Songwriting Trends in TV Commercials

Lately I’ve noticed a whole lot of TV commercials using a similar sound. It’s generally acoustic and organic with a singer-songwriter feel. Some of the selections are taken from songs by known artists like Katie Herzig, others from unknown artists like The Hunts, and still others seem to have been created for the ad. Click on the YouTube videos below to listen to three of the dozen or so I’ve found.

If you play acoustic rhythm guitar and can put together a warm, energetic vocal blend of layered “ooo”s and “ah”s this could be a style you want to pursue. It not only works for TV commercials but it’s a popular part of many of today’s successful singer-songwriter songs.

Macy’s

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Write Songs for TV Commercials

What was that song on the Delta Faucet commercial, the cute one that goes “So many things your hands can do”? It sounds like a children’s song, something maybe you might write for kids. Well, it is a children’s song. It’s from a Sesame Street record featuring The Count, the vampire Muppet who simply adores numbers. Could you write a song like that? You probably could and possibly you already have.

Songs add emotion 
Advertisers use songs to link their product to an emotion. For the most part, they don’t use jingles anymore – those little ditties that sell a product by naming it (“Campbell’s soup is, mmm, mmmm, good.”) or telling you what it does (”Plop, plop, fizz, fizz. Oh, what a relief it is.”)

Instead, we hear songs that have the emotional feel the advertiser wants to associate with the product. For example, Suburu used Sheryl Crow’s “Every Day is a Winding Road” to add an organic, free-wheeling feel to a big ad.

But you don’t have to be a hit songwriter like Sheryl Crow to get a placement in a commercial. For another one of their ads, Suburu used an unknown artist and song: Basia Bulat’s “Before I Knew.” Now, everyone is asking: Who’s that singer? What’s that song? And downloading it at iTunes. Here’s the commercial with the song…

=> Keep the lyric focused on a single emotional theme
To improve your chance of getting a commercial placement, choose an emotional theme that will appeal to advertisers. Look at the products that are being sold on TV. Ask yourself: What does this company want people to feel when they think of or use their product? Confident? Happy? Powerful? Loving? Whimsical? Adventurous?

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Put Yourself in a Music Supervisor’s Shoes

Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TVDo you want to get placements in the Film & TV market? Want to sharpen your pitching skills to Film & TV opportunities and get more forwards? Here’s the best exercise I’ve ever found for strengthening your Film & TV songwriting and pitches: Do what a music supervisor does.  Find songs that underscore the emotion, energy, or atmosphere in a scene and test them against the picture!

At the end of this post, I’ll give you some resources for contacting music supervisors and pitching your songs. BUT before you do that, make sure you have what they’re looking for. Don’t burn a contact because you didn’t do your research.  If you’ll spend a couple of afternoons following these instructions, I promise your pitches will be closer to the mark and your film and TV songwriting will be stronger.

 WATCH A SCENE WITH A FEATURED SONG

 There are dozens of successful TV series using songs. You can find a list of currently airing shows at www.Tunefind.com. In the summer season, there are usually around 30 shows using songs. In the fall, there will be 60 or more.

Find a scene. Many of these shows feature a song in the opening or closing scene of each episode. A song is featured when there’s little or no dialogue over it and the volume is turned up. You should get familiar with these uses. They offer great exposure for your songs and can result in a few thousand downloads at iTunes! Not to mention the fees and royalties that come in over time – these popular shows run for years in syndication and foreign markets.

A few top TV series that regularly feature songs in the opening or closing scenes are: Grey’s Anatomy, Suits, Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, Hart of Dixie, Nashville, Sons of Anarchy, Gossip Girl, and Switched At Birth. There are dozens more.

Watch the scene and listen to the song use. Pick a show and episode you’re interested in then buy it at iTunes, or rent or stream it. You’re going to watch the scene several times, so you need to have easy access to it. It may take a few tries to find a scene you want to work with.   Continue reading “Put Yourself in a Music Supervisor’s Shoes”