Guide on getting your song on TV and films.
Here your about to become a more sort after singer. At least in terms of having your singing work great in movies and TV shows. Have you ever heard a song in a movie or television show and exclaimed, “I could have sung that!”?
Well, you probably can, but as you’ll find, singing for movies or television shows is more than just writing a good song. It’s about making a good song work with visual media.
Writing songs for film and television is nothing new, but the explosion of visual media output today has created an increased demand for a broad range of songs that will work dramatically as part of the overall production. And a director’s or music supervisor’s choice of a song can make an unknown songwriter or musical act an overnight sensation and potentially open doors to a fruitful and lasting career.
This increased popularity in music featured in
television shows has come with the changes of use
of the featured songs. In the old days, a featured
song might have been the equivalent of sonic
wallpaper. Today, the melody of a placed song
will weave its way into the DNA of the scene it is
featured in. If there is lyrical content, it may become
part of the storyline. The feel of the track supports
the onscreen atmosphere, just like underscore
Now for one of the unglamorous realities of
songwriting for film and TV: you’re not going to
have the final word on your material. A good skill to
pick up early on is the ability to write on demand.
In fact, songwriting for film and TV is almost always
“by emergency.” When writing on demand you
have to realize that the song itself is not the star of
the show. One needs to understand their role as a
contributor. Besides that, people involved in any
film or TV project are going to give input and you’re
going to take that input. After all, the people you’re
working for might not be musicians or songwriters
but everyone knows about music – just ask them!
You’re also going to get conditional requests. A
producer might want a song to feature female
vocals or have a guitar lead or be written in a certain
key or mode. Not only that but chances are you’re
going to be working on a number of projects that
will require you to make some changes after you’ve
handed them the “finished” song product. This is a
business where you will have to check your ego at
the door if you want to succeed.
But writing on demand isn’t the only way to have
your material featured in film or television. Some
songwriters are probably already familiar with the
concept of song libraries. Song libraries contain
“stock” music that can be licensed out to TV shows,
movies and commercial productions. These song
libraries could easily be what gets your career off
the ground and what sustains you in the long run.
Your material needs to be up to snuff though. After
all, these libraries are only good as the material they
host, so they’re only going to include the best of the
submissions they receive.
So you might already have all the skills in place
to write great songs, get them produced, and be
well connected enough to get your songs placed
all by yourself. That’s great, but it’s inefficient.
Why labor alone when you can strike up a creative
partnership? Having a writing partner (or better yet,
a team) will expedite any song writing process. And
I’m speaking from experience here; I would not be
where I am in the music industry if it weren’t for
collaboration. Period. The end.
The power of collaboration extends to every phase
of the songwriting process, especially during
production and post-production. A key to successful
collaboration, outside of clear communication,
is establishing recording guidelines. The rules of
collaboration need to apply to the people you
are used to working closely with as well as to
outside parties. Here are a few quick examples of
where some adherence to guidelines will help the
• Say a singer contributes their tracks with
the reverb and delay already on. That’s
fine but be sure to get the “dry” tracks, or
the tracks without the effects in place.
• Are you recording a live drummer? Make
sure your mic arrangement allows for a
clear sound on each track from the floor
tom to the crash, just don’t go crazy.
• Speaking of tracks, don’t forget to give
those tracks obvious names (example: for
the overhead left mic track, OL.wav; the
floor tom mic track, FL TOM .wav; etc…)
• Before sending a MIDI track, prepare your
file for export, then open up the exported
file yourself to make sure everything is
there before you send it. I call this an
To make it in the world of commercial songwriting,
it’s a given that you need to know how to put a
track together. But that’s not enough. You’ll need to
sharpen your technique as a writer. You’ll need to
expand your work possibilities by exploring
collaboration and all of the writing and production
opportunities it can afford. Finally, you will also
gain a better understanding of the business side
– especially for licensing and getting exposure for
your songs. Once you’ve got all that down then the
TV and film music world is your oyster.