Are you new at songwriting or an already-experienced songwriter who wants to learn more about writing songs for film and television? Or maybe you have some songs already recorded that you’re thinking about re-working to fit this space?

Well, here are 5 tips to help get you moving along.

1. LESS MIGHT BE MORE

Because music is used to support a visual in the sync world, you might want to deconstruct your recorded songs. If you can, access your tracks on an instrument-by-instrument basis and listen for what you can edit out. Can you make a fully produced song into just a guitar/vocal or piano/vocal? Can you edit down the lyrics? You DON’T have to tell a story. The dialog from the actors is doing that for you.

Creating some breathing space in your song that allows for potential edit points between sections is desirable. So think about what you can omit from your tracks, not add.

2. IDENTIFY SONGS WITH CLEAR THEMES

Music supervisors (people whose job it is to find songs for film and T.V. projects) are using plot lines and themes suggested by the project as a guideline. They might request something like this:  I need something in the singer-songwriter or rock genre about an emotional struggle, a break-up, regret… etc.

Identify songs from your catalog that would FIT that theme. Or, consider writing a NEW song with that theme in mind.

“Love” is a very broad and widely used theme.  But drilling down even further there are sub-themes related to the main theme of love. These are just a few:

– Love is great
– Love hurts
– Unrequited love
– Love conquers all

Make sure your songs cover ONE sub-theme or write a new song with ONE sub-theme in mind.

3. IDENTIFY SONGS THAT SET-UP A MOOD IMMEDIATELY

With film, T.V. and advertising, it’s all about the track.  The lyrics might be barely audible when it’s ducked underneath dialog in a scene, so the track has to lead. With your already-written track, is there a clear mood? Does your song use minor chords with ambient guitar sounds that make it sound sad? That could work. Or maybe you have a song that’s happy with claps, ukulele and piano. That could work as well.

If your song suggests a mood within the first 10 seconds of listening, then it’s a contender for use in film and T.V. If it meanders too much musically, then think about how you can focus it more.

4. MAKE THE LYRICS MORE GENERAL

Although it’s standard in certain genres like country,  it’s not desirable to write with too many specifics (or a whole story) for songs in film and television. Instead, consider writing about feelings and try to describe those feelings in interesting ways using the five senses.

Remember, the visual is already telling the story. The purpose of a song is to add depth, emotion and meaning to the scene.

5. RE-PURPOSE YOUR TRACKS AS INSTRUMENTALS

Maybe you have a great country track but the lyrics are too specific or story heavy? Well, maybe the tracks ALONE would be perfect. Have a listen to your tracks-only versions of songs to see how they work. About 80% of music that is used for film, T.V. and advertising IS instrumental music, so you might already have something that’s licensable.

So, those are 5 ways to completely revamp your music for licensing in film and television. Hope it helps!

Check out some of my other blogs for more tips on music licensing.

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