and figure out their needs,” he advises. “Do they have a particular song in mind that they want you to emulate? Is there a particular style or message they’re going for?”
If you’re lucky, says Landesman, sometimes your client already has a melody in mind, and will send you a rough MP3 for you to start with. “You’ll likely have to make slight changes to make up for a client’s probable lack of melodic skill,” he says, laughing. “But on the bright side, you’ll get exactly what the client is hearing.”
5) Recreate a Vibe, Not a Song
If a client does ask you to give him or her “something like [popular radio song ABC],” pay attention, but proceed with caution. “Go with something of a similar flavor, but do not copy the music,” says Landesman. “For years, musicologists have been employed to make sure that original music in ads doesn’t step into lawsuit territory, so if people even hear intent to sound like another artist, that can be a problem.”
Leiter goes a step further: “If a client plays something like the Beatles’ ‘In My Life’ as an example of what they want, I tell them, ‘I will not knock that off and I cannot give you something that sounds like that. What I can do is capture the emotion of it.’ Use your genius to translate the emotion, feel, and style into what they need, without coming near to the original example the client cited.”
When you’re trying to recreate the vibe or emotion of a given song, without stepping onto dangerous ground, Landesman recommends starting with obvious similarities to at least set a similar sonic stage. “If they say they want a track like ‘Artist X’, are most of that artist’s recordings acoustic? Okay, use an acoustic piano, acoustic guitar, and maybe a ukulele on your own track. Is the singer female? Okay, bring in your own female singer to record.”
When it comes to preparing the final mix, another tactic Landesman finds helpful in trying to emulate a specific sound is to import a track from the target artist into your session and A/B it with your own mix. “Listen back and forth to try to get some sort of sonic comparison, and try to tweak your mix so it sounds more like the track you’re trying to emulate,” he says. Even small adjustments to the amount of compression or reverb on a final mix can make a significant difference.
6) Play To Your Strengths – But Take Risks
“If you primarily focus on ambient or dance music, and that’s who you are as an artist, then stay focused on that in your jingle writing,” says Landesman. “If you get involved with a production company and an assignment comes in that’s a left turn for you, though, give it a shot. That’s the best way to prove that you’re diverse, and being diverse is never a bad thing when you’re working independently with ad agencies or freelancing. But that said, focusing and having a specialty isn’t bad either.”
There are 12 total jingle tips that you can find in the article at Discmakers.