Alan Tormey’s newest post in his series on music in television advertising went up today. It’s a fun look at some of the inherent contradictions between musical form and the form of the 30-second ad spot.

Read the full piece here:  https://at12tone.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/music-and-the-single-minded-proposition/

Music in Advertising

June 17, 2015

Hello Everybody,

I’ve written a short article examining the music in the new “Do You Know A Muffin Man” commercial that’s been broadcasting recently. It’s written for more of a general audience than what you find on IPAP, but I thought that many of you might be interested nonetheless. It’s cross-posted from my personal blog: 12-Tone Telephone. If any of you feel moved to make comments, please do so there.

What’s Thumbtack?
Rhythm and Message in America’s Hottest Spot

Abstract: Thumbtack’s “Do You Know A Muffin Man” distinguishes itself by using an old-fashioned jingle to present its message. While it does an undeniably excellent job at communicating Thumbtack’s brand promise, certain details of the music’s rhythm inhibit Thumbtack’s product identity from being efficiently impressed upon the viewer. In this essay, I will attempt to answer the following questions:  1) Why is it hard to acquire and retain Thumbtack’s identity? 2) Is there an easy fix for this problem, and 3) Are there principles embedded in this solution that can be applied to future projects outside of Thumbtack?

Meeting the Muffin Man

As we enter Mid-June of 2015, Thumbtack’s new “Do You Know A Muffin Man” is easily my favorite broadcast advertisment of the moment. Its jaunty music, sympathetic plotlines, and friendly wit all combine to make for an engaging and memorable 30-second spot in which a variety of hapless do-it-yourselfers turn their small tragedies into small triumphs with the help of the professional service providers found through the Thumbtack app.

Based on my experience as a viewer, ‘Muffin Man’ is clearly an attention-grabber that does an excellent job at educating the viewer about Thumbtack’s brand promise. The situations the characters find themselves in are highly amusing yet also highly relatable. I can immediately understand the types of problems in my life that this app will solve. However… after three or four viewings of the spot, I realized that I still had little to no idea of the product identity. That is, I knew there was an app that would fix my lights, my deck, and my life, but I didn’t really know that it was called Thumbtack.

Why is this? After thinking about it, I believe that the reason it was difficult for me to process and retain Thumbtack’s product identity stems from some extremely specific interactions between the words and rhythms of the jingle.

Please click here to read the rest of the article on 12-Tone Telephone

Read the rest of this entry »

Inclusion – Part 2

December 2, 2014

After a long, lazy break, the second part of the inclusion series fell right into my lap. I was planning on moving on to another topic in inclusion when my Oliver Sacks’ newsletter appeared in my inbox. His book, Seeing Voices, was the topic this morning.

There are two short items to share here:

First, watch this 15 year old boys transformation – when the light bulb goes on and he can communicate through sign language for the first time. His epiphanic moment can’t help but bring a smile to your day.

Next, there’s an item that needs our attention. Movements of the Soul, a play based on the history of American Sign Language has an Indigogo campaign with just 8 days left.

The trailer is though-provoking and I sincerely hope this project gets the funding it needs.

I wish you all well and hope these posts allow us all to reflect on our precious senses that we use every day.

While I was teaching flute to a student with a hearing impairment,  I became more aware of the flute under my fingers as being warm. Warmth from my breath, and putting warmth into a room took on another dimension. Breathing warmth and life into the music became my focus.

I became more intrigued when I learned about Gallaudet University – “the world’s only university with programs and services specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students” This first video talks about the design innovations to the buildings and classrooms. They focus on space, visibility and soft lighting.

I found this video, without sound, to be a clear teacher. I suppose nothing else needs to be said as to the experience of watching this.

Not all of us assume music is only to be heard. Recently, I took my family to see the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus and was so moved by the work of LeWana Clark. LeWana is on staff of the choir and gives musically meaningful sign language interpretations during their concerts.

Do any of you have more you can share about inclusion of the deaf community in music?

It’s a conversation often not held.

In July, I conducted a crowdfunding campaign to cover travel expenses in order to attend and perform at the National Flute Association convention in New Orleans. I crowd funded for a variety of reasons:

  • a very short time frame of only 3 weeks
  • the importance of performing new music at such a large gathering
  • not knowing when this type of opportunity would come around again
  • and more which you can read about here

As a freelance musician, earning a living in this business is very challenging. Sometimes, no matter how much you learn about the business side of things and implement it into your day to day routine, the new students, the paid gigs, or the cushy traditional jobs just never materialize. This is why crowdfunding can be so attractive.

Crowdfunding is a way for creatives to invite their audience to participate in the creation process, and cultivate a patron-artist relationship that was mostly out of reach of all but those with enough disposable income to commission a piece or painting. Crowdfunding now enables us all to become patrons and shareholders in art that we believe in.

Personal reasons aside, let me walk you through the steps I considered to set up my crowdfunding campaign.


There are a lot of platforms available for your campaign – Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Rockethub are just a few. Research each site’s fees and decide where your project would best fit. For my recent campaign, I decided to go with GoFundMe, a donation website that can be utilized for a wide variety of causes and projects. Since my campaign wasn’t funding a specific creative project but funding travel costs for myself and my pianist, I felt that GoFundMe was the most appropriate option with affordable fees.


If you’re setting up a campaign that enables you to keep all the funds you raise, don’t be afraid to set a realistic budget and add 10% to cover the website fees. Although I came very close to raising the entire amount I needed to cover travel expenses, I set a lower budget because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Be bold and ask for you what you need. If what you’re asking has any value, your supporters are going to help you out.

If they see the value in your project, you should too!


Another thing I factored into my overall projections was the amount of time I would need to spend to raise a daily minimum amount. Anyone who has crowd funded will tell you that running a crowdfunding project can become a full time job. I was fortunate in this instance that my budget and daily minimum were low enough that I didn’t have to stay up all hours of the night to raise funds.

With that said, if you’re thinking about crowd funding a project now or in the future, think about your social media presence and your online brand. Do you have a core audience beyond your family and friends? Cultivating a strong network – local and online – will come in handy when you need to raise money. If you have these building blocks in place, promotion will be a lot easier. Don’t try to build a brand and promote all at the same time!


I don’t think crowdfunding is going away anytime soon, but I do think that it isn’t appropriate for every project. If I’d had more time to find travel grants or ways to generate additional income on my own, I would have not undertaken this campaign.

Fiscal sponsorship is another viable option for musicians and Fractured Atlas is one resource for artists. Research all viable options and decide what fits your goal. When you have the details of your project and a projected budget figured out, you’ll be able to decide which option works best for you. You’ll have more success when you use the right platform, whether it be crowdfunding, grants or fiscal sponsorship.

Classical Clubbing

September 30, 2013

A bassoonist friend of mine suggested that you all might be interested in this recent article by Sarah Robinson of Classical Revolution and noted critic Greg Sandow. It discusses a wide range of topics, but primarily focuses on how to adapt your music and performance style to different types of venues and the pros and cons of performing in alternative spaces.


We’re Back!

September 25, 2013

Although things have been quiet around here recently, there are some exciting features that will be coming in the next few weeks, including an interview with a very special guest who will of great interest to most of you.

In the meantime, have some fun with this fantastic web page called “Boil The Frog”. It creates a playlist that will connect (almost) any two artists. For example, I’ve had great luck connecting Guillaume de Machaut to Katy Perry, and John Williams to the Pet Shop Boys. You can find it here:


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