Thursday, February 23, 2012

Jingles ... OR Blingles ?

Jingles OR Blingles ?

As a devotee, collector, connoisseur ‘jingle anorak’, and more, I think it’s a crucial time (for the sake of UK radio) to look back and write a serious review of what has happened to sung radio station identification in the last 10 years. Yes, JINGLES ! That word may tempt you to stop reading this as ‘jingle’ is a ‘dirty word’ in many radio circles in 2012 but I hope you thought, “ooohhh BLINGLES, what ARE they?”, and read on…

I believe radio stations now under-sell themselves as they are using what I call ‘blingles’ rather than the Jingles that worked so well for radio for 50 years from the 1950s.

Why have things changed? Because the newest generation of ‘adults’ live in a ‘low attention-span’ world where they endlessly seek something new, a new device, fad or fashion, and ‘throw out’ what already works and is perfectly ‘sound’.

Basically people under 30 are the demographic most of the large, quasi-national radio stations in the UK favour , pander to, and so the ‘true adults’ between 30 and 65 are left to seek ‘their radio’ from the BBC nationals, the few (still individual) commercial stations, on-line stations, or if even older, the sombre BBC locals where every day is, ‘hey let’s remember a Golden Year, and see who died in it !”

The quasi-national radio stations have reduced their programming to ‘lowest common denominator music’ and at the same time have reduced their identification to ‘lowest common denominator jingles’.

It all started when some radio groups  took over dozens of local stations in the early 90s and introduced more ‘economical programming’. This meant less staff (except in the sales department) less ‘free speech’ (replaced with scripted ‘liner cards’), less music variety (research became ‘God’), and NO sung jingles (it SAVED £££). For over 10 years the only actual STATION idents were ‘voiced’ drop-ins by a ‘station voice’. All this had the affect of killing any true ‘fun’ or creativity by the presenters… and by the time sung jingles returned, the station staff had forgotten (or had never learned) WHAT made a good jingle.

This, and the "Smashy and Nicey syndrome" triggered the ‘death’ (some might call it ‘putting down’) of ‘Won-der-ful Ra-di-o 1’ in 1998, and its replacement with so-called ‘credible’ Radio 1. Out went ‘happy’ deejays, with quality voices, music people actually KNEW, and at the same time they played their last ‘Dallas’ jingle.

Of course it was not just the jingles that were swept away in a wave of ‘radio political correctness’ .A new style dj appeared on radio, more the ‘yoof or yob next door’ than the ‘star’ on the Top of the Pops stage. Some even introduced female breakfast show presenters, whose ratings soon proved that this was NOT something the audience (male or female) appreciated.

The ‘Dallas jingles’ produced originally by PAMS, TM and others, and later by PAMS ‘immaculately conceived love child’ JAM, had been the ‘bread and butter’ sound of UK Pirate Radio in the 1960,s the BBC 'pop' services from 1967 to 1997, and then on ILR from 1988 for 15 years.

It’s time we looked at WHY we need to have TWO words where one previously sufficed. If you check through the criteria below I think you will agree that Jingles and Blingles are very different animals?


Blingles

♦A ‘Blingle package’ typically has only about 8 cuts
♦Have vocals where you can hear each of the singers, and a maximum of 2 or 3 singers
♦Many have only female singers, 2, ‘stacked’ but not in unison
♦Mainly synthetic, ‘drum’ led tracks ~ think “Kylie Minogue meets Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Rod Stewart’s Faces”
♦A track designed to be digitally edited to make many versions from 2 to 40 seconds long
♦No ‘transition cuts’
♦A ‘sonic logo’* for the station name which is also played on a synthesised instrument at the start of the jingle
♦Lyrics: station name ALWAYS at the end, only ONE  ‘strapline’, no local place names
♦The end notes of station name are sung in a very HIGH register
♦Only one ‘strapline’ for example, ‘Love Life, Love music’
♦Instrumental ‘sonic logos’ for weather, sport, travel and news cuts
♦Over an instrumental section the singers do a ‘woo ohho ho yeah’ type sequence (This is in place of any alternate lyrics, and there are no ‘fun elements’)
♦Both the track and vocals have a lot of eecchhooo, and the end has echo and reverb..

( I make NO apology for not naming the main ‘Blingle companies’ as you can HEAR plenty of examples on-line and in any case last year one in North America had a post of mine about their product removed from a discussion website… sensitive!! )

* ‘Sonic logo’ a (trendy) confusing phrase created by new Blingle companies to replace ‘logo melody’. It was defined by one man as the equivalent of the Alka Seltzer ‘plink plink fizz’. Each syllable is exaggerated so (for example) the new ‘Ab so lute Ra di o’ sonic logo = “plink fizz plink fizz plink fizz”.

Jingles

♦A ‘Jingle package’ typically has 15-30 cuts
♦Have ‘group vocals’ to form a ‘block sound’ where no one singer stands out, and may also have some solo sections
♦Most have 5 singers for a contemporary sound, 7 for a ‘classier style’
♦Mainly ‘real’ instrumentation
♦Tracks designed to be used at that length, though pad or donut versions can be created by mixes without the front or centre lyrics, and the end may form a shorter mix
♦Tracks with ‘fast to slow’, or ‘slow to fast’, ‘transition cuts’ to bind programme elements together, seamlessly
♦A ‘melody logo’ for the station name
♦Lyrics: station name sung in various places; several phrases/ or ‘straplines’, local place names often included
♦Vocal jingles for weather, sport, travel and news
♦No instrumental section where the singers do a ‘woo ohho ho yeah’ type sequence
♦Have some ‘fun element’, in the lyrics, or by using sound fx or other creative methods
♦Have very little noticeable echo

I make NO apology for not naming the main ‘Jingle companies’; if you do not know them you should not have read this far !

There are some ‘mutations’, for example the Chris Moyles ‘cheesy song’, which instrumentally is a jingle but has Blingle vocals, and nowadays some Dallas-based companies have made packages with ‘Jingle vocals’ over ‘Blingle tracks’ ..

For the last 10 years or so many British radio stations have moved to ‘Blingles’, and the people at the radio stations have forgotten HOW to commission proper ‘jingle packages’.

The UK ‘jingle industry’ itself is also partly to blame, as it seems NO ONE is brave enough to be original and CREATIVE, musically or lyrically…

CONCLUSIONS

We should RETURN to ‘jingles’; your listeners deserve a better quality product, and, most importantly, you need to make your station stand-out from the ‘blingle wilderness’ that predominates in Britain.

WHY sound EXACTLY the same as all the others you think you are better than?

WHY do jingles work better than Blingles? Just “LISTEN” to and complete these:

It’s Smoo--oth Sail-ing with the ….”

“Music hour by hour, too much, on your tower, it’s great, of po-wer…”

“We’re fishing at Grimsby, so why not take your time and…”

“Wake up to Wogan, on ….”

“In Ilkeston and the Vale of Belvoir…”

“From the Tamar’s bridges down to Land’s End

Britain’s Favourite ….”

“Across the Chiltern Hills, all you need to know…

Cheesey ? Maybe.

Memorable ? YES!

F U N ? YESSS !!!!

If you can complete any 2 of those ~ the jingles worked THEN, and NOW!..

Did they work ? YOU tell me!

If you want to HEAR some jingles......


.....check out my 'In Praise of Songs' blog from March 2012!


Len Groat

(Between 1980 and 1994 Len lyriced and co-produced more custom jingle packages than any other programmer in UK radio. Radio ‘guru’ David Lloyd noted on a DVD celebrating 35 years of Radio Trent that Len had spent £250,000 on jingles.)

3 comments:

  1. I love ya but you should be a tad more opinionated.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you John

    I'm really trying hard to be a tad more 'opinionated'... as I read and enjoyed your credo in your profile..

    'Outspoken, opinionated and sensible'

    I've already got the 'sensible' and 'outspoken' ~ so will be catching up with YOU soon! :-)

    ReplyDelete