The members of Vokab Kompany do the music thing full time. En route from a gig in Reno to Salt Lake City and eventually to the Aspen Belly Up, singer Robbie Gallo explains one of the realities of touring: “When you play shows in new markets, the money is just not as good as it is in established markets.” Recording commercial jingles, he says, has become a good way for the six guys in Vokab Kompany to help pay their bills.
Vokab was one of five local artists asked to record a 60-second spot for “Movin’ and Groovin,’” a TV and radio ad campaign that will run locally for about a year.
The ads are created and paid for by the Metro Transit System (MTS) to get San Diegans to appreciate public transportation. Vokab Kompany, Buck-O-Nine, the Kneehighs, Ron Fountenberry, and Todo Mundo were each paid a flat fee of $1500 for their jingle, and MTS has the rights to each jingle for three years.
“We wanted to target kids 16 to 25,” says MTS marketing director Rob Schupp. He says his goal is to get even more people to ride the buses and trolley (MTS has 90 million trips a year) and to show the public that the taxpayer money that funds 55 percent of MTS operations is money well spent. Schupp says he turned to 91X DJ Mike Halloran for a list of local artists. “Mike is so engaged in the local music scene, he is like an agency unto himself,” says Schupp. The selected artists all met for pizza one night.
“We put specific themes, like ‘Ride the Trolley’ and ‘How to Ride the Bus,’ in a hat and each band selected their theme.” Each band wrote their own lyrics and music.
The Kneehighs got “Tap & Ride — Compass Card”: “North, south, east, and west/ MTS got you covered like your daddy’s sweater vest.”
Schupp says MTS paid “a nominal fee” to Big Fish studios in Olivenhain to record all the spots. He says a separate company will create animation to go with each jingle for the TV ads. “We gave each band the premise, and they did all the creative,” but, he says, some of the lyrics were too complex and needed to be simplified.
Cutting commercials has been particularly good to Ron Fountenberry, who has performed locally as the Incredible Moses Leroy and in the Softlightes. “I kind of stopped doing the band thing.” Fountenberry says he didn’t get residuals or royalties when he cut spots for Ford, Vicks, American Express, and UCSD Health Systems. “I just got paid one upfront fee.” He won’t discuss figures. “Let’s just say I can’t complain. I sure get more [from commercials] than I ever got from being in a band. This is the new frontier, since radio isn’t playing much new music anymore.”