You Mean I Could Get Paid For Writing Commercial Jingles?Commentary • Opinion • jobs • advertising • ISSUE 40•29 • Jul 21, 2004 By Tom Basner Tom Basner Slow down, Scooter. If I'm hearing you right, you're telling me I should quit my data-entry job and take up full-time what I've always done for fun? You're really telling me to pursue my hobby as a means of income? I don't believe it. You mean I could get paid for writing catchy 10- to 30-second jingles about local and national consumer products and services? By whom? I always figured the companies were too busy servicing water heaters, selling tires, or serving hamburgers to listen to some jingle-writer hawk his radio-ready ditty. It's got to be dang time-consuming to be, say, Sawyer County's home-appliance and furniture sales leader. I mean, in my opinion, Harn's Furniture's the place to go, for your house and home, 'cause at Harn's they treat you like fam-i-ly. But you say the people at Harn's might pay for a snappy slogan about their company, set to popularly styled music? Well, that sounds too good to be true. What's the catch? You see, I've been writing little commercial melodies my whole life. Every since I was a boy, I've spent my free time dreaming up ditties for all my favorite companies, then matching them up with memorable tunes that I compose. Take one of my favorites, written for a popular soft drink: "7-Up, it gives you pep and keeps a happy spring in your step. Caffeine free, and that's no lie. Delicious taste for every gal and guy!" Nice, huh? I've written close to 1,000 jingles, in fact. I used to just noodle around at home with my piano and my four-track, but about five years ago, I started recording my jingles at a studio my buddy has downtown. My wife, who has a really pretty voice and great enunciation, does most of the vocals. But on occasion, I've brought in members of the church choir to do backing vocals, or a neighborhood kid when the jingle called for a child's voice. There's nothing more enjoyable than spending the afternoon in the booth, laying down 20 takes of "If you're not happy, we're not happy. That's why you'll leave happy, when you come to Jack's!" (That's Jack's family restaurant, located just off Hwy. 18, live music every Friday.) Then I'll add a synth line under it, get the levels just right, and put it on a CD. But I never thought anyone down at Jack's would have any interest in my little personal project. I wouldn't even charge a small place like Jack's. I'd do it just for the joy of hearing it on WIBA. Do you really think they might use it? Gosh, I'm trying to remember what my first jingle was. I think it must have been for Campbell's Soup: "Kids love the taste, moms love the price, Campbell's Soups are great and nice." To accent the words "taste," "price," and "nice," I added a little bell that sounded a bit like a spoon hitting a bowl. Man, I must have been 12 years old when I wrote that. I've come a long way since then. And all this time, I could have been making money? Seems more like I should be paying them. My God, just imagine writing a jingle for one of the big guys like General Mills, Home Depot, or Tropicana! I've never played my jingles for anyone except my family and a few houseguests. How will I even go about choosing which ones best represent my abilities? Well, it's certainly no "plop plop, fizz fizz," but I'm rather proud of the catchy little tune I wrote for Pep Boys auto shop: "Pep Boys, less noise, trust us, no fuss, new and used parts, installed with heart." I started whistling that little tune around work, and pretty soon, everyone was humming my jingle for the nation's leading repair-shop chain. But in addition to honing my art and entertaining my friends, I could make a few bucks, huh? Amazing. This is the first day of the rest of my life. No more writing commercial jingles, multi-track recording them, archiving them on DAT, and not getting paid. Hmm, it does seem a little wrong to profit from something as pure as a jingle, though. My corporate- or product-related compositions always had integrity. What if I become a slave to the corporate hive mind? What if they try to make me change my sound? The second one of those big-jingle executives tells me to so much as lose a trumpet lick, I'm out the door for good. But what's the harm in giving it a shot? If I can make a little scratch doing what I love, why not? I'll never forget that I was a jingle writer before the money, and I'll be a jingle writer after the money is gone.