Juggling Jingles

Top-of-mind awareness is never a bad thing, and jingles go a long way to help in many situations. www.multibrandmedia.com

Juggling JinglesJuly 25, 2014

broadcast + new media / radio - By: Bill Pasha

At MBMI, we have a lot of intelligent consultants who possess some very useful skills. Many of those skills are cutting edge and indicative of some of the newest work we do in the fields of broadcasting, electronic publishing, social media, hospitality and VIP Concert security. Those are not the skills that this blog covers.

I’m an old jingle guy. During my years as a radio and television programmer and talent, I used and/or created at least twenty different jingle packages. I also spent five years of my career creating jingle packages and programming for a large Dallas-based jingle company. Later, I worked closely with the King Of Jingles, the late Tom Merriman (the TM of TM Productions) and his court jester, my good friend, Tony Griffin. The lessons I learned are exceeded only by the tall tales they would tell over a good, stiff adult beverage at the end of the day. The drinks aside, I recall that they taught me four secrets of creating a custom jingle package. I’d like to share them with you.

Many radio programmers have abandoned jingle IDs. It’s understandable; things change. But one thing that does not change in the radio business, whether you are operating in PPM, diary or telephone recall ratings environments, your listeners need to remember which station is their favorite. Top-of-mind awareness is never a bad thing, and jingles go a long way to help in many situations. They are mnemonic devices at the most basic level. Your station name or call letters, coupled with catchy musical themes.

By example, who doesn’t know the companies represented by such tune-filled advertising as:

“Like a good neighbor… ____ is there.” (State Farm Insurance), or

“You deserve a break today, at _____.” (McDonalds)

And what guy under 50 doesn’t know the ESPN ‘Da da da da da da?”

So let’s take a look at the classic basics you should look for, even if you are dealing with the hippest jingle ID company on the planet…and they all claim to be.

There are four phases of creating a custom jingle package:

• Structure

• Music

• Lyrics

• Vocals

Top-of-mind awareness is never a bad thing, and jingles go a long way to help in many situations. www.multibrandmedia.com

Structure is about how you will incorporate the jingles into your presentation. There are some common elements to choose from, but you can also demonstrate your creativity in this area.

I recommend that you think about a Set Opener. This used to be the Top of the Hour ID, but times have changed and PPM has shown us that people jump in and out of your station at will. So why not highlight important segments in a clock hour by opening with an impactful stager, or series of them, to put a spotlight on your best stuff?

Your station slogan may deserve some attention from your jingle package. While some positioning statements don’t support a singing message, others do. “Desert Island Songs” might not, but “Top Nine at Nine” might. Morning shows, special programming, and holiday stuff, are all candidates for slogan cuts.

Remember shotguns? Fast and powerful, these basic IDs used to come out of stopsets. You might want to use them as transitional cuts to maintain forward momentum between songs, while reminding listeners of the music/station association.

Transition cuts can serve the same purpose. Think fast-to-slow, fast-to-medium, fast-to-fast, and all the other tempo combinations. These move your station easily from one tempo to a very different one.

If your presenters need a little support to keep the station moving forward, consider creating Talk-Over Beds. As a PD, I always preferred it when my on-air people had the support of music behind their voices. It was even better when it was catchy, custom music that was created exclusively for me. Everyone can play “Happy,” but you can own your jingle’s logo line in your market. Use it to your advantage. The best part is that a good production person can make these fit any length of talk, so you can use these cuts to control your talk volume.

Work Parts are the last piece of the Structure puzzle. Traffic, promo, weekend programming and weather beds are most common, but you must also be the most careful with them, to avoid sounding cheesy.

The second phase of custom jingles is the Music, itself.

The jingle music you create IS you station’s image. Give it a lot of thought before you produce it. Listen to samples and demos. Tom Merriman used to ask programmers to provide hooks of popular songs that represented the PD’s station. It always worked for me, except when I was programming news, sport or talk. Then, I tended to use classic rock songs.

Instrumentation is also important. Are you an acoustic guitar AC, a sax-filled Jazz station, or a driving electric guitar kind of station? The instruments you select are as important as the music. How about electronics? Sizzles, buzzes, slides, synths…they might be important to your imaging person, so ask. They don’t generally just come with a package.

Lyrics make up the third phase of your project. What message do you want to get across? Your main positioning statement? “Today’s Country,” “New York’s Number One Hit Music Station,” and others, have all been jingle lyrics. Remember that you can always build in multiple lyrics on the same music track, simply by resinging the cut.

One word of caution: Many stations use a station name today. “Kiss,” “Hot,” “Power” combined with frequency. Others use call letters and frequency. Whenever you can, we advise that you do not mix your station name with your call letters, unless the calls actually spell the name, like WAPE, the Big Ape.

I like the frequency as the last thing that a listener hears because it is what the listener is most likely to remember. Think of it as your station’s street address in a musical fashion.

Vocals are the last building block of your project. By now, you know what you want in the structure, what your music should sound like, and the message you want to send in the lyrics.

Today’s jingles are mostly recorded by small groups, often featuring lead solos or, too often, small vocal groups stacked over and again, to make the vocals sound bigger. Many of these cost cutting moves are made under the guise of “new and fresh.” You have to decide. Small groups have their place, and I like them, but if your vision calls for a five or seven voice vocal session, stick by your guns. In the end, you’ll be happy that you did.

Vocal mixes are limitless; Black, white, ethnic or foreign flair, your vision isn’t complete without the right people to sing the jingles, so choose the singers carefully, and BY ALL MEANS attend the sessions if your budget allows for it. Producers often let pronunciation mistakes slide because they don’t know any better, or, worse, they need to move on because time is money. They’d often rather “fix it in the mix” later if you complain.

Remember that you are both creator and communicator. The jingle writer, singers, musicians and producers are only as good as the instructions you provide. There is no shame, harm or foul in speaking up. It’s your job and the industry will be better for it.

If you would like to have an outside opinion during any of the process, please contact me, personally, at bpasha@multibrandmedia.com. MBMI will be glad to get to to know you and your station and offer a little free help.

Post by

Bill Pasha

Bill Pasha is President/CEO of The MBMI Companies, LLC., the parent firm of MultiBrand Media International, Maximized Brand Marketing International and Valoriant Safety. Before joining the entrepreneurial world, Bill was recognized as one of the top Program Directors in America and as an authority on consumer consumption of media. He continues to consult broadcasters around the world.

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