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.


 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”

PLAYLISTS: A Film & TV Songwriter’s Secret Weapon!

When I asked successful music supervisors how they manage to find just the song they’re looking for among the thousands of song links, mp3s, and CDs they collect every year, they all told me they keep “playlists.”

If you use iTunes, you’re familiar with playlists. And, in fact, the iTunes playlists are the very ones that many music supervisors use. When you open the iTunes window, you’ll find “PLAYLISTS” in the left hand column. You can add playlists of your own and name them according to artist, genre, mood, or anything else you want. Here’s how they can be helpful if you’re writing songs for film & TV.


Let’s say you have an opportunity to pitch a song to an ad agency looking for  “quirky, playful, upbeat songs about falling in love.” (TAXI has run many listings like this!) What does that kind of song sound like? Do you have a song that sounds like that? You could take a guess. You could spend hours searching for ideas.  Or you could go to a playlist of “Love Songs” that you’ve created and search for those you’ve tagged as “quirky” “happy” and “upbeat.” Maybe you’ve even put one of your own songs onto the playlist.  Continue reading “PLAYLISTS: A Film & TV Songwriter’s Secret Weapon!”

Writing Songs for Film & TV

Movie SlateThousands of songs are used in TV shows, films, and commercials each year. For every song that’s placed, many are auditioned – often hundreds – but only one is chosen. And you want that song to be yours.

The song that will get the job is the one that enhances the emotion and memorability of the scene for the viewers. Is a character discovering real love for the first time? The song needs to evoke that feeling of innocence, yearning, and wonder for the audience. Is the film set in a small town in the 1950s? The song needs to make us feel that we’ve traveled back to another time and place.  And the right song can bring the whole thing to life!

With that in mind, it may seem a little strange that most of the songs that are placed in film and TV are written and recorded first, then pitched to these projects. Many of these songs are part of a CD released by an independent artist or band – that’s right, they’re not signed to mainstream record labels and publishers.

While these songs were being written and recorded, there was no way to know how they might eventually be used in a film or TV show. So, if you don’t know how your song will be used, how can you craft it to increase your chances of a placement?  Well, let’s just say that some songs work better than others. Here are a few tips that will help you write a song that will work for dozens of scenes. Continue reading “Writing Songs for Film & TV”