Parameters For Songs Written For Licensing

Posted by Aaron Davison on Friday, October 11, 2013 Under: October 13

When writing songs specifically for TV and Film placements there are some general parameters to keep in mind that will help you write songs that are more "licensable".  These are general guidelines, they are not hard and fast rules.  There are always exceptions, but generally speaking the songs you are submitting for licensing opportunities should adhere to the following guidelines:

1)  No long Intros - Avoid long winded boring intros that just seem to drag on and on and on and never seem to end and just seem and take forever before they finally get to the point of what it is that you are ultimately trying to say.  That last sentence was intentionally a run on sentence to illustrate a point. Just like your time is important and you don't want to waste it reading redundant sentences, supervisors don't want to spend forever waiting for your song to start.  Get to the point.  Quick. Also keep in mind that songs that are placed in tv shows and films are not generally used in their entirety, so your songs have a shorter time frame to work. 

2)  Get to The Hook Quickly - This ties into the first parameter. My publisher always says "Don't' Bore Us Get To The Chorus".  It's kind of a corny expression, but it's something you should adhere to.  Just as you don't want to bore listeners with long winded intros, you also don't want to wait to long to get to the hook. Try to get there as quickly as possible. 

3)  Make Sure You Have A Hook - Speaking of hooks, make sure your song has one. Generally speaking, you want to write very catchy, powerful hooks. Sometimes songs start really strong, have a great verse that builds nicely and then goes... nowhere. Make sure the hook of your song is distinct and ... well....make sure that it "hooks" the listener.  This is kind of hard to articulate, but we all know when a song has a powerful hook. Make sure your songs have them.

4)  Lyrics That Are Universal - When it comes to lyrics, make sure the lyrics you write are universal enough that they could work in a variety of situations. Themes like love, lost love, overcoming adversity, looking for love and so on tend to work because so many story lines are centered around these themes. Unless you are pitching to a specific project where they are asking for something different, make sure your lyrics work in a variety of situations. Watch and pay attention to songs used in TV Shows and Films and how the lyrics relate to the story line. Usually there is an obvious connection.

5)  Well Produced And Mastered Tracks - I've written extensively about the importance of production in the past in the context of music licensing.  The more high profile the placement the more important the production quality becomes. For your music to make it into a primetime tv show or a feature film your production needs to be excellent.  The more competitive the licensing landscape becomes, the more this is the case.  It's also important that not only are your tracks well produced, but that they are well mastered too. I plan on doing a newsletter in the near future just about the topic of mastering.  But for now I'll just say it's important.  So make sure you don't skip this critical step of the production process.

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In : October 13 

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