What Does an Advertising Music Composer Do?

Jingles are miniature songs built around a memorable tagline or hook, usually a company's slogan, as a way to sonically etch a product, company, or brand into people's memories. Typically, a company hires an advertising agency to produce a commercial, and the ad agency hires a jingle writer or a music production company, a.k.a. a jingle house, to create the music. Music production companies employ in-house composers and also use freelancers, several of whom are often asked to compete for a job by submitting quick demo ideas.

One approach for aspirants is to write a few spots—they will need the skills to play, record, and mix their own tracks—then create a demo reel and distribute it.

The work begins by watching a rough cut of the advertisement, which is often underscored with a temp track to indicate the sound and style of music the client has in mind, and reading a brief describing what the client is looking for from an emotional point of view as well as particular moments they'd like to highlight musically. Then comes the creative heavy lifting, when a composer translates a soft drink, new muffler, or the wisdom of changing insurance companies into a 20-second earworm that meets the client's wishes, which are frequently ill defined. For that reason, a composer who has been tapped for the job typically creates several different tracks to submit for consideration to the jingle house or ad agency, which may ask for revisions before presenting one or more musical options to the client. Still more fine-tuning may be needed to make the client happy, at which point the composer will record, mix, and deliver a high-quality finished track, along with sheet music for copyright purposes and royalties. The whole process usually unfolds in less than two weeks. If the work is strong and the ad campaign successful, jingles create a powerful feeling of familiarity with a product that results in increased sales, brand loyalty, and a lifetime of anguish for people who can't get the tune out of their heads. 

People in the Field

Alejandra Jimenez

Name:

Alejandra
Jimenez
Class of 
2013
Position: 
Songwriter; Composer; Producer

Advertising Music Composer at a Glance

Finding Work and Advancing

The jingle market has shrunk considerably in recent years; licensed tracks and so-called soundalike music—custom tracks that imitate a popular artist or musical trend—are advertisers' preferred mode of reaching consumers. That said, there is work to be had, and the best way to make inroads is to network vigorously with creative directors at advertising agencies and music production houses. One approach for aspirants is to write a few spots—they will need the skills to play, record, and mix their own tracks—then create a demo reel and distribute it. Offering to do a job for free to show off skills can also work. Talent and persistence can lead to regular freelance work for bigger and better-paying brands, although many advertising music composers need to supplement their income with other jobs. 

Employers

Music production companies, commercial composition companies, and advertising agencies

Professional Skills

Instruments, lyric writing, composition, arranging, production, mixing, music editing, networking 

Interpersonal Skills

Composing advertising music is a collaborative process with sometimes copious revision cycles, and outside of talent the composer's most valuable traits are flexibility and a manageable ego. Even if the composer is far and away the most musical person involved, he or she must be open to suggestions, willing to compromise, and able to respond quickly and without judgment to the desires of clients and advertising agencies.

Work Life

Advertising and jingle writing, like production music of all kinds, is a fiercely competitive field. Aspirants must be ready to live with rejection and arm themselves with the persistence required to hone their skills and keep submitting work until something hits. Although these composers have the freedom to make their own hours, deadlines can be grueling and the revision process quite stressful.