Writing for TV, Film and Adverts (Sync)

As a songwriter you may have wondered how you get into writing for TV, Film or Adverts or even if you should.

This blog post is designed to give you an insight into how you can enter this world and make the most of every opportunity.

First of all, whether you should get into sync will depend on how successful you are as a songwriter already.  If you are already earning considerable money writing for other artists (or yourself) then writing for sync may be counterproductive because of the amount of time you’ll need to put into this area and it would detract from what you are already doing well at.

If you feel that you have the time and could be doing better financially from your songs then sync is a great area to go into, with placements on TV ranging from around £1500-£2500, adverts around £59,000 and film trailers upto £200,000 (sometimes plus royalties per play).  This blog also covers writing for video games, but the process is slightly different and you will likely never be offered royalties.

Points to consider

  • You need to write to briefs, so it is a good idea to get used to this by finding some online – taximusic allows you to view all current briefs without a subscription (because they want you to join up) and this can be a useful place to start looking at real life examples to see if you can work to a brief.
  • Always listen to the reference songs.  Often the people making the choices for music are not musicians themselves.  They chose those examples for a reason.  If your song is nothing like it, it is very unlikely to even get forwarded, let alone chosen for the final cut.
  • Remember that in many cases turnaround times are extremely quick.  You will need to be on form as a writer and potentially have your own recording equipment to be in the best position to succeed in this line of business.
  • Your lyric writing style will need to change from ‘normal’ songs.  You need to write universal lyrics that can compliment the picture – themes that often come up are “Coming home”, “Female empowerment”, “Go get it/success”, “non-romantic love”.
  • Don’t use samples from other songs – it won’t get clearance and you will never be trusted again.
  • If you write with anyone else, make sure you have a split agreement in place before sending any songs off.  Once they decide on your song being the one they will want this within hours and if you aren’t ready, they will choose another one instead.
  • Decide if your song can be ‘one stop’.  This means that all writers have given their permission for any writer involved to sign the song to non-exclusive agreements without further consultation.  This makes it much easier for the music supervisors to accept material. If you’ve written it alone, write “one stop” on the metadata
  • Make sure that you own (or have permission to use) the master rights and publishing rights to the song. If you work with a producer, have that discussion about master rights ownership and usage permissions.
  • There are a number of sites online that are looking for songs – songtradr, taxi, syncr music, crucial to name just a few.  They will take a percentage and in some you will have to pay subscription and/or submission fees but this is normal in the industry.
  • Research Music Supervisors for your favourite shows.  Find their contact details and try and contact them IF YOU HAVE A SONG that fits what they are working on – they will receive hundreds of emails a day.  The first time you waste their time with something that isn’t up to scratch or isn’t what they need will be the last time they open your email.  Don’t underestimate that point.
  • Collaborate!  It’s not only fun, it cuts down the work and means you can do more and it also brings new ideas to the table and can make your songs really fresh and standout.
  • They need songs which have a lot of different sections and a build up to the end, especially with advert music.  Flat sounding songs with little movement will not have many places in this arena.

Include Metadata

It’s really important that you include sufficient metadata on your tracks so that they know who the song belongs to.  Include the title, the composer/s, whether it’s one stop or not, an email and contact telephone number, some keywords about the mood of the track or lyrical content (so that it can be searched later).  This is really important because if you send a song to a supervisor who likes it – and they then email their boss, who sends it to an editor, who then forwards it to an advertising agency, who then get back and say we want this one, without metadata they might have no idea who wrote the song or where to go to get clearance.  So be prepared!

Writing for sync can be a really rewarding career.  It takes a lot of time and patience to get it right, but with most things the answers are out there – watch adverts! Listen to TV music, hear what themes and musical styles are being used and make your own versions of it!

Good luck!