JibJab Political Parody Could Be Audio Hit, Too
The goofy Flash animation takes potshots at leading presidential candidates George Bush and John Kerry, at one point portraying "pinko commie" Kerry in a black leather sadomasochistic getup, and "stupid dumb ass" Bush donning a dunce cap and scribbling with crayons.
Considering the political nature of "This Land," and the finite number of days left until the election, time was especially of the essence for the record company when it came to licensing the JibJab parody. And because novelty songs are often inspired by current events, their relevance can be particularly fleeting. "With these Web-based phenomena, the thing to worry about is moving on a dime," stresses Bob Frank, president of Koch Records. He contacted JibJab Media on July 23, the very day a Koch records staffer brought the Web animation to his attention. "['This Land'] is a good one because you know when you're falling off the cliff," Frank quips, noting that on November 3, the song's fifteen minutes will be up.
ComScore Media Metrix reported that the JibJab.com site drew 10.4 million unique visitors in July-- more than three times the 3.3 million Americans who collectively visited JohnKerry.com and GeorgeWBush.com. Following a legal battle, JibJab late last month reached an agreement with Ludlow Music Inc.--music publisher and owner of the "This Land is Your Land" copyright--to use Guthrie's song in the cartoon.
This isn't the first goofy novelty tune to start online that the firm has licensed. Koch continues to garner licensing fees from "The Hampsterdance," a song inspired by a Web site featuring grooving animated hamsters that became a viral hit in the Web's earlier days. According to Frank, the company has sold over 100,000 "Hampsterdance" singles, and has even licensed the song recently for use in the Fox sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle."
"The thing that works best in online animation is really quick songs," comments JibJab co-founder Gregg Spiridellis, who penned "This Land"'s tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Spiridellis writes all the song lyrics for the Web studio's animated shorts. His brother, co-founder Evan Spiridellis, focuses on the visuals. Keeping things in the family, Gregg Spiridellis's sister-in-law was behind the computer-based song recording and production. Voice artist Jim Meskimen is the golden throat behind all the voice work and singing that accompanies JibJab's animation. In "This Land," Meskimen sings in character, mimicking Dubya's Texan drawl and Kerry's upper-crust New Englander tones.
JibJab is currently in the process of developing the package design for the single, which will be sold in CD format and made available for digital download through Apple's iTunes. The song will be sold on iTunes shortly, at the standard iTunes price of 99 cents. The CD will hit chain record store shelves October 5, selling for $3.49.
"This deal is not based on selling physical singles," comments Frank, who says the CD single is no longer a popular format, in part because of the increased adoption of digitally downloaded music formats. He hopes to sell at least 100,000 iTunes downloads; Koch will collect 65 cents for each, portions of which will go to JibJab and the Ludlow. Koch will promote the song by sending it to morning and talk radio shows. Apparently, some radio stations have already aired the song as downloaded from the Net animation.
The record company is also in talks with JibJab regarding future projects. Before the political season draws to a close, JibJab has a "This Land" sequel in store. During their appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show," the Spiridellis brothers were asked by host Jay Leno to create a follow-up to "This Land." According to JibJab's blog, they've obliged, and the animation is set to premiere on "The Tonight Show" in early October.