Online Courses

Writing and Producing Advertising Music

Authored by Peter Bell


Course Code: OCWPR-385

Next Term Starts January 8

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Have you ever wondered who makes the music for the ads or shows that you see on TV and hear on the radio? Are you curious about how this music is made, how it’s sold, who buys it and why? If you want to look under the hood at the world of commercial music, both from a process standpoint as well as a business standpoint, this course is for you. Writing and Producing Advertising Music explores effective composition techniques for scoring to picture, writing a melody using provided lyrics, and creating a memorable hook for a jingle.

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The course examines the organizational features and personnel roles of production music publishers, ad agencies, and music houses; as well as covering the fees, royalties, residuals, and other revenue opportunities in this potentially lucrative industry. Drawing on years of personal experience, course author Peter Bell provides detailed instruction and case studies of successful business and ad agency jingles, creating stock music track packages, partnering with music libraries, and composing a theme and scoring for a television series.

You'll learn from the author's successes and from his past mistakes as you build your own skills in composing and producing commercial music and in finding, communicating with, and negotiating with clients. Writing and Producing Advertising Music features in-depth interviews with industry players, including agency creative director Terry MacDonald and music library owner/operator and ASCAP board of directors member Doug Wood, as well as successful jingle composers, singers, voiceover artists, and sound designers.

Work in the course will involve planning and creating finished music productions to detailed specifications to meet a deadline. You will get hands-on experience writing jingles by creating an original 30-second jingle in a specific genre, using specific voiceover copy and vocal lyrics, and then re-arranging it in at least one alternative style. You will also create an original 90-second instrumental theme and arrange elements of the composition to be used for stings, transitions, and cues. Each of these assignments will help you build your own promotional reel that you can use to pitch prospective clients.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Understand the structure of the commercial music marketplace and the roles of its participants
  • Create original jingles, library track packages, and television themes according to industry standards
  • Apply effective composition techniques for scoring to picture
  • Write and produce a jingle spot using provided voiceover copy and vocal lyrics
  • Create a memorable hook for a jingle
  • Understand revenue flow in the industry, in addition to fees, royalties, and residuals
  • Begin building your own promotional reel
  • Apply effective strategies for pitching your work to prospective clients

"The Writing and Producing Advertising Music course at Berklee Online is a must-take course for anyone who is serious about getting a true ‘boots on the ground,’ relevant and realistic approach to composing music for advertising." - student Michael Aarons

Why should you take this course? See what students are saying on Take Note, our online magazine.

Listen to an interview with course author and instructor Peter Bell on WNYC's Soundcheck program.

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Lesson 1: What Is Commercial Music?

  • Commercial Music Categories
  • Who Uses Commercial Music
  • Introduction to Production Terms and Definitions
  • The Spec Sheet
  • Storyboard
  • The Attributes of Effective Ad Music
  • The Power of a Simple Music Bed
  • Assignment 1: :30 Instrumental Bed

Lesson 2: Getting Started

  • Forming Your Business
  • Music House Responsibilities
  • Building Your Commercial Music Business
  • The Reel
  • The Voice Over (VO)
  • VO Production: Processing Tools
  • Assignment 2: Voice Over Processing

Lesson 3: Library Music

  • What Is a Music Library?
  • The Music Library Business Model
  • Choosing Online Sites to Partner
  • Defining the Music Library Track Package
  • Starting a Track Package
  • Trimming a Bounce
  • Assignment 3: Compose a :60 Music Track Package

Lesson 4: Library Music and the Track Package

  • Using Form to Manipulate Length
  • Case Studies
  • Publishing a Track Package
  • The Library Music Business: Observations from Within
  • Assignment 4: Create Your Music Track Package

Lesson 5: Local Jingles, the Creative Concept, and the Pitch

  • Advertising Strategy for Local Businesses
  • Identifying the Target Audience
  • Organizing the Message
  • The Tag Line
  • Tips on Writing Lyrics
  • Pitching Local Businesses
  • Negotiating a Price
  • Assignment 5: Write a Voice Over and Tagline

Lesson 6: Jingle Composition

  • Historical Form Issues in American Pop Music
  • Standard Jingle Form Elements
  • Creating a Melodic Hook
  • Melodic, Harmonic, and Production Techniques for Emphasis
  • Memorability
  • Vocal Casting and Arranging Considerations for Jingle Production
  • Mixing and Mastering Audio for Broadcast
  • Assignment 6: Create a :30 Donut Jingle

Lesson 7: Winning an Agency Jingle Project

  • Case Study: Starting Up Musictech/Bell Music
  • Getting to Know Your Agency's Team
  • Case Study: Robin Batteau and the Heartbeat of America
  • Musical Copyright
  • Collaboration
  • Assignment 7: Compose and Produce :30 Demo

Lesson 8: Scoring to Picture

  • The Function of the Score
  • Spotting
  • Leitmotif
  • Sound Design
  • Hit Points
  • Technical Issues
  • Assignment 8: Spot and Score

Lesson 9: TV Theme Music

  • History of TV Themes
  • Mnemonic Arranging Techniques
  • Profiles of Success
  • Interpreting a Style in Theme Music
  • Assignment 9: Compose an Original :60 to :90 Show Theme

Lesson 10: Working with a Successful Jingle, Theme, or other Existing Song

  • Identifying the Client's Vision
  • Common Musical Elements
  • The Live Recording Session
  • Recording Process
  • Hybrid Musical Productions
  • Assignment 10: Arrange and Produce a Tool Kit

Lesson 11: Subsequent Work, Melody, and Revenue

  • Commercial Music Revenue Stream
  • Melodic Issues in Jingle Writing
  • Getting Paid
  • Demo and Job Bidding
  • Assignment 11: Final Project Outline

Lesson 12: Hits, Industrials, PSAs, Pitches, and the Ones That Got Away

  • Pop Music in Advertising
  • Industrials
  • Public Service Announcements (PSA)
  • The Agency Pitch
  • Rejection and Repurposing
  • Awards/Trade Magazines
  • Final Project: Nike "Just Do It" Jingle



Completion of Arranging 1: Rhythm Section and or equivalent knowledge and experience is required. Students should have intermediate experience in any DAW. Here are some suggested courses: Music Production 101, Pro Tools 101, Producing Music with Cubase, Producing Music with Logic, Producing Music with Ableton Live, or Producing Music with Reason.

Students should be able to:

  • understand the basics of musical form, melody, chord progressions, and arranging
  • record or manipulate audio for voice over, singing, or both
  • import and sync audio and video in a DAW environment

Software Requirements

  • A digital audio workstation (DAW). Viable programs include Ableton Live, Digital Performer, SONAR, Logic Pro, Cubase, or Pro Tools. Students should possess an intermediate sequencing skill level with these programs.

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

  • MIDI keyboard/interface/controller (minimum 25 keys)
  • Microphone
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 4 GB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


Author & Instructor

Steve MacLean is an Assistant Professor in the Electronic Production and Design Department at Berklee College of Music. A guitarist, composer, producer, and engineer, he has been evolving with music technology since the early '80s, when he worked in a New York City recording studio and got hands-on with early versions of the Fairlight CMI, DX-7, Linn Drum, automated mixing consoles, and digital audio samplers. Later, he founded his own recording and production studio and produced/engineered hundreds of artists and numerous award-winning projects including scores for over two hundred commercials and soundtracks as well as a constant prolific artistic output of his own acclaimed works.

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An active performer and composer for more than thirty years, he was co-founder of the Portland Experimental Music Collective, has performed original compositions at numerous new music festivals, including several pieces for New Music Across America and similar events. An innovator in the new music circuit, he was curator for a series of concerts "2001 New Music Odyssey," and continues to release recordings internationally on Recommended Records, U.K., and others.

Steve has been a music technology educator both independently and with over 13 years as Berklee College of Music faculty, also previously as a product specialist/clinician with a variety of manufacturers for over 20 years. More than a dozen published CD's of his compositions and recordings are available. Many can be found at including Expressions On Piano "A rare and quite brilliant record" - Kev Nickells, Freqzine 2011. Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Writing and Producing Advertising Music can be applied towards these associated programs:

Associated Degree Major


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.