A Guide on How to Program Jingles [audio]
by Tracy Johnson
There are many different ways to identify your radio station, but many first time programmers…and even some experienced PDs…fall into ruts. Program jingles for greater effect.
First, decide if you need jingles, or want them. Many times, inexperienced PD’s assume that jingles are a good idea just because they add tempo to the station. But there are many other ways to identify your brand. And often, it sounds more contemporary than some of the jingle offerings that haven’t really changed that much since the 80s.
The goal of any jingle package should be to identify your station, make your brand memorable and send a message about what it stands for. The right package can sear your brand into the minds of the listener.
Once you’ve decided that jingles are for you, and have chosen the package, it’s time to go to work on inserting them into format clocks.
Creative Ways To Program Jingles
Many programmers toss a jingle package on the air without thinking through the details. Sure, it’s fast and easy to slot them into the clocks and away you go. But a jingle package demands more care. Integrate it into your clocks and audio ecosystem.
Chances are, your jingle package will include several mixes of each jingle. These can be very effective tools if you use them properly.
Short jingles (also called shotguns) accent music flow. Longer jingles tend to be best for introducing music segments and coming out of commercial breaks. Most jingle packages include music ramps to talk over leading into a jingle. This can help personalities create momentum when going into songs with a very short intro.
But that’s not the only type of jingle in your package. For example, if your package has non-instrumental versions of your jingles, you can program them into songs with a quieter intro. Using the vocal-only versions can give you much more flexibility.
Using your jingle package creatively, you might be able to use instrumental versions (no-singing) jingles with your station voice as a subtle sound signature. It’s amazing how creative production combined with the spoken word can make your station come alive.
Add some creative produced elements (whoosh, swish, etc.) to smooth the transition from song to production element. This little production element at the beginning will make your station smoother and more listener-friendly.
Criteria for Programming Jingles
When putting jingles on the air, try to match the musical texture of at the end of a jingle with texture in the following song.
Long jingles are useful to build a station signature. They act as separators to transition from one programming element (or song type) to another. Used properly, they can set the stage for what’s next. This adds great forward momentum, but require artistry. To get the most value from your package, you must take care to schedule them most effectively. Don’t just put them in your format clock and hope for the best.
Here are some considerations when programming jingles:
Tempo matching is the most common consideration and one of the most important factors for all stations.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a relaxing station or a CHR that pumps up the energy. Matching the intro and outro of your jingle to the songs can enhance your identity. Or destroy the mood.
The more jingle versions in your package, the more control and flexibility to match the flow of music from song to song. But this also adds to the complexity of scheduling the right jingle into the right songs.
The most common mistake in programming jingles is when a strong, fully produced jingle plays into or out of a thinly produced song. Most PD’s match tempo without taking texture into consideration.
If the previous song is slow, or fades out, a harsh or abrupt vocal can destroy the mood. One way to do that is adding a version of each jingle that establishes a beat or two of music before the vocals come in. A couple of beats to establish a jingle provides a nice transition into your identity.
Some jingle producers provide the key for each jingle. Matched with the key of the song, this can add a tasty layer to the texture of your station brand.
It’s easy to find the key for every song in your library. Add it into the song characteristics in music software. Also put in BPM (beats per minute). Do the same with your jingle package. Then, when scheduling, you can match characteristics for a better chance of making it sound great!
How Jingles Should Sound
Here’s an example of a strong jingle package from Reel World, and how it can sound when mixed properly with the music that surrounds. This is the KISS/Los Angeles package, mixed by Reel World:
Notice how every jingle is matched to the songs on both sides? The jingles add forward momentum, pace and a sense of excitement to the brand. This is what is possible with your station, too! But it doesn’t happen by accident. Take some time to set up all the characteristics properly.
Here’s another example for the Classic Hits format:
Jingles can be a great addition to the sound of your station. Start with the right package that matches your sound and adds energy.
Then, put some TLC into scheduling the right jingle into the right song at the right time. Your audience will thank you for it (and reward you with TSL)!
Tracy Johnson specializes in radio talent coaching, radio consulting for programming and promotions and developing digital strategies for brands.