Rafter and his Singing Serpent partner Glen Galloway “scratched our way up from the bottom.” Now they’re doing Super Bowl ads.
With that one word, Rafter Roberts has answered the Reader’s question: Which Super Bowl XLVIII television commercial did he write and produce the soundtrack for? The vaguely naughty Butterfinger ad (it winks at the idea of a threesome as marriage therapy) is said to be among the most talked-about commercials of the year.
“I think it ran during the third quarter.” But Roberts is unfazed. I’ve caught him on a busy day at his Singing Serpent studio, which is basically a bicoastal production shop with recording studios in both SoHo, New York, and on Adams Avenue in Kensington. “We’ve done Super Bowl ads before. This is just our latest.”
Many here may know Roberts from hometown club gigs as a member of various local bands, including Rafter and Bunky. Singing Serpent Music and Sound Design has been his day job for the past 14 years; their client list runs from Wienerschnitzel to Cadillac. “My main music partner in bands, Glen Galloway, worked for another company in San Diego that did the same thing, music for television and radio.” When they went under, Rafter says the two decided to go it on their own. “We scratched our way up from the bottom.”
On the day we talk, Rafter lays out the current project load at Singing Serpent.
“We’re swamped. We’re doing seven spots for Target, commercials for Nutro dog food, and a huge launch thing for Facebook for their anniversary.”
He says the Serpent is licensing a track from a big-name pop star for the Facebook extravaganza but then thinks about it and asks me not to mention who it is.
When working out of Kensington, Roberts says he taps the local talent pool for musicians and composers. How did the Super Bowl gigs come about? “It’s just what we do,” he says, the fatigue unmistakable in his voice. “We have a team of people marketing us.”
So, how much does a Super Bowl commercial soundtrack pay? “They don’t actually pay very well,” he says. “We got five figures for it.”
A low five figures at that, he says, because the clients spend most of their money covering the cost of air time. A Super Bowl gig, he explains, is a worthy gig in terms of exposure.
“It’s been a pretty good job,” he says of what in years past has been known as “the jingle business.” “But working at a movie theater — that was a pretty good job, too.” He laughs. “Very mellow.”