The Shape Shifting of Music Licensing
An Interview with CEO Jared Gutstadt on how their revolutionary online business is changing the way commercial music is made, accessed and sold… and it’s all done with Apogee.
The year 2011 has started out well for Jingle Punks, landing two big spots already this year with Comedy Central’s new show called the Sports Dome and a Super Bowl spot featuring Larry the Cable Guy. Named one of “America’s Most Promising Startups” by Business Week in 2009, Jingle Punks has not only successfully tapped into the ever-developing market of music licensing, but has fine-tuned it into a more efficient machine with a growing pool of otherwise undiscovered talent so clients such as NBC, ABC, Comedy Central and the History Channel can login and find exactly what they’re looking for. Adjacent to the Jingle Punks offices is a recording studio where the team can record a lot of their own music for the database, such as their recent hit with the History Channel’s Top Gear with Bret Michaels which was written and produced entirely with Apogee ONE by Jingle Punks’ CEO Jared Gutstadt and Rick Smith. As a testament to the company’s output demand and the benefits of a portable, high-quality and self-contained workstation, Jared records over 100 of his own jingles a week using just his Mac, Apogee Duets, ONEs and Logic.
Leading a tenacious, skillful and resourceful team, Jared used his background as a musician and film executive to develop a database where clients could search for content using keywords they can easily identify with. The result of which is an well-oiled online and iPad app-available service allowing clients to get original material they need, quickly and affordably without the nightmare legalities of pre-historic licensing. Jingle Punks effectively eliminates the vicious Catch 22 of musicians with exceptional music that lack the connections and opportunities to get it out there. Anyone from a badass blues trio in New Orleans to a killer high school band can submit their music online, and pending approval, instantaneously have their music available to be potentially picked up by a national ad campaign.
How has your own experience in music and television supported your efforts to create an environment wherein musicians can actually get their work heard?
I spent 10 years editing television shows for various networks and saw that the way music was optimized for search-ability in the media space was done really poorly. If I wanted to find music that sounded like a Green Day track or find a cue that sounded like it was from a Spaghetti Western, there was no way for me to use the keywords as a starting point for search. Believe it or not the music business as a whole is very techno-phobic, so the idea of using a relational search in a music library had never been done before or at least not the way Jingle Punks does it.
We wanted to create a simple, clean interface for clients to access and pull from. Media is made so quickly now that teams no longer have time to go through an arduous process of clearing music track by track. Cable TV and advertising is a constant flow of media so we needed the tool to be super simple. My logic was that if you needed to explain how it worked to a client, then it was probably too complicated and they would never ever use it. We have one simple search window, our clients type in a word that they have in mind (for example: Juno, Lil Wayne or epic build) and the database pulls up a selection that the client can immediately listen to, place in a select bin or download on the spot for their media project. All the music in our system is pre-cleared so anything the client finds is fair game. We do thousands of synchs a week because our system thinks the way editors and producers think and is hassle free. Music publishing in the past has been more complicated than it needed to be so we try to make it easy and painless.
In addition to having a database of submitted work, Jingle Punks also has a recording studio. What’s the layout of the room and who uses it?
Our studio is something I have dreamed about for years. I always envisioned a room where 4-5 composers could work shoulder to shoulder in a smart environment. We sometimes spend entire days in our studio space with our heads down pumping out tracks without even noticing there are other people in the room. I don’t think we would be as effective if we were all spread out in different rooms. We have this sense of competitive urgency with us all there composing. Sometimes we break to share some ideas or techniques with each other but for the most part we are just doing pitch after pitch. All the systems run Logic with an Apogee Duet as our interface. We love Apogee because there are times when I need to move around the office to coordinate different recording set ups and the idea of just plugging and playing for me is very appealing. I used to be tied to heavy hardware set ups but ever since I started with the Duet and then onto the ONE for traveling I was hooked and am never going back to anything else. If someone gave me a Control 24 with a free Pro Tools HD set up I would politely decline it. That may sound crazy but it’s just not worth the hassle for me. I make up to 100 songs per week sometimes and I don’t need anything slowing me down. I compose in my studio, I compose in hotel rooms when I travel and I have even composed on flights and on busses. I cannot afford to have down time to meet the output demands that Jingle Punks currently has.
“I cannot explain to you how many shows I have composed using the ONE’s internal mic. If you watch American Pickers, all the guitar and mandolin parts were tracked at a cottage in Canada over the holiday break last year. When I got the call for that job I had 2 options…cut my trip short and use the Jingle Punks studio or just buy a cheap guitar up in Canada and get it done this way. Because I had my ONE and laptop on me I took the latter option and no one would have known the difference. That show in particular is a testament to the strength of Apogee’s flexible work flow.”
What kind of advice do you give musicians who are interested in creating jingles and submitting to Jingle Punks?
If you are making music as your art and you want to start the band of your dreams and play out…my advice is just play from your heart. Make what you like. If it’s good, someone will want it. On the other hand if you make music as your job, my advice would be to master as many styles as humanly possible. Never be satisfied. I make myself crazy trying to hone in on what makes each genre believable. In many ways it’s like cracking a code, once you nail it you are in the clear and will always be able to reproduce the core of the idea over and over again. You have to be a musical ninja in the new media marketplace or you will get lost among the noise. No one is going to call you because you are the best punk rock guitarist or have great drum chops. The session era is over. You are gonna get the call if you can create show packages with 20 hip hop cues, 20 country cues, 20 classical cues and on top of all this, you are expected to deliver all these in fast turn arounds and with you playing all the parts. It’s important to be your own band and producer.
What market is Jingle Punks tapping into that is otherwise unreachable for your clientele?
We are able to tap into a huge talent pool of regional musicians that otherwise would have no access to place music in shows. There is so much noise in this industry. For the most part, the people getting opportunities to place music in shows are either pop acts or people affiliated with agents or creative companies. I used to think that the whole industry was a little unfair in this aspect. The idea behind our database is finding authentic talent from all over. What if there is some 14-year-old bluegrass genius who doesn’t know how the Hollywood synch game works? What if some kid in Brooklyn is making killer beats and has no idea how to price them out for shows?…
On top of all this there is the problem of trying to get the ear of music supervisors and show runners. We have created a bridge between super talented people who are lesser known or do not necessarily have the reach to get music in content. Our strongest asset is our ability to organize these assets into our database and make it easily available. We are very democratic in a way because we are not in a position where we push music from any artists in particular. For us we simply tag music, ingest it into our system, and then the client decides what they want. We see the way music is trending by watching the search results of our clients in real time. For the most part we can follow this and plug in music where we have deficiencies or create more of a certain genre if something becomes very popular. We have all the major bases covered so for the most part we accept all style and genres.
How do you think Jingle Punks will affect music we hear on television and movies, in video games, and in any other commercial medium?
We are creating a wider musical spectrum in the media space. How many times have you watched some reality show and either said “hey…I’ve heard this song a million times before” or said “this music sucks” or worse, you just miss the music altogether? Our thought is that good music can define content. When you think about films like Pulp Fiction, or Juno or Garden State, you automatically identify a sound with film. For too long TV shows have treated music as an afterthought because labels made it impossible to do seamless music integration. Labels aren’t set up to service content that needs lots and lots of music…it’s way too expensive to use Madonna tunes in a show like MTV Cribs or Real Housewives. We created a library of lesser known, high quality assets. In less than two years we have become the industry standard for TV shows, commercials and indie films who are going after a signature sound on a more constrained budget. We are also really going after things that have WTF factor…the fact that we can bring someone like Bret Michaels in to sonically re-brand Top Gear or re-do covers of well known songs in a unique style is something that makes not only a client but people watching content say, “Wow, where did this come from?” For us, this is the big win.
How did Jingle Punks get started?
In August of 2008, I had a night called the Big Kahuna which is an important moment in the History of our company. On this fateful night, I went to see The Black Keys in concert with my girlfriend’s best friend and her new boyfriend who turned out to be my future partner at Jingle Punks. That night was one of those perfect NYC nights. We saw an amazing show, discussed cool ideas about music and technology and what it means to be an entrepreneur. The night descended into rock n’ roll madness… we had a margarita fight, we got thrown out of several NYC bars and the night ended with Dan (my partner and co-founder) and I forming a bond over our love of rock n’ roll, music, and how technology could help make our industry a much more interesting place. The next morning he came over, we nursed our hangovers and officially started our epic adventure. In less than 4 months we had a working version 1.0 of the Jingle Player and clients followed shortly after. By Jan of ’09, I quit my day gig editing and we were off to the races.
What are your gear setups when traveling, at home and at the studio, and in your opinion, what is crucial in any setup for creating quality music?
I travel as light as possible. Laptop, MIDI controller and the ONE. For me workflow and equipment setup is key. If it takes too long for me to setup my gear I get frustrated and the ideas disappear. I want to plug and play. I also need to be comfortable so wherever I go I want to be able to get in a comfy chair and desk situation, stretch out and start working.
Will you be expanding your studio space?
Part of the secret sauce of Jingle Punks is doing things dynamically. I see huge studio spaces with expensive equipment and overhead costs that run in the thousands and I am so glad we are not tied to doing things this way. For us small equals smart. The Jingle Player has changed the way the media industry searches for musical assets in film, TV and commercials and we wanted to apply this same approach to how music is made for this space. This is part of what I am teaching at my ongoing seminars at the Apple store NYC which we schedule monthly. No matter how big we get, I never want us to be some over grown and bloated company. There is no need for extensive outboard gear and vintage mixers in the world of Jingle Punks. We all use smart station setups with matching hardware and software which allows great flexibility when working on client jobs that require lots of edits. We have jobs that come back after month lapses which require minor tweaks to a cue, so our work flow is very very important to us. We rarely, if ever, have to leave our studio for special projects. If anything we may send a session file for someone to add to it from a remote location. For example, when we did a recent project with Bret Michaels for History Channel we sent him our session which we produced in house, he laid in his vocals from his tour bus studio and then sent the files back to us for us to mix and master.
How is Jingle Punks using Apogee gear and what gear do you use?
We all use the Duet in our studio. Last year I spent 150 plus days on the road but still managed to keep pace with the track output of our studio and this was all possible because of the ONE. I feel naked if I don’t have it on me at all times. Recently I went to Canada and created 200 cues for a show called American Pickers. It’s so freeing to be able to whip out tracks whenever you feel inspired.
As well as traveling for work, I have been doing a lot of tutorials at schools and places like the Apple store and always feel secure with my set up knowing how stable the ONE interacts with Logic. The craziest thing about the ONE is the built-in mic. I cannot explain to you how many shows I have composed using the ONE’s internal mic. If you watch American Pickers, all the guitar and mandolin parts were tracked at a cottage in Canada over the holiday break last year. When I got the call for that job I had 2 options…cut my trip short and use the Jingle Punks studio or just buy a cheap guitar up in Canada and get it done this way. Because I had my ONE and laptop on me I took the latter option and no one would have known the difference. That show in particular is a testament to the strength of Apogee’s flexible work flow.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
The History Channel’s Top Gear with Bret Michaels, written and produced entirely with Apogee ONEs by Jared and Rick Smith, can be found here.
Jingle Punks also recently completed a successful campaign around the Buddy Holly song, “Everyday”, found here:.
For more information on Jingle Punks, visit them at jinglepunks.com