Get into Composing for Film & TV
By Tamara Miller
Ever dreamed about placing your music on your favourite TV show ? You have now entered the field of production music . Here are some ways you can start !
What is production music ? Simply , it ’ s music written specifically for sync . These audio-visual productions can include film , television , advertising , and web content . A composer could write an instrumental piece of music for a TV show or a singer-songwriter might compose a piano ballad for a film . There are so many genres and styles of music used every day in the sync world .
My very first song placement landed on the hit teen drama series , Degrassi : The Next Generation . My song “ 60 Seconds ” ( produced by Ron Lopata ) aired on the series and it was such a thrill to see it synced to picture ! I figured there must be more to the placement world , so I kept going and learned that there are so many great opportunities for musicians to license their music . Now , especially with live music taking a major hit , many more musicians have been exploring production music and composing for music libraries .
Music libraries house catalogues of highquality music in all genres that is available to be licensed for commercials , TV , and film . Some production music libraries might be a better fit for you than others . Check them out and ask around . It ’ s also a good idea to see what music you might be able to fill and what a library might currently need in its catalogue .
When you are reaching out to these libraries , be personable , kind , and just let them know about the amazing work you are doing ! Libraries are always looking for new music . Sending downloadable ( not just streaming ) links with your contact information is an excellent way to showcase your music . You might want to organize a playlist of three to five of your best tracks to showcase your work . Music libraries have really improved over the years , so be sure to bring your “ A ” game !
Nine things to consider when writing production music :
1 . Know your strengths and work on your craft : The more you write , the more creative you will be ! Your ideas will start brewing and you ’ ll get better at your craft . Try to do something every single day , even if it ’ s writing just a few bars of music .
2 . Really listen to what ’ s out there : Listen to TV shows , commercials , documentaries , and films . Do your homework and make notes ! Close your eyes and just listen to the music on your favourite program . What is the duration of the tracks used per scene ? Does the music and mood build and change throughout the scene ? Try to score your own music with the episode muted and see what you come up with . How does your own piece of music compare or change the mood to what was already scored in the show ? This fun exercise really trains your ears to see how production music is being used . Production music is music “ not to be noticed ,” but without background music , the scene would feel quite bare . Placing a great piece of music to a visual on screen is like peanut butter to jelly . They both need each other to work !
3 . Join music communities & organizations : Join Facebook groups , music forums , LinkedIn music groups — participate and learn from one another . It ’ s also a great way to meet other producers , composers , and maybe your next collaborator .
4 . Deadlines : Production music deadlines are quick . Write as much music as you can and make sure your files are properly labeled , organized , and easy to find . The more music you have in your catalogue , the more money you will make in your career .
5 . Royalties : Sign up with a performing rights organization ( PRO ) like SOCAN to collect your backend royalties . You will get paid each time your music airs on TV . You will likely see your backend royalties arrive anywhere from six months to two years later ( depending on the territory where the production aired ), but it will get there ! You also might get a synchronization fee for upfront payment in addition to backend .
6 . Find your team : You will learn so much more working with other people . You might want to co-write the lyrics and produce the track yourself . Every project is different . Play to each other ’ s strengths . This will also help with accountability and you will be surprised at how quickly your song gets completed .
7 . Explore new sound libraries : There are so many good ones out there for composing production music . I love using Spitfire , Kontakt , and Spectrasonics . Finding new sounds will definitely inspire your creations !
8 . Make a schedule : It is so important to keep a routine . Keep a schedule , post it up on the wall , and set a daily / weekly / monthly goal list . Structure your day and you ’ ll find you get a lot more work done .
9 . Keep a journal : Write at least one or two pages every morning to get the juices flowing ! You can even do “ object writing ” where you think of an object and write everything you can about it ( i . e . a bird sitting by your window , a memorable photograph , etc .). You ’ d be surprised how many songs you can create from this object !
Tamara Miller is a Canadian composer , producer , and singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles . Her music has been signed to various production music libraries in Los Angeles and New York and can be heard on shows and films worldwide , including Degrassi : The Next Generation , Saturday Night Live , Fox Sports , The Bachelor , and many others . Tamara specializes in composing introspective piano orchestral compositions , dark / horror sound design , atmospheric tension cues , and piano-driven acoustic pop ballads . Contact her at tamaramillermusic @ gmail . com or go to www . tamaramillermusic . com .
30 CANADIAN MUSICIAN