Sonic branding is everywhere, and its effectiveness has been proven time and time again. Yet, despite it’s effectiveness, Sonic branding is not used that often for radio. Paul Plant from No Sheet Music has composed over 10 sonic brands and identities for radio stations. To him, sonic brands are not nice to have – they’re need to have.
Sound is alpha and omega on radio. Even though most radio stations have a visual logo, the eye-catching logo is replaced by the audio version whenever you actually tune in on a radio station. Since recall is key to ratings, it’s essential that listeners know who they are listening to when they stumble across new stations on the airwave. Eventually, when listeners have been exposed to it enough times, it becomes the beating heart of the radio station.
The 70’s and 80’s produced some of the catchiest sung jingles for brands. Jeff Wayne (BBC’s Sixty Minutes, Good Morning Britain) was the mastermind behind the bulk of this, but his projects were mainly for TV. The legendary Kenny Everett was the original pioneer in the UK when he worked as a DJ at UK’s Radio 1 in the late 1960’s. It was during those years that he had the audacity to use distinct custom voices, jingles and trailers. They’ve have never seen his like before or since in the UK.
However, sonic branding for radio stations is not as common as you’d think. Sometimes they stations are too busy or simply under resourced with limited budgets to even consider the option. It can also be a cultural thing where all of their competitors work actively on enhancing their station sound and therefore they do the bare minimum.
Sonic branding done right
Paul Plant, not to be mistaken for Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, is one of UK’s most experienced sonic brand designers for radio stations. To him, a fantastic radio sound brand is a combination of two key factors: the station’s name and strapline.
“A great radio station name and a good strapline (or claim/slogan) are key. The name and the claim have to match well and suit the music. Only then can you create gold. We built our business as a company that produces ‘miniature pop songs’ as opposed to jingles.”
Wisebuddah is Paul Plant’s studio where they produce sound identities for radio stations all over Europe. They’ve produced iconic identities for stations such as BBC 1 and 2, Sky Radio, RFM, YLEX, and more.
“The most difficult sound identity is always the one where the client is completely disinterested and focuses on the business rather than the music. It always goes well when it’s a collaborative experience and when we’re working with a strong brand with proper core values”, Paul says.
You don’t need very specific tools or instruments to create a sound brand for radio. To Paul, it’s more about the idea behind the track than the actual mechanics. It’s about imaging, mirroring or complimenting the music proposition, but always keeping it on a personal note. However, you can’t exclude instrumental aspirations entirely.
“I love it when there is a need to record with a brass or string section”, Paul says.
Paul Plant from No Sheet Music
Paul Plant from No Sheet Music
Radio is still a thing
If you ask Paul Plant, his very own BBC Radio 2 package is one of this masterpieces. Not because of the client’s name but because of the package’s musical diversity and quality. The package consisted of contemporary pop, big band jazz, country and soulful ballads. All of the tracks were designed and produced specificially for BBC Radio 2.
Paul finds inspiration for his music and sonic branding from all of the usual suspects from the world of film and UK TV, some of whom were prolific library composers. He’s a guitar player, so he’s a huge fan of the likes of Steve Vai, Albert Lee, Weather Report, Jeff Beck, Led Zeppelin, Stravinsky, and Bowie (Fripp).
“I used to work for Chas Chandler who discovered Jimi Hendrix and once had two auditions to join Iron Maiden. I still love guitars and I have a small collection of them. My business partner Jem Godfrey co-produced some hit pop songs back in the 00’s. He’s even member of a progressive rock band called Frost, so music is definitely in our veins!
Having built a very successful radio sound branding business (Wisebuddah Jingles), a production library was the next logical step for Paul. A few years later No Sheet Music, Paul’s music library, became reality. Even though they now produce music for advertising and TV as well, radio music still remains the bedrock of their UK business and they always commission at least two ‘radio friendly’ albums every quarter for No Sheet Music.