What Kind Of Music Do You Need To Get On TV?

//What Kind Of Music Do You Need To Get On TV?

The first thing you need to wrap your head around is…

You’re ALREADY writing music for film and TV.

Yes, even if you’re writing in an incredibly weird and niche sub-genre, there is room for your music in films and/or TV and/or video games and/or advertising.

Don’t believe me?

Read on!

If you’re in a hurry, skip directly to the sub-section that interests you the most.

In each section, I’ll be showing you the wide range of music that is currently being used.

TV Shows



Music On TV Shows

Here’s a playlist with 7 tracks from current TV shows (writing this in January 2018). 

Have you listened to all 7 tracks, even for just 30 short seconds? Did you notice anything?

Yep. They’re all different!

And before you accuse me of picking and choosing to prove my point, I really didn’t…. and I can prove it 😉

Here’s EXACTLY what I did to come up with these 7 examples of music in TV shows:

Top TV Shows in 2017
  • 1- I typed “top tv shows in 2017” in Google.

  • 2- I picked the first 5 shows that showed up in the search results. Then, when I realized screenshots of my process would be nice and went back to Google to do that exact same search a few days later, “The Good Place” had made the top 5, pushing “Stranger Things” to #6 so I just went and added a video from “The Good Place” in the playlist!

  • 3- I went on YouTube, typed the name of the show and picked the first video that seemed relevant.

  • 4- For the last show I went through, I went and picked another random track. Why did I do that? I wanted to demonstrate that one TV show can feature different genres of music.

Luckily (or exactly to my point! 😉 ), my assumption proved correct and I ended up with 7 widely different tunes.

Now let’s have a look at music in advertising which we often think is completely stereotyped and must fit a very specific genre.

Music For Advertising

Here are 6 examples of music in advertising for you:

For this playlist of music in adverts, I went through this exact process:

  • 1- I typed “superbowl advertisements 2017” (so all the ads aired around the same time and there wouldn’t be any question of music “trends”)

  • 2- I went on YouTube and watched 9 videos.

  • 3- I picked 5 spots that had music (1 didn’t have any music, 1 barely had any and 2 were crap, including one with Justin Bieber for T-Mobile :p)

  • 4- the Kia advert with Melissa McCarthy was so funny I watched another Kia advert which used a completely different type of music. I found that interesting and added the spot to the playlist.

Music In Films

Here are 18 examples for you (taken from 11 different full feature films):

Here’s how I came up with this playlist of music in films:

Best Movies of 2017
  • 1- I typed “best movies of 2017” in Google (again, to avoid any issues with “trends”)

  • 2- I went on YouTube, typed “movie name soundtrack” and picked 1 or 2 music videos per film in the top 10 of the Google search results (except Star Wars, I couldn’t be bothered to figure out what music related to the latest release and assumed pretty much everybody has an idea of what the music sounds like)

  • 3- I extended my research to the top 12 in the Google search results when I realized #11 and #12 were comedies (i.e. a welcome change from the top 10 horror action drama!)

  • 4- Steps 1 to 3 got me 21 videos on the playlist. I deleted 3 that seemed redundant. For example, all the tracks on the “Dunkirk” and “Wonder Woman” sound pretty similar so I didn’t see any value in showcasing 2 tracks from each movie. When I say the music sounds pretty similar, I don’t mean that it’s bad or unoriginal but you get the point pretty quickly. Like Star Wars, you already know what action movie scores sound like.

Quick side note…. the “Lady Bird” video (#3 in the playlist) is worth a full listen since it’s the record company previewing the full soundtrack in under 5 minutes. It’s a great way to notice the range of music that can be used in a feature film.

Music In Video Games

Here are 10 examples of music in video games for you:

This is the exact process I went through to come up with that playlist:

Top 10 Video Games
  • 1- I typed “video games 2017” in Google.

  • 2- I went on YouTube and typed in “video game name soundtrack”.

  • 3- I picked 9 videos with the complete soundtracks and 1 video with the game’s main menu theme (the exception is “Playerunknown’s Battleground” for which the top results didn’t have any videos with the complete soundtrack)

Quick side note: Initially, I was going to choose 1 or 2 random tracks per game but quickly realized it’s common to get the full soundtracks online for video games. With that new found knowledge, I decided to share with you the full soundtracks and let you explore these scores yourselves.

The first first few tracks of a score are sometimes similar, don’t be afraid to skip around each video to discover the full range of music being used!

Next Steps?

Ok so hopefully by now you’re a bit less of a sceptic and a bit more confident that, no matter what genre you write in, you can place your music in films and TV shows and video games and advertising and any other media you’re interested in.

If you still have doubts, keep in mind that we stayed super mainstream here!!

We looked at box office movies, Superbowl adverts and hit video games. That already showed that commercial mainstream TV shows, films and games include a wide variety of music.

Now imagine if you were to dig a little bit deeper into the worlds of indie films, app designers and YouTubers…. do you get it now? Can you start seeing how you could find opportunities for the music you enjoy making?

There’s really no need to change your style. There’s a place for the music you enjoy making.

So what are your next steps?

1- Pay Attention!

Be Mindful of the Music You Hear On TV and Other Media Platforms

2- Dig Deeper!

Be Proactive, Research the Space You’d Like to Work In

Not Convinced?

Post a streaming link (e.g. Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Box, Google Drive) to one of your tracks in the comments section below.

I’ll check it out and give you a few pointers 😉  



  1. Marcus Learoyd February 1, 2018 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    Hey Joyce, another good blog/article, your points are well made. We spoke around Oct time last year, I’ve been busy making a few more tracks – still haven’t totally sussed Logic but getting there. Link to song(s) is here: https://soundcloud.com/roydie

  2. Chiereme Fortune February 1, 2018 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    Hi Joyce! Thanks so much for this valuable information. I feel more confident about pitching my music in the coming months. Please take a listen to one of my early career tracks just to give me an idea of what I need to work on as I develop my first album. Thanks again! https://soundcloud.com/chieremefortune/ill-be-alright

  3. Alvaro José Fernández Lago February 1, 2018 at 8:48 pm - Reply

    Good article, Joyce. Very interesting.

    Frankly, I’m tired to submit to Songtradr’s to no avail. Nothing!. Maybe my style is definitely out of the loop.

    I’m posting some pieces of my repertoire, if you would like to hear any of them. Do you think ano of them are of enough quality to qualify for a library?


    • Joyce Kettering February 1, 2018 at 9:58 pm - Reply

      Hey Alvaro, don’t be afraid to move on from Songtradr if it’s not working for you. Different places work for different people.

      Genre analysis: no problem, there’s definitely a place for your style of music 🙂

      Production quality: just listening to “Rebirth”, you might want to work on the production quality a bit. It’s good but in some places the MIDI really stands out and sounds too rigid. When using MIDI, make sure you keep the instruments “alive” and “breathing”. Try to pretend you’re playing the instrument: is the violinist getting to the end of the bow? Does the brass player need a breather?

      • Alvaro José Fernández Lago February 1, 2018 at 10:04 pm - Reply

        Tthanks Joyce, for the advice. Right, too much mechanical / artificial.

        • Joyce Kettering February 1, 2018 at 10:07 pm - Reply

          It’s a great start though! It sounds good in most places, just sometimes it sounds a bit “off”. That can easily happen when we spend a lot of time in the studio! What helps me is A/B-ing regularly as I go along and again at the end of each studio session.

          • Alvaro José Fernández Lago February 1, 2018 at 11:27 pm

            Tthanks again. Food for thought! 🙂

  4. Steve Robinson February 1, 2018 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    Ah, food for songs…

  5. Peter Scherr February 1, 2018 at 11:41 pm - Reply

    Hi Joyce,

    Thanks for that… Very inspiring, as I’m on the path to get into sync, and I am embarking on a rigorous course to try and attain some flexibility in my approach. Bending my styles doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’m convinced it’s a worthwhile thing to work at…

    However, I do have a few different bags that I like to write in.

    Thanks so much for listening. I know you just asked for one thing. So first song is best… but I added a few more just to show a bit of my range.

    Here’s one: (Sort of T. Rex vibe perhaps)


    Here’s another: (Sort of Velvets, perhaps. This one still needs a bit of polish, but you get the idea.)


    And here is an electronic track that’s gotten placed via a stock library that I’m in in Hong Kong called Melodise:


    Here’s a cue that I did for a fight scene from a web drama about crime in the Bronx:


    And another song I did for a short film in 2015 (The Long Goodbye):


    I also enjoy post scoring. I sat in symphony orchestras for years, so I have a good feel for orchestral music, and I was an early adopter of virtual orchestra instruments in the late 90’s. I have done long form documentary work, etc.

    • Joyce Kettering February 5, 2018 at 3:31 pm - Reply

      Hi Peter,

      Listening to When Can We Wake Up Together, the first thing that came to mind was the movie “High Fidelity” but of course that used well-known tracks and isn’t very recent!

      With your T. Rex tip in mind, I found this pretty quickly: https://youtu.be/wxSIi6mcvWk

      It’s a recent soundtrack too 😉

      PS: I think your music sounds great. Don’t tweak it too much, ok 😉

  6. Caleb J. Murphy February 2, 2018 at 3:21 am - Reply

    I’m bookmarking this article for future reference. Thanks for putting it together!

    Here’s one of my tracks – would love to hear your constructive critique: https://soundcloud.com/caleb-murphy/dont-forget-the-world-is-lovely?in=caleb-murphy/sets/instrumentals

    • Joyce Kettering February 5, 2018 at 3:56 pm - Reply

      Hey Caleb,

      TV Show “Master of None” featured The Walker Brothers’ song “I Can´t Let It Happen To You” that has a similar vibe to “Don’t Forget The World Is Lovely”.


      By the way, when you’re pitching music, Kings of Convenience might be a good “sounds like” option for you.

    • Joyce Kettering February 5, 2018 at 4:06 pm - Reply

      Hey Marilyn,

      I have a few ideas for you here….

      1. This track would sound great for a big reveal on reality TV or on a big election night: https://youtu.be/KDxAOlOTmsI?t=1m50s

      2. This is a little left field but also very doable: you could reach out to YouTubers that put together sports videos: https://youtu.be/8yFFRxesCSo

      3. Big mainstream shows like “Westworld” or “Stranger Things” might also be a good fit. It’s harder to build those relationships of course 🙂

  7. Priscilla Wood February 4, 2018 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    Hey Joyce, nice to read you again 🙂

    I just sent this track to BMI, https://soundcloud.com/priscillapwood/the-merry-always-go-round-draft-01/s-F4dDb

    Do you submit your cue sheets to the PRO or directly to the libraries? And is there a template for that or anything downloaded will work?

    Thanks a lot!!

  8. Joyce Kettering February 5, 2018 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Hi Priscilla,

    Based on the picture attached to your Soundcloud link, I’m guessing you know exactly where the track would be a good fit and don’t really need my help 🙂

    Here are a couple anyway: IT, Criminal Minds, anything horrific or paranormal.

    I don’t deal with cue sheets. Cue sheets are the job of the people using the music, working on the TV show or film.

    Unfortunately, it’s difficult to ensure that they fill it out properly and you get paid, especially since it’s a manual process. There’s a lot of work being done to improve this but unfortunately, at this stage, there’s not much us composers can do.

    Here’s a couple of good articles (including templates) from ASCAP and BMI on the subject:
    ASCAP – https://www.ascap.com/help/royalties-and-payment/cue-sheets
    BMI – https://www.bmi.com/creators/detail/what_is_a_cue_sheet

    By the way, if you suspect you are not being paid what you should, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your PRO! They’re there to help (even if sometimes they can’t do much).

    • Priscilla Wood February 5, 2018 at 7:59 pm - Reply

      Hi Joyce,

      I can imagine how busy you are so I appreciate your reply! I’m a total newbie and I’m dealing with information overload regarding cue sheets (and everything else) I thought it was my job to do them, but good to know I have one less thing to do 🙂

      I started writing a “horror” track but, as always, I’m not sure about my work, anyway, I’m putting myself out there and stopping from being a perfectionist.



  9. max February 10, 2018 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    hi Joyce!

    loved your post and your advices, thanks again!
    I would be pretty curious about you opinion, here’s my fav track o’mine 🙂


    thank you so much in advance!

  10. ken February 18, 2018 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Joyce, good article. Have a listen to this one please




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