Exposure

songwriting contest entry 

Connect to us:

 email

Email Subscribe

Your email:

Browse by Tag

Songwriting Tips, News & More

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

4 Songwriting Tips For Scoring Film and TV Placements

  
  
  
  
  
  

4 Songwriting Tips For SCORING Film and TV Placements

By Jamie Ledger

Songwriting

Many of the traditional income streams for Songwriters and Independent artists have changed along with an evolving New Music Industry landscape.

Today, one of the most substantial and DESIRED income streams is in the licensing and placement of an Artist/Songwriters music in Film, Television, Advertising, and Video Games.

 

These opportunities bring front-end licensing payouts, which can be LARGE, as well as any back-end royalties.

The other glaringly significant benefit is that of the relationship established with the receiving company or publisher, not to mention the credibility of building a reputation through placements and credits in the real world.

 

But how do you know if  YOUR music, a sure-fire SMASH destined for radio play and blockbuster success, is appropriate for Film and TV Placement?

 

Well today we are going to delve into some songwriting tips and optimization concepts to help you take what you have, or, use what you ALREADY know-to write new songs or rewrite existing ones which give yourself a better chance at scoring a sweet placement and handsome paycheck for your hard work.

 

Today, we’ll cover 4 Key Writing Tips For SCORING Film and TV Placements:

 

1) Pay Attention To What’s Working

Wow. This one couldn’t be more obvious. But it’s worth stating over and over again. See one of the GREAT things about the Music Industry is that ALL the information is freely available to listen to and study.

It is a good idea for you to REALLY understand what is being used out there, and WHY. It won’t take long until you have an intuitive grasp for which stuff might work for which opportunity. Once you get to this level, you will be leaps and bounds ahead of those who haphazardly submit any-ol-song to any-ol-opportunity, just HOPING that maybe something will hit.

 

Exercise:

Choose one-to-three prime-time DRAMA Television shows to study for several episodes, or even for a whole season. Place a pillow case, or maybe a bed-sheet if you have a BIG-SCREEN over the TV so you cannot see, but still can hear. Watch, or LISTEN, with a notepad and pencil. Try to describe both the MUSIC, and the scene that the music is placed in.

Try to be AS descriptive as you can, using as much vivid imagery and emotional detail as possible.

 

2) Label and Tag Your Songs Well

Whether one of your songs is selected from a Music Production Library, a hand-selected by a referring 3rd party, or shopped through a song-plugger service or music publisher; Be SMART and label your songs with the person who’ll be “flipping through the pile” in mind.

As Robin Frederick says – by suggesting a character, situation, or action in your title you can make your song a natural for film and tv placement.

Obviously, “Track 3″ is a no-go, but for example, Hot Summer Night, is a title that would give a music supervisor or director a good frame of reference of what the theme of the song is about very easily.

 

Exercise:

While watching/listening to your selected TV shows try to sum up the action, characters involved, or the situation. Also, try to name the emotions felt during a scene, in descriptive words.

 

3) Write Songs With Universal Lyrics

Everyone always harps on universal lyrics and many think that universal means VAGUE or CLICHE. It does not.

Universal lyrics mean that MOST people can relate to it in some way. It’s about expressing and describing the EMOTION underneath a specific afternoon you and your girlfriend spent at the fair on madison avenue while eating cotton candy and talking about your favorite books…

Universal lyrics = Explaining the feelings of a fantastic day and using non-specific imagery and emotion. Which everyone can relate to.

It’s simply a matter of getting to the heart of a specific experience or story that you are trying to tell, and telling it so that others can receive the emotional message you are trying to express.

 

Exercise:

Take a song that you’ve written that was both personal and overly specific. Identify the underlying “theme,” and drill down into the emotional message. Rewrite that song with more universal lyrics so that you are focused on translating a feeling or common experience by communicating the “universal aspects” which underlie the specific elements used in the song.

 

4) Express One Clear Emotion

Your music should convey an emotional statement or deliver a vibe that translates to a feeling, atmosphere, or mood.

Using major and minor chords can directly impact the mood of the song. Use this to support and enhance the message and emotion you are delivering so that it is cohesive.

If you are purposefully trying to “break the rules” i.e create an defiant contrast to cheerful lyrics by creating a dark or sullen musical atmosphere, or vice versa, then only do that once you know enough to consciously do it. Until then, try to make everything work together using all the elements of your craft to express ONE cohesive emotional message or communication.

 

Exercise:

For the next song you write, whether you create the chord progression OR the lyric first…

Consciously be aware of, and describe IN WORDS, how the music supports the emotional message of the song.

Remember, it’s ALL about communication.

 

Now go and try these out for yourself, and be sure to tell me what you found, didn’t find… Worked, didn’t work. Let me know if this was helpful or not!

Is there any other tips and ideas you’d like to add or expand on?

 

Jamie Ledger, a expert on Indie Artist Development, Songwriting, and Music Production. He can be reached at: http://www.jamieleger.com/

For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, go to: http://www.songwriting.net


Songwriting Tips: Your Best Friend Melody

  
  
  
  
  
  

Songwriting Tips: Your Best Friend Melody

by Ralph Murphy

Ralph Murphy, Songwriter

Ah melody! A songwriters best friend, your beacon in the night, an integral part of only great songs that makes your compositions shine, the signpost that points the way to a hit.

 
Yes, melody is all that and more. Perhaps too much more. As I deal with the affect of melody extensively in "The Book" and USA Songwriting Competition has asked me to be brief...I will be.

 
Unless you are dealing with an audience ready to dance and you are looking at 110 to 135 Beats Per Minute (BPM) at midnight, even then, what probably lures listener to you song is melody. However, what keeps them there is lyric, a simple story well told. I have friends tell me that they love this song or that song but they say they don't know the words. When I play "that song" for them surprisingly they know the lyric! What invites the listener into the song is melody, what keeps them there for a long time is lyric.

 
It is an interesting characteristic of the human animal that we are not very good at auditory multi-functioning.......hearing more than one moving part simultaneously. When that happens, given our preference we always defer to melody. So, where you tell your story and you want the audience to listen, remain linear otherwise you don't lead the listener to the lyric.


To quote my old pal Harlan Howard "Don't change your chord 'till you change your thought"!

 

However, on the other side of the coin, as a "creator of works" if you are called on to write for an artist with a huge vocal range and the ability to soar musically is part of their musical "persona" then you respond accordingly. One syllable words, open vowel sounds, minimal story and a huge melody are your best friends.


Always remember, you the writer must fulfill not only the listeners expectation but also the artists perception of the image they wish to project. When that happens it is a wonderful thing, everyone high fives and celebrates. When it doesn't happen the songwriter gets the blame!


Ralph Murphy is a producer and songwriter. He wrote huge hit songs such as Crystal Gayle "Talking in Your Sleep" and "Half the Way". Murphy has served as President of The Nashville Chapter of the Recording Academy and has been a NARAS National Trustee. Add to that the platinum records as a producer, the widely acclaimed Murphy’s Laws of Songwriting articles used as part of curriculum at colleges, universities, and by songwriter organizations, his success as the publisher and co-owner of the extremely successful Picalic Group of Companies and you see a pattern of achievement based on more than luck. For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, please go to: http://www.songwriting.net

On Being A Professional Songwriter

  
  
  
  
  
  

On Being A Professional Songwriter by Danny Arena 

Almost Famous? Money For Nothing And Your Chicks For Free? I received an email this week from a songwriter who thought writing a hit song would lead them to financial independence. This is not the first time I have received such an email. In fact they come regularly, this was the second email on the topic I received this week (I'm staring at another one right now). I still had to shake my head and wonder. Is there really that much misinformation out there about the business of being a songwriter? If so, I really need to find out who's doing the PR for the entire songwriting profession and congratulate them on a job well done. 


Well, let's shed some light on this and talk about some of these reasons why you might consider becoming a songwriter:

  • Fame? Ummm, actually no. The songwriter usually remains unknown unless they are also the artist singing the song. How many non-songwriters out there know who Joe Leathers is? Did you know that Tim McGraw sang a song Joe co-wrote called, "Still" recently on the ACM Awards on national TV? How about Georgia Middleman? Keith Urban sang a song she co-wrote, "I'm In" , on the ACM Awards. Both songs are likely to be big hits, yet not many people will know the writers behind the songs. Dave Berg was ASCAP Songwriter of The Year a couple years ago. This is considered one of the highest awards a songwriter can receive...does his name ring any bells? Probably not unless you're in the music business. And those rare times when the songwriter is mentioned or acknowledged, it's not uncommon to find incomplete or missing relevant information. I read in the newspaper the day after the ACM's the following blurb: "For his latest single, Keith Urban looked toward one of his favorite writers, Radney Foster, for a rockin number called, "I'm In". The author of the article managed to leave out the name of Radney's co-writer on the song, Georgia Middleman (Radney is a former major label artist, hence the extra recognition he has). No, fame and glory are definitely not included in the benefits package for the professional songwriter. Sure, you might get a "that's cool" at your high-school reunion when they find out what you do for a living. But the truth is that even the most successful songwriters are only well-known in a relatively small circle.
  • Make Lots of Money? Yes, surely, you should consider becoming a songwriter if money's tight and you need to make a few bucks quickly. Uh, no. Do you know the difference between a large pizza and a songwriter? One of them can feed a family of four (the other delivers the pizza for a living). Know how to make a million dollars as a songwriter? Start with 1.2 million. There's a reason why jokes like this exist. It's because there's a grain of truth in them. Very, very few songwriters actually make a living from writing songs full time. Those that do usually have been working steadily at it for a very long time. It might take a good 7-15 years working at it full time before you actually start seeing any money from your hard work. And yes, if you are one of the few songwriters who catches lightning in a bottle and lands a big hit song, you might make $300,000 in one year (before taxes). But as any financial advisor would tell you, when you average that big windfall over the 10 years prior when you've made next to nothing, it turns out you would have done better financially working at the local Lowe's Hardware. Plus you'd get health benefits (something that's not part of the deal when you're a professional songwriter). So, if you're looking for a sound financial plan, landing a gig as a professional or hit songwriter probably isn't the best career path for you.
  • Job Stability? Sorry, no. The couple hundred songwriters who are lucky enough to land a steady gig writing songs usually sign a 1-5 year contract with a publishing company that has an option at the end of each year. That option is for the publishing company to decide whether or not they want to keep you around for another year. In other words, every year you're "on the bubble". So if you go a couple of years without some significant action on your songs, you're likely to be out on the streets looking for another writing deal. I might also add that the job itself is inherently fraught with highs and lows. Having lived this life now for a number of years, I most definitely would not call it a "smooth ride". One day you might get a call from the head of the record label on his airplane saying that they're going to cut one of your songs on a well-known group. But a month later, the group breaks up or declares bankruptcy. You might find out you have the next single on an established artist on a major label. But then out of nowhere, the record label shuts its doors and your single is dead in the water. You could attend opening night on Broadway and see your songs performed on stage but come back to the hotel to an email that informs you that your publishing company is closing so they can't pick up your option. Signing on for a career in songwriting is definitely signing up for a roller coaster ride [author's note: yes, as you've probably guessed, those are all real examples from the life of real songwriters, myself included]. 
    Ok, so why become a songwriter then if it's such an incredibly difficult, unstable and financially unwise lifestyle? Well, Well, every once in a while all the stars line up in the universe and it's magic. You hear your song on the radio or you watch Tim McGraw singing your song on TV or Raul Esparza belting your song on Broadway. And it's that one brief moment that you always dream about as a songwriter...it's the thing that keeps you going through the days when you're out of a job, or people criticize your work and tell you that it's impossible to make it as a songwriter. You work your butt off for 10-12 years to get that one brief second where you feel like it's all worth it. And when it happens, it's truly a magical moment. My wife, Sara Light and I, have been lucky enough during our years as songwriters to catch lightning in a bottle a few times. I was actually nominated for a Tony Award the same year as three of my childhood idols who I always wanted to be like -- Elton John, Billy Joel and Michel Legrand (you may not recognize this last name...see point #1 above about fame). It was an unbelievable dream come true for me.

So while watching the ACM Awards on TV the other night, the first thing I did when I saw Tim McGraw singing Joe Leathers song was to email Joe a note to congratulate him. Right after that, I phoned Georgia Middleman and did the same...because when you get down to it, here's the thing. Songwriting is a calling - not a career choice. Those who succeed as songwriters didn't pick it as a lifestyle. Songwriting picked them. If I could give this up and choose another career and be happy doing it, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But I can't. This is what I do. It's what I've always wanted to do. It's what fills my soul. And given the choice, I'd do it all over again. Every professional songwriter I know is the same way. We can't not write songs. That business stuff -- just comes along for the ride, good and bad...and if you're still reading this and I haven't managed to convince you to not become a songwriter by this point, then welcome to the hood. You're a songwriter.


Songwriter Danny Arena Danny Arena 
is a Tony-Award nominated songwriter and co-founder of www.SongU.com. SongU.com provides multi-level song writing courses developed by award-winning songwriters, song feedback, mentoring, one-on-one song coaching, co-writing, unscreened pitching opportunities and more. For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, visit: http://www.songwriting.net

Songwriting Tip: Creating in a Group, The Collaborating Game

  
  
  
  
  
  

Creating in a Group – The Collaborating Game

 Pat & Pete Luboff

Here’s a fun way to get your creative juices flowing. Get two or three, or more people in a room to play the collaboration game. The rules are simple:

 

1. NO NOES!

 

You can point to your nose and shake your head to emphasize this rule! This means anything goes! Ignore all your self-imposed limitations and barriers. Utterances such as “I can’t sing,” “That won’t work,” “I’m not good at lyrics,” “That’s stupid,” and all the variations on that theme are NOT ALLOWED. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to eliminate the negative if everyone agrees to this rule.

 

2. NO EVALUATIONS

 

If you judge your ideas before you express them or simultaneously with expressing them, you stop the flow of your ideas. When working in a group, each person has the responsibility to say WHATEVER IDEAS ARE TRIGGERED IN THE PROCESS. If you think to yourself, (trying to avoid Rule 1 by not saying it out loud) “That’s stupid,” and stop yourself from saying it, you have eliminated the stimulus that might have inspired the next person’s thought. Our rule of thumb is, if you really think it’s stupid, you are OBLIGATED to say it out loud. In the early stages of creating, all ideas are good ideas! The time for judging them comes much later in the process. Leave your judge outside the door for now.

 

3. STAY POSITIVE

 

No noes means all yeses! Every idea can be greeted with a “yes.” Every idea will inspire new ideas in other members of the group. Here are some positive phrases that can be used to build on ideas:

 

Yes, and…. Suppose…. Another idea….

Or…. Also…. How about….

What if…. And…. Let’s….

 

These phrases are indispensable tools for expressing respect for all the ideas that flow in a collaboration.

 

 

4. HAVE FUN!

 

Be silly. Make jokes. Say the wildest thing you can think of. Laugh! Aren’t we lucky to be writing songs?

 

Let’s play the collaboration game:

 

You can use any photo as the stimulus for the game. For example, use a photograph of two people kissing.

 

There’s one at http://www.masters-of-photography.com/D/doisneau/doisneau_kiss.html Double-click the photo and it will be large enough to fill one page, which you can print out. Each person in the room takes a turn saying a sentence or two about the story of the picture.

 

The idea is to say anything that comes to mind very quickly and then pass the picture to the next person. Keep going round and round until you really feel you’ve dug that kissing well as deep as you can! Here are a couple of examples:

- She just told him she’s pregnant.

- Their braces are stuck together and they’re going to an orthodontist to get unstuck.

- He doesn’t know her at all. He’s kissing her to distract her while he picks her pocket.

 

There is no end to the ideas that you can come up with. What did s/he he say just before this photo was taken? What are the fellow behind them and the woman next to them thinking? What’s going to happen next? These are the questions you will be asking about the people in your songs, so you are practicing the art of characterization.

 

This game of getting the creative flow going without boundaries can be played with any photograph or curious item. You will have to remind yourself to return to the fun, open attitude of this game whenever you feel yourself getting bogged down creatively.

 

Collaboration business tip: We think it’s best if everyone agrees up front that the song will be shared equally by all the writers who are participating in the collaboration. Mathematics can kill a collaboration. That’s why they call it division!

 

Write On!

 

Pat & Pete Luboff have recordings by Snoop Dogg ("Trust Me," the first single from the platinum-selling album "Top Dogg") Patti LaBelle (gold album and the title song for "Body Language: the Musical"), Bobby Womack (No. 2 on Billboard's Black Music chart), "Hometown, USA" from the John Travolta movie "Experts," on Michael Peterson's new CD, recently charting Miko Marks, and more.  They've been teaching songwriting workshops together since 1979. The Luboffs are the authors of the Writer's Digest new book "101 Songwriting Wrongs and How to Right Them" and "12 Steps to Building Better Songs," which they self-publish. For more information, visit http://www.writesongs.com

Songwriting Tips: Jonathan George Songwriter/Producer

  
  
  
  
  
  

Jonathan George, Songwriter/Producer speaks about songwriting and collaborating with music artists, songwriters and bands. He won overall grand prize in the 2009 USA Songwriting Competition with Sarah Lonsert and Jami Templeton:

Five Steps To Improve Your Songwriting

  
  
  
  
  
  
by Ira Greenfield

I have been asked so many times how do you write a good song. Here are five main ways you can use to your advantage:

1. Song Structure
We have received many songs at the USA Songwriting Competition. Many songs received are free-formed and hard to follow. Every good song has a good structure such as AABA or Verse/Refrain. Structure such as: verse leads to the chorus back to the verse and then chorus, bridge and lastly chorus is probably the most popular. Let’s stick to what works and then break the rules once you are good at it.

2. Compose Good Lyrics
I like songs with a good story or lyrics that actually say something. Avoid cliches such as “I’ll never break your heart, I’ll never tear you apart”, words like that has been done before and you want to say it in a different angle. Write lyrics that would bring imagery to the listener as well as a hook to it. You want a theme to begin with it. A good idea is “Unbreak My Heart”, this shows great sense of craft and artistry even in the title itself. In this case, the writer “created” a word “Unbreak”. If it was “Don’t Break My Heart”, it would have been quite ordinary and would not have the same effect.

3. Compose Good Melodies
Many songs we received sound more improvisational than actual composition. You have to sit down to sculpt out a melody for the verse and a melody or hook for the chorus. You want to make the melody chorus sound memorable and sound a little different from the verse. Good melodies are found in the current hit “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum. The bang on chorus is catchy and well thought out.

4. Developing good chord structure and background music.
You need a good chord progression to go with your melody. It doesn’t matter which come first and it doesn’t matter if you collaborate with someone who is a keyboardist, guitarist or producer who writes a great chord progression or produces a music “bed” for you to write your melody. There is no secret many hit songwriters/artists do it this way: Jason Derülo, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey have all written songs this way by going over a piece of background music.

5. Artistry And Intangibles
This is probably the hardest to come by. Iconic songs such as “Boom Boom Pow” by Black Eye Peas, “Poker Face” by Lady Ga Ga, “Californication” by Red Hot Chilli Peppers, “Believe” by Cher, “Angie” by Rolling Stones, “My Way” by Paul Anka are examples of songs that have been composed and re-composed over many times before the song can be recorded. Love them or hate them, there is a sense of artistry in each an every one of these songs. I would suggest focus on what you are good at: If you are good at say writing music but not so good at writing lyrics, I would suggest hooking up with a lyricist, someone who can write good lyrics.

Ira Greenfield works in business development at USA Songwriting Competition. For more information on USA Songwriting Competition, please visit: http://www.songwriting.net.
All Posts