Whenever I listen to the intro to Serial (first season) I salivate (though not so much as I dribble). It is just like when someone tells you they have a major secret but that they’ll only share it with you – that kind of level of excitement (and sometimes dread).
The intro of Serial, composed by Nick Thorburn, became so well known it was a hit in its own right and praised for provoking Pavlovian-like response in its listeners. It’s every podcasters’ dream to come up with something that successful. But is there some sort of secret sauce to creating the ideal theme tune?
There’s a reason why we’re interested. MRM’s digital team is about to launch its own podcast, so we knew we needed a jingle. A really good jingle.
The digital meeting went a bit like this:
– “We need to come up with something really big. Which conveys that we are experts in the field of digital, but also that we have fun, work hard and are very learned. All of those things.
– “Yes. All those things. Can it also be a bit silly?”
– “Yes, but also must convey our personalities as well as the personality of the business, while perfectly encapsulating the digital age. So that one day in 20,000 years’ time if someone picks it up and listens to it they will think, God, they were nice and very intelligent. I wish I could have had a beer with them.”
A podcast jingle has a lot of jobs to do, clearly, so I did what any sane person would have done at this juncture and asked my Facebook and Twitter pals what their favourite theme tunes were and why. A quick straw poll revealed these to be the top five…
- The Nerdist – two nominations for this made it the front runner. I listened to it and it reminds me of being in an electro indie nightclub in Birmingham at 3am many years ago. It is good.
- Godless Spellchecker – no reason given, but I listened and I can confirm it is good.
- Filmcast – because it is the How to Train Your Dragon theme tune. Lots of twanging guitars. Fair enough.
- Answer Me This – this has got to be the most irritating jingle of the lot – but by God, it works.
- Wake up to Money – no one actually said this, but at MRM we are all rightly obsessed with it. It really gets the juices flowing first thing in the morning. All I need to hear is Mickey Clarke saying ‘a very good MORNING to you,’ which he does nearly every single time, and I am set for the day. Repetition is comforting and that’s official.
The conclusion? There’s no winning instrument, chord or genre of music for the perfect podcast tune. But each of these podcast jingles do manage to capture the essence of their subject matter (somehow). They also each announce the name of the podcast, either by way of singing it in the jingle and repeating it a few times, or by dropping in a voice-over which will typically say: ‘Welcome to the such and such podcast, or, you’re listening to the such and such podcast with such and such.’ Normally it is done by someone with a strong actor-y voice. If it sounds quite cheesy, that works too; radio jingles literally haven’t moved on in this sense. Cool doesn’t exist. In fact, cool is only cool if it’s seriously uncool.
So to paraphrase:
- A good podcast jingle should not be afraid to be uncool if it works with the brand and subject matter.
- You should announce the name of the podcast in the intro so people know what they are listening to.
- Most importantly – know your subject matter and fit the theme tune around that. I.e: don’t choose grime (that is an actual genre of music FYI) if you’re talking about asset management.
SPOILER ALERT: Next week I will discuss how to source the perfect jingle once you’ve nailed the kind of vibe you want.
Credit to: Kin Mun Lee