Your Songwriting Career: Are YOU In the Driver’s Seat?

Picture your songwriting career as a car. Just for fun, let’s say it’s a Ferrari. It might not feel like one right now but that’s because it’s not going anywhere very fast.

It could be that your car is driving in circles, starting and stopping, or stuck in neutral. Maybe the driver is asleep at the wheel or doesn’t know how to get where they’re going. Wouldn’t it be better if the driver woke up, checked the GPS, took hold of the wheel, and harnessed the power of that amazing engine to get to a real destination?

You are the car’s driver. The engine that powers this car is your Energy, Inspiration, Desire, and Excitement. There’s plenty of potential there but unless the you have a real idea where you’re going and how to get there, the car can’t take you there on its own.

Starting out
A successful journey starts with a clear destination in mind. Do you want to…

  • Have a career as a recording artist?
  • Write songs for other people to sing?
  • Write songs for film and TV?
  • Be a songwriter-producer?
  • Make money with your songs or write for friends, family, or your community?

Maybe you want to do all of these. Destinations can change, of course, but it’s a good idea to start your trip with one clearly in mind. => Write down a destination you want to reach. If you can’t decide on just one, pick the one you want to go to first, then list the others.

The road starts at your own front door. If you wait for someone to come along and pave a road just for you, it’ll never happen. You have to make your own road.  At the end of this post, I’ve included four ideas to get you started.

Continue reading “Your Songwriting Career: Are YOU In the Driver’s Seat?”

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 Tunefind.com. 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.)

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”

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.

QUICK! FIND A QUIRKY, PLAYFUL LOVE SONG!

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!”