Eric CampbellSongwriter / Producer / Atlanta, GA
Original Top 40 Songs for TV, Film and Recording Artitsts
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Proud is a song over a year in the making.
It came to me a few months after my wife Stacy passed away.
I played with the idea in my head for a while but didn’t fully act on it.
Then, in Oct of 2018, I committed to fully writing, producing and recording the song.
This video details the entire creative process.
Skip to 15:14 to see the final complete song.
About a month ago, I participated in an online course that taught participants how to make money licensing their music for film & television.
I just received a question via email from one of the participants. It’s such a great question, I want to share it with all of my readers. Take a look and hopefully, if you’ve had a similar question, then my answer will help shed some light for you.
I just listened to your webinar with Karen Mason and I had a question concerning music genre and where a good place would be for music placement. Our music is smooth jazz based with an urban groove. I am a member of several music supervisor sites (TAXI, Modernbeats.com, Beatstars.com and a couple others) I have had music selected on Modern Beats but still no official contact from the executives. However I seem to be hitting a flatline with TAXI. Everything I turn in has been rejected. My question for you what do you feel is a good direction to look in for instrumental urban smooth jazz music?Thank you in advance for your timeSincerely xxxxxxx
Hey xxxxxxx,Honestly, I’m not sure what the best outlet for smooth jazz is. Seems like you’ve made some music and are trying to find a home for it. It’s actually hard to succeed that way in the licensing game. It’s better to find out what’s selling and then see if you can make it.When I started with TAXI, I was doing just R&B. But at the time there were only a few listings for R&B songs. I noticed there were a lot more for Pop, Alt Rock, and EDM music. It took some time (I had to block off about 2 months where I didn’t do anything else but learn a new style of production) but I soon learned to do all three of those genres. I didn’t stick with EDM because those songs require a lot of effort but Alt Rock came easy for me. And my first placement through TAXI was an Alt Rock tune. I actually haven’t had any placements for my R&B stuff yet (although a couple have been picked up by a few publishers).Point is, there may be some occasional jazz listings on the TAXI site but probably not too much. There are some though – although they may not be urban or contemporary. The more flexible you can be, the better your chances of getting a placement. If a listing comes out for be-bop or swing or big band, you might want to give it a try. And if your musicianship is strong enough to do smooth jazz then you might be able to quickly learn how to do instrumental cues which are in high demand like quirky cues, tension cues, urban quirky cues, trailer music, etc. I found that urban quirky cues were pretty easy for me since I have an orchestral background and I know hip hop so I spent a couple of weeks just learning how to make urban quirky cues. Ended up getting a bunch of them placed on MTV and Oxygen.So, to summarize, see what’s in demand and then figure out how you can shift and make what they want. Don’t wait for the industry to come to you. Figure out what the industry wants and give it to them.Hope that helps.Eric
You’re a songwriter. You’ve got dozens of songs that you’ve written and recorded. Maybe you wrote them for yourself hoping to perform them one day. Maybe you wrote them to pitch to other artists. Either way, these songs have been sitting around for some time now and you want to do SOMETHING with them – ANYTHING. So, you think to yourself “Maybe I can get this song placed on a film or television show.”
Stop! Erase that thought now! It’s probably not going to happen. Why? Because you didn’t write the song for film/tv and you probably don’t know the rules about writing for that medium.
Yep! Sorry to say, film/tv has it’s own rules. A lot of people think that it’s just the collecting place for songs that can’t find a home anywhere else but that’s totally not the case. Many of the songs you hear on your favorite shows,were written by a songwriter like myself who has studied the rules of writing for film/tv. So, what are these rules? That’s what I’m going to share with you in this article.
First, let me give a huge shout out to Karen Marie Mason who gave me the idea to write this article.
Second, let me give you some background on who I am.
About two years ago I decided to focus on writing for tv/film. I knew a few people who were successfully getting regular placements on big tv shows. After talking with them, it seemed like obtaining placements for myself was definitely a reasonable goal.
Step one: I joined TAXI – the A&R organization. I had some experience dealing with them so I knew they were legit. Plus, many of the successful composers I knew with tv/film placements got their start with TAXI.
The first year as a member was quite eye-opening. I considered myself a good writer, but I learned a whole lot about making my songs stronger. By year two my songs were landing in the hands of some really reputable film/tv publishers. Then, in year three, my songs started appearing in a number of highly watched shows. By the end of 2015, my music had been included in Revenge (ABC), Chicago Fire (NBC), Shameless (Showtime), The Fosters (ABC Family), Dash Dolls and MTV’s Tru Life.
One of the critical things I learned in that first year was the difference between songs that an artist will sing and songs that are synced to the screen.
With a recording artist, it is important that the song tells a complete story. You’re relying on your lyrics, melody and the artist’s vocal delivery to move the listener emotionally. Doing this requires as many descriptive and emotional details as you can fit in a 3:20 song.
Writing for screen is a totally different. In this case, the screen is already telling a story – the actors, the background setting and the dialog are all working together to give the listener an experience. Music is often needed to accentuate or add to the story that’s being told. However, it can’t conflict or take away or tell a different story from the one that’s already on the screen.
While descriptive details are quite helpful in artist songs, in songs for the screen, too many details can be conflicting.
For example, say you’ve got a great song about heartbreak. Awesome, there are lots of film scenes that could use an emotional heartbreak song. But if your opening line is “She left me on a Monday” well suddenly your song only works for shows where the breakup actually occurred on a Monday.
Or, let’s say it’s a scene where two lovers realize that they can’t be without one another and they start running through the country field towards each other. As they embrace in the middle, your song “You were made for me” comes on. Perfect. But then in the 2nd verse, when you say “You’re the prettiest girl in NY city and your red dress caught my eye” everything is ruined. Why? Because this scene isn’t shot in a city and the main actress is actually wearing a white dress.
See where I’m going? For film, LESS details are needed, not more. This leaves room for the screen to tell the rest of the story.
So, am I saying that songs for tv/film needs to be simplistic and basic and devoid of any substance? Not at all! Quite the contrary. For where songs for screen lack descriptive detail, they fill that space with tons and tons of “EMOTIONAL DETAILS”.
So, if I’m writing for screen, I may not include descriptions of locations or clothing or physical features. Instead, I can really dig deeper into the true emotion of the song. If it’s a heartbreak song, there’s lots that I can say about the physical pain I feel about the relationship being over. I can describe my eyes which no longer function because they can’t see anyone but you. I can describe the stomach pains I feel from not being able to eat. I can describe the long nights laying awake, staring at the ceiling (but I don’t describe the ceiling) wondering where I went wrong and thinking about what I should have done differently.
Interestingly, writing for film and tv has actually made my songs for artists even stronger – because I have learned to write songs with nothing but emotional detail. Being able to add that emotion to artist songs has made them that much more compelling.
So, there you have it. If you want to write for tv & film, you have to learn to write with lots of emotional detail.
If you would like to learn more, an excellent resource is a book by Robin Frederick called “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV”. You can find it on Amazon.
If you’d like to get access to the rest of this series where I discuss how to get your music on television and film, sign up for my newsletter by clicking on this link
Again, I want to thank Karen Marie Mason for the idea to write this blog. Karen is full of amazing marketing and branding ideas for musicians. She shares a lot of these ideas on the Artist Launch group on Facebook which she founded. If you’re a musician or recording artist looking for ways to thrive in today’s music industry, check out the Artist Launch group at the following link.
This would be an incomplete list but the first things that come to mind for me: Mass Shootings, Cancer research, Social Justice, Climate Change
Now that we see the light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic, we've got to immediately shift, with the same intensity, to the problems that plagued us before 2020