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.
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.
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…