Photos by John Tashiro
“More important than creating music was creating a bridge between creative communities,”
Jared Gutstadt explained with a breath of clarity.
Moments later, Gutstadt’s publicist buzzes into the call to remind him of an upcoming Atlanta-bound flight to record with Mike Will Made It and Drumma Boy. I just keep myself really busy,” Gutstadt continues, “I wake up every day and go to the studio. I take phone calls and meet with at least three to four people a day. Holidays and summer break and all that shit, I am not good at not being busy. I maintain focus by giving myself a lot of creative and business goals.”
Jared Gutstadt, CEO of Jingle Punks, a company that makes music for TV shows, films, commercials, and hip-hop artists, is the most loved punk in Hollywood. “We want everyone to win, but we also want to be the loudest noise,” stated Gutstadt.
Although Gutstadt works in music, noise, in this context, does not pertain to volume. Noise refers to leaving an impression on people by deviating from the norm. Early on Gutstadt discovered this was how he would rise to the top of an oversaturated marketplace.
He placed his company logo on urinal cakes inside ABC, NBC, and CBS bathrooms. He almost lost his job as TV editor on the Chappelle Show for tinkering with Questlove’s music edits. He partnered with Nas for the 20th anniversary of Illmatic for a live-orchestra rendition. He has an album recorded with his close friend and song-writing partner, Poo Bear, which features a track with Bob Dylan. He even played a song about poop to legendary producer, Mike Dean, in the studio during early sessions of The Life of Pablo.
Gutstadt’s unorthodox, yet calculated, approach to self-marketing pushed Jingle Punks from a couch on the Lower East Side to offices in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, and London. Starting in reality TV, Jingle Punks made music for over 500 shows including The Voice, Pawn Stars, and The Real Housewives series. However, Gutstadt has since moved into hip-hop collaborating with Nas, Lil Wayne, G Eazy, Big K.R.I.T., and The Roots to name a few. A couple months ago he sold Derek Jeter on an anthem for the Miami Marlins. The song is a collaboritve effort with DJ Khaled, Kent Jones, and Nicky Jams.
How did you get your start in the music industry?
I started as Dave Chappelle’s TV editor on season three where he disappeared and went to Africa. He was my comedy hero. I was in a band and not getting the success my peers were getting. With the edit of season three kind of at a standstill, Questlove, from the Roots, provided the music in the series. I started tinkering with the edit and putting my music in it.
Basically, that led to the Executive Producer on the show, Neal Brennan, to call me a “jingle punk.” He said, “if you keep putting your music in the show I’m going to fire you!” Obviously, I continued to do it and all the music for season three I ended up getting royalties for a year later. I said, “holy shit this is great! Making music then getting checks for it later.” I thought if I can create a whole library of musicians, beat makers, and producers that are unsigned and own the rights to it then I could start a business.
At that time what was going on in your personal life?
I got divorced and was trying to support two kids. I basically said it was do-or-die time. I was living in essentially an apartment the size of a couch on the Lower East Side. I had enough room to pull my couch in and out to sleep on. I met up with my partner, Dan, and told him, “I wanted to build a technology where people submit their music and editors around the world could type in ‘sounds like Dr. Dre or Pharrell’ and find music that’s easy to clear.”
When did you know Jingle Punks was working?
We went from two employees, to six employees, to ten before I could blink. I moved out of that apartment and into a studio. We thought we made it when we were able to go to Ikea and buy a couch. We never had funding or people that were supporting it from the outside. We really built it with blood, sweat, and tears. We realized along the way that TV shows like, The Real Housewives or Pawn Stars wanted music for the opening and we could create it. We hired composers, led by me, and it became a crazy beat factory! It got to a point where if you wanted to work at Jingle Punks you had to create at least 30 pieces of music a day.
When was Jingle Punks biggest moment?
A few years after that, we were bought by one of the largest talent agencies in the world. I got a call from Ari Emanuel; if you watch Entourage, it’s that Ari. He said, “I want to buy Jingle Punks.” I said, “no fucking way! I’m going to call the police if you keep prank calling me.” At the time we were a sleeping giant. We had sixty-percent of the entire unscripted marketplace that we were servicing from our library and composing. They basically looked at the numbers from our business and said we’re going to buy this and amplify it.
Once we got in the building, we realized talent relationships was the key in evolving our business beyond TV. We realized Nas was a client there and I had this idea called the Hipster Orchestra, where we would cover our favorite hip-hop songs and have the rapper cover it with an orchestra. Nas did the 20th anniversary of Illmatic with us and that was a huge project. That changed our whole perception in hip-hop. Any time you meet a rapper or producer they ask, “who you have worked with?” and our first person was Nas.
What happened with Hipster Orchestra?
Sadly, I had to put the hipster orchestra down for a minute because we were growing the business. A year ago, I fired it up again and Lava Records signed us. The Nas thing led to us working with Lil Wayne and G Eazy. Poo and I wrote a song for Ronda Rousey UFC 207. I have also worked with Big K.R.I.T. this year.
What is your relationship with Poo Bear?
Poo Bear is very special friendship for me. I look at our friendship first and the work is second. The fact that we have both just makes it more fun. It’s not every day that you meet the greatest most popular songwriter in the world and you write together. We basically did an entire musical for YouTube last year, Step Up: High Water. This has been a project with the billboards all over LA, 21 million people saw the pilot, and the single “Oh Man” has over 100 million streams. They even started the “Oh Man” challenge. It’s fucking awesome seeing dances to your songs. Seeing choreography to your song is amazing. I have been focusing on understanding how important it is for a song to work, especially in pop or hip-hop, it’s the dance.
I think the next iteration of Jingle Punks has a big footprint in hip-hop. I think Atlanta and Miami are going to be a big focus for us. I am more excited about making music now then when I was the punk editor at the Chappelle Show.
What are you and Poo Bear working on?
Poo and I have huge song that is going to become the anthem for the Miami Marlins called “Just Gettin’ Started.” We just got fired up and wrote a song. We actually met with Derek Jeter in his office to pitch the idea for the anthem. We’ve attached DJ Khaled, Kent Jones, and Nicky Jams to it. That single is coming out in a few weeks.
Anything in the past?
Poo and I made a country song for The Roots mini-series. Poo thought it was cool and I got into doing more of that. I would pick up my banjo or guitar and he would sing folk or blues. I started gathering demo tapes. I played them for T Bone Burnett, who is one of the most famous folk and rock producers of all time. I asked him what he thought and he wrote back, “hell yeah!” He said we should do a whole record of this.
Every time Poo and I get together and write for a real project, we have 40 minutes and put down some music. I would take that to T Bone and over the course of a year-and-a-half completed an entire album. We never redid any of the vocals. We played at Sundance and Martin Sorrell’s WPP conference, which are basically the biggest ad agencies in the world. It might come out. The tapes exist we love the record. How many people get to make a record with T Bone Burnett and also Bob Dylan? We are going to sit on it until it makes sense to get it out there.
How is working in hip-hop different from the rock scene?
Whenever I dealt with a rock or country act they would always have too many qualifying questions; “why am I doing this? Is it going to make me look stupid?” It was always approached from a point of view that I was going to hurt them.
With hip-hop it really was about making money and great music. It’s the music business and I think rock forgot that a few years ago. There was a time where rock was about having the best jet, Led Zeppelin, the fanciest Rolls Royce, The Who, or the hottest girlfriend, Billy Joel who dated Christie Brinkley, the most famous model in the world. Nowadays rock looks at that as tacky. What is the point of being successful if you’re not reaching for the top?
What keeps Jingle Punks running?
Jingle Punks has always been fueled on a competitive spirit. We want everyone to win, but we also want to be the loudest noise. There is a mutual respect when we work with Lil Wayne on Fox and the same reason we got along well with G Eazy’s team.
I think sometimes in life there is a script that people follow for success and then there is my mentality which is, you’re only on the planet for a minute and you may as well fucking go ham every now and then.
One time, I was in Mike Dean’s studio and he was playing me the early mixes of The Life of Pablo. He was like, “what kind of cool shit do you have going on? “ At the time I was working on this really stupid fucking thing called Poop, The Musical. It was going to be a branded musical for Huggies. I guess from inhaling second-hand smoke in the studio, I thought it was a good idea to play a song called, “Everybody Likes to Poop on the Potty.” He just played me three cuts from Pablo and I played him a kid’s song. His mind was so blown by the stupidity of the song. I figured I am not going to play him a better hip-hop track than the ones he played me, so I may as well go the opposite direction. He invited me to see the tour with him after and he never forgot that moment.
How important is it to have fun during your creative process?
We love having fun; we love our clients and the people we collaborate with. My twenties were really shitty to say the least. The reason why I love rap is because I put on “Started form the Bottom” or “Work Hard, Play Hard” by Wiz. It is the mantra and the sentiment of those songs I really feel like I’m living that same story.
People are magnets. You are going to find positives and negatives. I got really sick when I was getting kicked out of my place and going through the divorce. A part of me was thinking maybe it would be easier to live with my parents. Then I thought I don’t want to be that guy living with his parents at 40. I basically erased that thought from my head. I had no other way to go, but up. Any dollar I made was a dollar I never had. More important than creating music was creating a bridge between creative communities