When Do YOU Write Songs?

I’m always curious about how other songwriters approach their craft. Maybe they’ve got some clever tricks I could use. Or maybe I’d just like to be reassured that we all do things basically the same way, that I’m not out on some weird, lonely trail all by myself.

So a while ago, I started asking other songwriters the question: “When do you write songs?” I got a wide range of answers – some expected, some not.

The “happy accident” approach
The largest number of songwriters basically said: “I write when I feel inspired.” No surprise there. When an idea hits you that’s obviously a good time to write.

Many said they try to write at least one day per week. Pro songwriters write more often than that, usually every day. Even if you don’t have gobs of time to spend on your songs, you can do something related to your songwriting every couple of days. Here are some ideas… Continue reading “When Do YOU Write Songs?”

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?

Continue reading “Write Songs for TV Commercials”

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”

Write Your Song in a Genre

Most of the time, when you start writing a song, you’re thinking about what you’re feeling and what you want to say, and that’s the best way to approach your songwriting. But by keeping a little corner of your brain focused on the genre you want to write in, you can add an extra edge to your song that will help you find an audience for it down the road, and possibly a music publisher or record label.

Like ice cream, songs come in different flavors: strawberry, chocolate, peach, and rocky road. And, like ice cream flavors, there are very real differences between the four mainstream music genres — Country, Pop, Rock, and R&B/Soul. Each one appeals to a different audience.

When listeners tune into a radio station that plays Country music, they expect to hear a range of songs that share a certain sound. Jazz stations play something that sounds different from the Country music station. Listeners who tune in to a Jazz station are expecting to hear the kinds of chords, melodies, and lyrics that are characteristic of today’s Jazz genre. If they get a Country song instead, they won’t be happy! Radio stations need to keep listeners satisfied if they want them to stick around. Continue reading “Write Your Song in a Genre”