Is the jingle really dead?

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So, apparently, the radio jingle is dead.

Or at least it’s dead to BBC Radio 1.

Or it is according to a report in The Guardian

This is of course not true, but it’s interesting what “real people” perceive as radio jingles and imaging.

Chris Moyles is a huge fan of radio craft and heritage. He’s worked on stations that used jingles as a core part of their station sound throughout his career, including stations such as Radio Luxembourg, Chiltern Radio and Capital FM. And he was on these stations when the station sound included huge chunks of sung jingles. And he worked with them extremely well. So it was no surprise that when he took over the breakfast show on Radio 1, he commissioned a huge number of jingles over the years. But he did this deliberately to create a brand for his show. These jingles were always OTT and deliberately had a very clear nod to the past in their mood and construction – pastiching the work of the huge US jingle companies such as JAM Creative Productions. And to add to that feel, he used original Radio 1 jingles from the 80s and early 99s during his weekly Golden Hour.

Since Chris is moving on, there is no surprise that radio 1 is “killing the jingle”. But actually,it’s not.

Jingles have always been a part of creating a station’s on air image. “Imaging” has always been around on radio, but wasn’t always called that. And an audio identity for a station is more than just jingles, Voiceover, production effects and music. It’s all about the personality of the station brand.

For a station like Absolute Radio and Jack FM, it’s about the voiceover,the way the promos and liners are written and the way they execute things on air. For BBC Radio 2, it’s as much about the jingles and VoiceOver they use and also the presenters themselves. Jingles are a part of it, but not all of it.

The pitching document for the new imaging package for the Radio 1 breakfast show with Nick Grimshaw states:

The Radio 1 Breakfast Show with Nick Grimshaw launches in late September. We are looking to commission a strong sonic identity for it.
The new Breakfast Show will sound young, exciting, big and confident. It needs to stand out and not sound like any previous BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Shows.
The new theme will need to sound slickly produced and original, including a significant element of live instrumentation and an identifying motif (logo).
Please steer clear of sung jingles and variants of Breakfast themes and identities past and present.
* update* The following line should be included in the imaging – ‘The Radio 1 Breakfast Show with Nick Grimshaw’ – Please use a voice you think would be appropriate.

Increasingly, the line between “jingles” and “imaging” has become blurred. Radio 1’s current on air imaging was produced in Europe by the jingle company Pure Jingles. It’s has a hugely distinctive sonic identity and energy that fits the radio 1 sound. And that’s essentially the crux of this. The station sound of any station needs to blend and be appropriate for the type of music the station is playing, the feel of the station and the personality that the PD is attempting to generate for their station. Sometimes that means traditional jingles will work. Sometimes that needs a new approach.

And there is no right way to do this.

When I was making Imaging at Capital FM in London, we were asked to change the station sound ( and on air name) a number of times. Each time, the on air sound changed with it. Sometimes we used vocals. Then we used a traditional package. At one stage, the imaging had no jingles as part of it, but used samples of old jingles within it.

The problem for Radio 1 is that essentially it has become 2 stations. The Chris Moyles Show is one part, and the rest of the station is something else. Both have completely distinctive sounds and both complement each other to a degree. But for a station that has to become younger and lose the older end of its audience, having a breakfast show with imaging that sounds like the station did 20 years ago, however ironic, doesn’t necessarily help.

So expect a new sound. No big vocal harmonies. And a more coherent sound across the whole station.

And once Moyles leaves breakfast, maybe the end of jingles.

But then again, he has a new show coming – so don’t count on total death of jingles quite yet.

The New Sound of BBC Radio 1

For radio imaging readers, it’s worth checking out the new sound of BBC Radio 1. On air since the beginning of April, there’s a new punchiness to the sound – and the station has a real feel of energy and progression  to it – particularly in the new shows in the afternoon.

Dan Mumford, Radio 1’s Station Sound head worked with the team at Pure Jingles in the Netherlands to create a new sonic identity to the station. And what’s interesting is the way the team at Pure Jingles work.

Dan tells me they initially worked on a ton of music beds in loads of different styles. These then get passed to another producer in another studio who decimates the tracks, creating short burst of musical energy – often unlike the original track. These music elements then get thrown to the next studio where the audio mangling happens to the Voiceovers – giving them a final set of idents.

I love this idea of collaborative production – it seems very different from the production process I came across when working with companies such as Wise Buddah and Groove Addicts years back. They have a completely different (and equally valid) way of working. But for Radio 1’s sound, this new way is certainly a fresh approach.

The new imaging sound also includes 2 new station voices. Both have been discovered by the station rather than through traditional ways of going through agencies etc. The Female voice was discovered whilst auditioning for a TV show, and the new male voice was found through the annual search for the voice of the awards session at the the Student Radio Association annual conference.

Even if Radio 1 isn’t your bag – you can check out a montage that Dan created of the station sound here.

And there’s another montage of some more of the imaging on the Pure Jingles website.

Johnny Be Good (and his Jingles weren’t that bad either)

Big Ben by James Stodd

Last week, Capital FM‘s breakfast host, Johnny Vaughan left the station.

The reasons behind why he left have been discussed by people like Matt Deegan and Nik Goodman

For my money, Johnny was a great radio broadcaster, somewhat constrained by commercial radio from the start. When Johnny was in full free form mode, he was incredibly entertaining.

The Johnny who left Capital was a very different sounding one who started there. Sure, some of the gems came through, but he didn’t really fit with the punchy format that Capital now pumps out. I’m also guessing they’re looking for someone who can work equally well across the network. And Johnny is of course at heart, a Londoner – as his launch TV commercial showed.

Creating the production sound for a new breakfast show is hard. And it was for that show. Johnny was a big change from the previous Chris Tarrant breakfast show and the various interim replacements.

What we ended up with was a fairly esoteric sounding package of jingles and the like from the guys at Wise Buddah in London. They fitted his personality, his style and his quirkiness – and included the fairly memorable “Johnny on the Radio Now Now Now” theme which cropped up a number of times during the first half of his tenure.

Before we got there, we did explore other areas, and I found one bit of audio in my archives that may not have ever been heard before. Before settling on the guys at Wise Buddah, we worked on some demos with the team at Reelworld. These were based around Capital’s heritage sonic logo – and had a more US/Letterman/talkshow type of feel. Needless to say, they weren’t what was required at the time. However, I still think they are really good, and could work for someone somewhere. You can contact Reelworld here:

Johnny’s replacement is being announced tomorrow morning. I wonder if the replacement will get a song and dance number to herald in the new show? Doubting it..

UPDATE: Capital FM have announced that Dave Berry will join Lisa Snowdon as breakfast show host. Great choice – funny, punchy and full on Londoner.