Do 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!
Before you contact a music supervisor and pitch your songs, 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 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, Big Little Lies, Orange Is The New Black, Pose, The Bridge, Silicon Alley, The Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld, and Atlanta. 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.
If you’re interested in songs for TV commercials, you can do something similar. You’ll find a list of commercials that use songs at Splendad.com. Most of these commercials are available on YouTube.
Now, let’s say the director has told you that she doesn’t like the song that’s currently in the scene and wants a different one. You’ll need to find a new song that underscores the mood or energy of the scene and enhances the viewer’s experience.
REPLACE THE SONG
-> Start by looking through songs by similar artists. Choose one or two songs, turn down the volume on the scene, and play your choices. Did they create a mood or energy level that made the scene more effective and memorable? Did the chorus or refrain of the song relate to the emotional situation of the characters? If not, keep looking.
-> Think of the places where you usually find new music. You could try looking for related artists suggested by Pandora or Spotify. Look through their songs. To save time, look at the title before you listen. Does it sound like something that would work for your scene? If not, move on. That’s what a music supervisor would do. Keep that in mind when choosing titles for your songs.
-> Try your own songs. Go ahead and play your own songs under the scene. Would one of these work? Be honest with yourself. Could you write a song that would be more effective? If so, try writing it now, while you’re in the mood and the scene is right in front of you. By the way, these are often the very scenes that use songs with barebones arrangements so keep it simple. Focus on the vocal and the song itself.
To really get the Music Supervisor Experience, find three songs and give yourself a time deadline! Because that’s what supervisors have to do. They must present at least three songs for the director or producer to choose from for a use like this and there’s never enough time to do it in.
To speed up the process for future searches, all successful music supervisors keep lists of the songs they come across that have potential for other uses. In other words, they keep track of songs that may not be right for the scene they’re working on but might work for a different scene.
Copyright 2013. All rights reserved. Reprints by permission.