The road to get your music synced can feel never-ending.

Writing music for film and television can feel like an uphill battle. There seems to be a false notion that if you’re not in some ‘inner circle’ it’s impossible to get placed on TV and Film. But that’s not always the case. While there is no secret recipe to sync, there are a few tips to increase your chances of placement when first pitching your music for a project.

1. Research the director

It’s important to study who you’re writing for, including their past and current projects. Directors will often establish themes throughout their career allowing you to analyze and write for future projects. A great way to study a directors catalog is to use IMDB. Take time to familiarize yourself with their pedigree and create music that falls within their ballpark. In the end, music supervisors and producers play a crucial role, however, don’t lose sight of the director’s vision.

2. Write music with purpose

Most mainstream movies and television shows are usually based on typical formats. We will cover 4 of the most common ones here.

The Hero’s Journey

There are 12 stages of the Hero’s Journey, each with very different emotions (see The 12 Stages here). The 4th stage, “Meeting the Mentor” is especially significant as this is where the main character connects with their mentor who either trains or gives advice in order to overcome the obstacle. The music should evoke the emotions of inner strength while facing trials and tribulations.

 

The Love Story

Many love stories follow a similar timeline. Meet ⇒ Fall in love ⇒ Hit an obstacle ⇒ Conquer or be conquered by said obstacle ⇒ Reaffirm love. We hope our characters end up together, however, love can be warm like a chocolate bath or cold like a Siberian winter. Consequently, song message and tone can vary here, portraying fondness, passion, heartbreak, romance and so on. In most cases, death metal probably won’t work!

 

Good vs. Evil

These movies tend to be highly dramatic, over the top, fun and extraordinary. They can range anywhere from a summer blockbuster to your standard zombie flick. The music is generally intense and high tempo, however, there are opportunities where the music can play completely counter to what you would expect e.g. Shaun of the Dead’s use of Queen’s iconic, “Don’t Stop Me Now”.

 

The Inspirational Underdog

The main character’s journey is usually laced with highs and lows and the music must obviously reflect this. Can you even imagine this memorable scene from Forrest Gump (below) without its powerfully uplifting music? 

 

3. Choose universal themes

You can be generic while still being authentic. Although a scene about a woman named Mariska in a small, obscure German town drinking tea and eating liverwurst may exist, having a song specifically about that scenario will most likely only fit that one scene. Music about broader themes and emotions will greatly increase the likelihood of fitting in more scenes.

4. Select a fitting genre

Now that you know the director and the theme of the project, you will need to choose a fitting genre while embracing the styles of music that best suit your capabilities. If you’re an indie pop-rock artist, creating a full orchestral score may not be in your wheelhouse. Play to your strengths.

5. Write to create emotion

We’ve been talking a lot about emotion, and that’s because movies and television shows are designed to evoke emotion. Music plays a key role in creating emotion but which is the right one? Identifying that emotion or message is essential to the inspiration behind making the ‘right’ music. Ultimately, this is what connects the audience to the scene. 

6. Invest in quality

This is an important factor and cannot be overlooked. If you believe in your music, it’s worthwhile to ensure that the end product is professional. You may have the most incredible or unique song, but if it’s poorly produced, buyers may not be able to use it.

Final Word

Ultimately, the job of the music is to support and enhance the picture. After all, when you watch a movie or TV show, you’re also listening…

 

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14 Comments

Frank P Johnson · November 7, 2017 at 6:42 pm

Excellent article and I’m sure this information would be very useful given particular circumstances such as knowing the screen play, Director, and particular scene one would be writing for. Unfortunately with the Songtradr composer having little knowledge what circumstances the music is subject to and normally only a few hours to deliver a successful product for review typically can be at a disadvantage. That having been said I’m sure there are many composers or portfolios with a tremendous catalogues that can fit many bills. All in all I still appreciate the advice and encouragement Songtradr has shared with me. I do wait for some deposits from Licenses that have been acquired thus far. Thank You.

Joel Nathaniels · November 25, 2017 at 1:51 am

informative…

Brad Majors · February 22, 2018 at 7:50 pm

Thank you for the very informative information , I value these types of e-mails in my inbox . I hope to hear more from Zac Harding , please keep up the great work Zac !

Alan Brown · February 22, 2018 at 7:56 pm

Really? Advice from someone who works for Songtradr but doesn’t have experience of actually getting synced. That explains the completely useless advice. Know your director? Really. How do you do that? That isn’t how this platform works at all. This is a terrible “article” that Songtradr should be ashamed of.

    Brian Bonnette · February 23, 2018 at 2:01 am

    i was thinking same thing about the director advice… but the rest of the article is cool

    Tom · February 23, 2018 at 3:02 am

    Your point has some validity, Alan… but no need to be so crabby 🙂

    Chris Dunnett · February 23, 2018 at 6:23 am

    Alan, having several syncs myself I also thought that was rather odd advice. Seldom does the musician come in contact with and/or even know who the director is and many TV shows use different directors for each episode. Much of what’s in this article I felt was on track but that one made me say “really?” also lol

Trap Jesus · February 22, 2018 at 8:24 pm

Great article, Zac!

Lintro Music Publishing · February 22, 2018 at 11:48 pm

Thank you again Songtradr for unwavering informative music business tips and advice. And we look forward to getting our music in sync licensing on your well esteemed platform.

Joaquin Matus · February 23, 2018 at 5:12 pm

Hans Zimmer’s masterclass makes a very valid and important point on knowing your director. Though it sounds like rubbish and a waste of time. IF and only if you DO come in contact face to face with the director, be sure huge doors open up for that and many other important projects to come.

Amy Elizabeth Wheeler · February 25, 2018 at 9:07 am

“Music plays a key role in creating emotion but which is the right one? Identifying that emotion or message is essential to the inspiration behind making the ‘right’ music. ”
“Mood” is a better word to use when tackling this part of composing. It’s wiser (and easier) to shoot for acing the mood rather than the emotion of a particular scene since emotions are complex and what triggers them may vary greatly from person to person – especially when using music. As directed, the actors are the ones responsible for creating the emotion audiences should feel and music is there to support and enhance that. So when you are composing for a scene, give focus to the actors’ mood and let them express the emotion. If the music eclipses the actor, the director won’t buy it.

Lizzie D Bolton · March 12, 2018 at 5:03 am

Am song writer working on my first book about Ms.U’NIQUE $$$$$$

Bram · September 18, 2018 at 9:50 pm

I love how you pointed out that many works of music usually have a purpose in mind when written. Whether it is to emphasize a certain section or convey a mood, music is important. Do you have any more tips for background music?

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