I recently had a blast interviewing my buddy Steve Guiles for my Licensing Songs Academy. We had a great conversation about the writing process. So many things go into the process of writing, especially when your goal is to write songs for Film & Tv. But after you write a song and record it, how do you know if it is suitable for film and tv? How do you know if you are writing what the Music Supervisors want to hear?
When I first started out I had an album of 5 songs. I would take those songs, my babies and submit them to everything regardless of whether they were a true fit. If the listing (an ad of sorts that describes what the Music Supervisor wants) said the word “love” then I submitted any song I had that was about love. I didn’t know how to interpret what the listing said or how to analyze the ala artists and songs. I didn’t know much about genre, or how to break down a song's elements. I had NO idea what a Universal lyric was or how to write to a Theme. What I found out was that, writing to common themes will make sure that the song is falling under a category that is suitable for Film & TV.
So, what is a theme? A Theme is an overall idea or subject. For Example, Love, Coming of Age, Family, End of Days. Home etc. I am sure you can think of a ton more! Just watch TV and start writing down the Theme of each show. The key is to write about an emotion that may fall under that theme. For instance: Let’s Pick, Love. Now what about Love are you going to write: New Love, breaking up, death of a loved one? If you pick New Love, then you need to brainstorm on all the emotions associated with New Love. One you think of the emotions associated with it, next, pick some unique ways of describing those emotions. You don’t want to be plain. Boring or cliche. Find new ways to describe say: “You give me goosebumps” What other ways can you say something like that? A way that makes the listener really FEEL this new love feeling. In a song that Steve and I wrote Called Together, We Belong, we have a line that says “Unsteady I fall for you” which is a way to describe that new love feeling.
Steve and I were also talking a lot about writing process and having a Five Year Plan. It is possible to make a living or at least a nice sum of money each year on licensing. But you have got to have a plan, and a process for doing the work & analyzing the music that is being used in Film & TV (you can catch an excerpt of the interview here Steve Guiles Interview Excerpt )
A process that works well is to pick a theme each week and write a song based on that theme. The song doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to get done. You can also join songwriting groups that have weekly theme challenges. This will exercise your writing muscle. Experiment, play around! Some of the songs I have written for weekly theme challenges have gone on to be signed by Publishers and placed in Film & TV. About 20 seconds of the instrumental from a quirky song I did for a theme challenge ended up in the show Becoming Us on ABC Family channel. I never intended it for Film & TV, it was an experiment in recording and writing. But it ended up being usable because it was quirky, comedic and worked for the scene they wanted.
Studying ala songs is very important. This gives you insight into what is working for Film & TV. Pick some shows that you think your style of music would work in, and listen to the music used on those shows. Analyze the instruments, the mix, the lyrics and the theme/emotion. This is a great way to see what is being used and how those songs are written, lyrically, emotionally and stylistically.
Writing to listings is also a great way to exercise that muscle as well. A listing is basically a description of what a production company/music supervisor is looking for and it describes the style of the song, theme, and usually the type of scene it will be used for. Listings can be found on places like TAXI or Hit License, through Music library/Music Supe newsletters & websites.
You can definitely get your songs more on target for Film & Tv by doing the above and learning how to write for Film & TV. It is great fun to experiment and get the writing muscle going! In doing so you will rapidly build your catalog!
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Hope your week is going great!- Michelle
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