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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Song Ideas: Use TV Scenes

If you find yourself looking for new song ideas and inspiration, here’s a tip that works! Watch television. I know it might sound crazy but many TV scenes are built around common emotional situations the audience can relate to. That’s just what you want for your song.

CHOOSE A TV SHOW
Just about any drama series will provide you with plenty of good scenes. Look for emotional interaction between two characters. Watch the scene and note the dialogue – you might even write down a few lines to get your song started.

Comedy series are not as easy to use as drama but they will work. If you choose a sitcom, check out the last 5 to 10 minutes of the show when any conflicts or problems are wrapped up and there’s often a heartfelt moment between characters.

Soaps operas, yes, good old-fashioned afternoon soaps, are a good source if you can manage to watch. (There aren’t many left.) They’re slow moving and nothing much happens but that’s because everyone is busy emoting all over the place. There’s enough emotional confrontation, regret, tearful forgiveness, and joyful reunions  to fill a couple hundred songs!

Action series are fun to watch but chase scenes and shootouts won’t give you much to work with. Like comedy series, the emotion is usually in the last  few scenes.

News shows: News shows are filled with emotionally intense drama that just happens to be real. Talk shows and interviews can also be a source. There’s a great story behind the song “I Drive Your Truck.” One of the writers saw an interview on a news show and was inspired to write the song.

A FEW SONG IDEAS FROM TV
Use my article How to Write a Song in 10 Steps to complete any of the following ideas.

SHOW: Classic Perry Mason TV series
Theme: Be Strong
Concept: You have the strength to meet the challenge. Those who love you will help.
Dialogue:

  • “I know things look tough.”
  • “You’re carrying a lot of weight on your shoulders.”
  •  “Let me help you.”

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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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Where to Listen to Current Music & Artists

Q: I want to learn more about what kind of music is current. Where do you find new music and artists to listen to? Also I want to pitch my songs to film & TV. Where can I hear artists that are being used in that market?

A: If you’re writing songs for today’s radio or film & TV markets, it’s essential to keep your ears “tuned up”! You’ve got to know which artists and songs listeners like, and you need to have a good idea of what the music industry is looking for. Here are five places where you can hear what’s hot right now.

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