Jingle writers are talented lyricists or composers who write the words or music for commercials. These individuals help companies create a memorable brand through short tunes and tag lines. Some jingle writers struggle financially, particularly when first starting out, depending on other work for primary income, but an established jingle writer who is able to land national campaigns may command a salary approaching or even exceeding $100,000 to $200,000 annually.
According to the Maxizip website, a jingle writer usually earns anywhere from $100 to $8,000 for each jingle package. However, pay can go up to $20,000 or more, depending on which employer contracts the package.
Jingle writers may write just the lyrics for a jingle, or they may write only the music. Some jingle writers do both.
Freelance Versus Salaried Writers
Jingle writers often start out as freelancers who operate on a work-for-hire basis. Maxizip asserts that salaried writers in production companies tend to make more than freelancers because of the expanded services and expertise production companies offer. However, Maxizip also points out that jingle writers can earn more if they are already successful recording artists or if they will work with a song that already is a hit.
Scope of Jingle
Some jingles are contracted on a local basis. Others are purchased for use in a statewide or national campaign. The larger the scope of the campaign, the more a jingle writer earns. According to Maxizip, some national campaigns may pay more than $250,000.
Some jingle writers are members of musician and writer's unions. Two major unions to which jingle writers belong include the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. SAG's minimum rates for day performers for 2010 is $809 per day or $2,808 for a five-day week. Singers earn $398 to $875 a day or $2,342 to $2,808 per week, depending on whether they work alone or in a group. Minimum rates with AFTRA are between $171.35 to $1,493.55, depending on if the performer works alone and the scope of the project.
For non-salaried jingle writers, the amount of compensation earned depends on the ability of the jingle writer to find additional work -- the more jingles the writer can sell, the higher the writer's earnings potential is. The ability to negotiate is another major influence on freelance salaries -- unions may dictate minimum rates, but a good writer typically can argue for a rate higher than these minimums. Additionally, jingle writers now have more mediums to pursue than in the past. For example, they can write jingles for websites instead of just radio or television. This is expanding the opportunities for jingle writers and giving them more control over their income.
Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.