Advice from Wendy Levy, Music Supervisor

I just read an excellent interview with music supervisor Wendy Levy. If you’re thinking about writing and pitching your songs to the Film & TV market (and you should be) here’s some information from a music supe who has used A LOT of songs in shows like The Fosters, Beauty and the Beast, Ravenswood, 90210, The Client List, Life Unexpected, and many more.

One thing in particular struck me as especially good advice. Levy says: “My job as a music supervisor is to identify the unique voice of each show – like a sonic paint box – with the tone and voice of the production. I present material to the producers to find out what they like. As characters evolve each season, the music changes to fit into that world.”

As a songwriter, you should be aware of the “unique voice” of a show. Watch a few episodes of a show like The Fosters, Gossip Girl, Parenthood, or Nashville. You’ll notice that the songs are quite different on each show. Keep a record of the songs being used, or look them up on Then study those songs to get a feel for the type of lyric, melody, production, and vocal style that works for the show. When you get a chance to pitch to the music supervisor – or to a music library that will do the pitching for you – be sure you’re on target and nail the signature sound.

Here’s the rest of the interview. (Interview with Wendy Levy by Shantell Ogden for Berklee Blogs.)

Break Through to Songwriting Success

Seems I’ve heard from a lot of songwriters and composers lately who are feeling frustrated.  Their careers haven’t gotten off the ground or they’re stalled at a level that isn’t really satisfying. Over and over, I hear things like…


  • I’m not getting the kind of response from the music industry I deserve.
  • I spend hours on my music but I’m not making any money.
  • They keep telling me my music is dated.
  • I’m doing the best I can. I guess I just don’t have enough talent.

I know how awful it feels to be in that place. But there’s really a very straightforward process for getting beyond these problems. It takes focus, determination, and effort. But If you’re willing to do that then you can get where you want to go.

So let’s cut to the chase… Everything you need to know to be a successful songwriter is right in front of you. If you study successful songs and instrumentals and use them to help you discover new techniques and choices to use in your own songs, you’ll break through.

Once you know what’s working for today’s listeners and the music industry and you can create original, authentic material in one of these styles, you’ll find you have an open door into the offices of music publishers and Film/TV music supervisors. They need this music and you’d be surprised how many ways there are to get it to them. But you need to have the goods first, before you approach them. Continue reading “Break Through to Songwriting Success”

How Is a Lyric Like a Movie Script?

Here’s a quote from hit songwriter-producer Desmond Child in M Magazine, “The most important thing going into a song is the lyric. The lyric is the script, and you can’t shoot a movie without a script. The score is actually the last part that comes into a movie, in the same way that the music on a record should help bring out the meaning of the lyrics.”

I love his comparison of lyric and movie script. While music truly does have the power to move us emotionally and physically, it’s the lyric that draws us into the song, paints a picture in the mind, makes us identify with the singer or with the people in a situation.

Not the same old story
Like a good movie script, a song has a beginning, a middle, and an end. But I’m not suggesting that you should tell a story in your lyric the way a script does – I met you on Monday. We fell in love on Tuesday. Broke up on Wednesday. This doesn’t really work well for today’s listeners – and it’s not enough for movie-goers either.

The power of a movie script is not that it tells a story. The real power of a good script lies in its ability to draw viewers in emotionally, make them feel afraid when the lead character is in danger, happy when the hero falls in love, and sad when things fall apart. We don’t actually know these characters – they’re not even real – yet we care about them. What good is a story if you don’t care what happens to the people in it?  Continue reading “How Is a Lyric Like a Movie Script?”

Raw Sound for a Slick TV Commercial

Dior J'Adore ad

Here’s a luxury perfume commercial (Dior) using a song with a raw Indie vibe. The song is “Heavy Cross” by  three-piece Rock band Gossip. Listen to the song and notice how the electric guitar is used to create contrast between sections and drive the beat. The drums back up the guitar in a tight arrangement that adds plenty of punch. No big synthesizer string sections, no horns, no orchestra banging in and out, It’s just raw, good-ol’ Rock energy.

The vocal
The band’s singer, Beth Ditto, delivers attitude and power and she has a solid sense of pitch. You could record an edgy Rock song like this with either a male or female vocal. The singer’s personality and energy level will need to match the track, but pitch may not be such a big issue. Think of the Talking Heads’ “Remain in Light” album. There’s a lot of that influence here, especially in the guitar tracks. David Byrne’s vocals are expressive and full of character and energy; vocal pitch is definitely secondary.

Instrumental pitches
You could pitch a track like this as an instrumental and it would be a great match for many Continue reading “Raw Sound for a Slick TV Commercial”