How to Write Film & TV Worthy Music

Article by: Sirsa  |  Author, Music Creator

Article by: Sirsa Shekim | Author, Music Creator

VQS Advice Blog


Learn how to create show-stopping songs to be used in films, advertisements, and TV.



Whether you’re just starting out or already a huge star, music-licensing can be extremely lucrative, AND it can bring incredible exposure to any artist.

So what does it mean to “license” your music? It means that you give a third-party entity the right to synchronize aka “sync” your music with visual media output such as movies, TV shows, ads, video games, and more. But how do you even start? Here are our top 5 tips on how to write licensable music for Film/TV and ads (and make money).

1. How to Listen Like a Director

Transforming sound into emotion.

Photo By: Spencer Imbrock

Every time you watch something, notice, how are they using music in this scene? Pay attention to the lyrics, the spacing of the words, the emotion the music adds. Music can make or break any scene —it’s so incredibly powerful! You can listen to music in…

 ✔️ Your favorite TV shows
✔️  Films
✔️ Commercials
✔️ Video games
✔️ And more

Pro tip: if you’re watching any “hip” commercials for brands like Apple or Spotify etc, notice the kind of style of music that’s “in” right now. These are trendsetters and what is in high demand for many other brands as well. So have fun and do your research!


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2. How to Make a Universal Statement

When writing music for television or film, instead of writing personal lyrics about your own specific experiences, you should instead pivot to make these songs digestible for anyone. Usually, you want to keep your lyrics universal, gender-neutral, and based on feelings rather than actual events in your personal life.

Focus on the relatable emotions you were feeling at the time instead of specifics.

For example, if you wrote a break-up song that explains that your (now ex-) girlfriend broke up with you and left you on the streets of Louisiana with a horse and a bucket full of hay, you can see that those lyrics would be way too specific to be used in a typical break-up scene.


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3. How Relevant Are You?

In Film/TV there is a much wider range of emotion in their music choices, but in the advertising world, the music typically needs to be upbeat. Your music has to invoke happiness, empowerment and in major keys. It’s also VERY common for music supervisors or ad agencies to request songs with a certain lyrical theme.

As a songwriter, you must know what themes are in high demand so that you can empower yourself with a collection of sync-ready songs!

Some of these most requested themes are: YOU CAN DO IT, LET’S GO, WOMEN EMPOWERMENT, TOGETHERNESS, FRIENDSHIP, HAVING FUN, PARTY TIME, COMING HOME, and SECRETS/LIES. These themes will change over time, so make sure you don’t miss them!

4. How Great is Your Sound Quality?

Photo By: Caught In Joy

In most cases, your music is going to have to sonically match songs on the radio if you are writing for sync. This may take a little bit of financial investment, or you’ll have to pull in a lot of favors from your engineering friend Justin. Why are so many engineers named Justin?

You have to have pro-level mixing and mastering, especially for TV and ads. In some rare cases, a filmmaker or TV show may be fine with some lo-fi poor quality sounding recordings, BUT play it safe and invest in some great equipment!

5. How to Create Maximum Impact!

Keep Your Instrumentals Fresh, Unexpected, and Bold

Don’t be afraid to take risks in your production — go crazy! It may just buy you a new motorcycle, a trip to Thailand, or best of all, help pay for your health insurance.

A great test of a song’s sync potential is listening all the way through the instrumental. Are you bored or does the song carry itself? Many brands, especially for ads want sounds that are totally new, fresh, unexpected, and bold.

Summary:

How will you use these techniques to write film-worthy songs? I’d love to hear from you!

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Article by: Sirsa Shekim

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