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So you want to be in a rock band?: Jingle writing may be the way to pay your bills

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Lifestyles | March 17th, 2008



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 said, 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.

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.

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 $1,000 for a jingle project, a national company could expect to pay between $5,000 and $10,000 for a jingle of equivalent quality. While these numbers may seem pricey for an audio/video sound byte that at the most runs about 60 seconds, 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 re-numerated 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. 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.

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 www.borealforestmusic.ca

Next week: Session and freelance musicians

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