This post is for songwriters and music composers who want to submit music for TV placement without going through third-party intermediaries like music libraries and publishers.
Why would a songwriter want to go through all the trouble of sourcing their own music placement opportunities?
- money: get to keep 100% of the synchronization fees negotiated
- positioning: full control of where their music is being used
- deeper, more fulfilling relationships with audiovisual creatives
Now let’s dive into how you get started to successfully submit music for TV placement.
1- Set Clear Goals
Setting clear goals isn’t especially sexy but it’s necessary.
Before you start reaching out to all the big music supervisors from your favorite TV shows, you have to realize that the competition is fierce.
The only way to stand out and beat your competition is to do your research.
Yes, you need great music.
But that’s not enough. There’s LOTS of great music out there.
You also need to know the market really well and decide how you’re going to break into it.
So how do you do that?
Listen To Music On TV
The key here is to listen with an open mind.
You may think you know what kind of music gets licensed on TV.
You may assume your songs are too this or that to land certain placements in commercials.
Here’s an eclectic playlist of music from TV shows:
Action item: for the next 7 days, pay attention to the music in TV shows, films and adverts; Shazam the music you hear and write down what song played and where you heard it in a notebook.
Decide Who You Are Going To Try To Work With
Once you’ve taken the time to objectively study the market of music for TV, identify no more than 10 music supervisors on TV shows you’d like to work with.
These could be music supervisors on TV shows, indie filmmakers, other film composers.
We’re focused on music for TV placement in this post but you can apply most of these ideas when reaching out to filmmakers and fellow music composers as well.
Don’t be afraid to be ambitious but please don’t set yourself up to fail either.
There’s no point writing down a list full of Steven Spielberg, John Williams and Zach Cowie if you’re just getting started with this and have no track-record licensing your music.
Yes, you want to aim high.
But you also want to include smaller names that are more realistic in the near future.
This is especially important because, in order to actually get shit done and make progress, I’m going to ask you to set a deadline and actually go through with it!
If you’re list is comprised only of big names, you’re probably not going to make it.
Action item: starting with the list of music from TV shows, films and adverts you put together, identify a few tracks that convey a similar feel/mood to songs from your own music catalogue; use tools like Google, imdb and LinkedIn to identify who made the decision to license those tracks; list a few music supervisors / decision makers you’d like to work with.
Set A Tight Deadline
Once you have a better understanding of where your music fits on TV, it’s time to set a deadline and actually take action!
Whatever your personal situation, I recommend setting a deadline of 30 days or less because…
If you give yourself too much leeway, chances are you won’t get much done.
If 30 days seems too short, try to remind yourself that:
- every time you submit your music is an opportunity to get feedback
- every feedback, positive or negative or indifferent, is an opportunity to improve your music and/or sales pitch
- every day that goes by WITHOUT sending music out is a missed opportunity
Also consider that a lot of the research you’ll be doing won’t take you any extra time.
Since you’re watching TV anyway, why not actively listen, Shazam and write down stuff while you’re relaxing.
In total, 1 lead = approximately 3 hours.
2 hours of additional research + 1 hour drafting the right email.
Now be honest….. with that in mind, why would you want to set a deadline that’s more far out than 30 days?
I’m guessing you’re just scared….. and I get it 100%! I’m a master procrastinator myself 😉
Action item: aiming for 3 hours per lead and a 30 day deadline, decide how many and which leads you will contact; write down your deadline somewhere you can see it everyday; have a look at your calendar and pencil in a few work sessions.
In practice, you probably won’t follow that work schedule exactly but that’s ok! The idea here is that you start priming your brain to see opportunities to do a little bit of research here and there and find the time to actually submit your music for licensing.
2- Know Who You’re Talking To
Now you have an objective: send music to X amount of leads in the next 30 days.
It’s time to do a little bit more research so that, when the time comes to submit music for TV placement, you can communicate effectively and grab the attention of the music supervisors and/or filmmakers you want to work with.
Research Your Lead’s Work
The first, obvious, step when researching a lead is to look at their work.
The more you understand the type of music and projects they enjoy working with, the easier it will be for you to communicate effectively with them (more on that later).
What kind of music have they licensed in the past?
What projects have they worked on in the past? What about now?
Is there a recurring theme in their work and in the music they choose?
Action item: write up a profile on each of your leads with the answers to the above questions.
I’m a big pen and paper advocate BUT, for the purposes of this exercise, I recommend going digital so that you can search and update your file easily.
Research How You Can Make An Emotional Connection With Your Lead
Once you have a pretty good picture of what your lead has been up to, take the time to figure out how you can make an emotional connection with them.
Do they mention anything interesting during interviews?
How do they talk about music? Do they go into the technical detail of a piece or do they use more visual imagery?
Do they seem pretty laidback or friendly or the type of person who appreciates formal marks of respect?
How do they talk about songwriters approaching them?
The idea here is that you want to get a fairly good idea of their personality, what they’re likely to respond to and the kind of things that just pisses them off.
For example, here’s a pretty cool window into how music supervisor Zach Cowie chose the music that featured in season 2 of Master of None and the general strategy for finding music tracks “that were a bit lesser known”.
Action item: read and watch 2-3 interviews of your lead and complete their profile with the information that makes an impression on you.
Try to stay away from clichés for this.
We don’t care that they say they are looking for “great music that makes them feel something”.
We do care that they’re “not interested in the latest trends” or “don’t like to receive follow up emails from people they don’t know” or “never open emails with files attached”.
That tells you something about them and gives you a hint of how you should approach them.
Research How You Can Get In Touch With Your Lead
Now you know a little bit more about what the person you’re trying to impress likes and doesn’t like, wants and doesn’t want, it’s time to figure out how you can reach them.
If they mentioned how to approach them in an interview, you’re golden. Just do what they say!
Otherwise, ask yourself….
How do they get the music?
Are they clearing tracks themselves or do they work with a third-party?
Would it make sense to get in touch with that third-party first? Do you know or can you guess who their contact is there?
Do they have their own production company? Who can you get in touch with there?
Can you get an introduction?
There’s no doubt about it: getting a referral makes your life wayyyy easier.
Music supervisors are inundated with music submissions for TV placement.
The easiest way to stand out is to have someone they trust introduce you.
Action item: research how your lead gets their music and if there is anyone in their entourage that might be able to recommend you; update their profile with this information for future reference
Asking other songwriters who’ve placed music with them is good way to gain useful insight.
imdb, LinkedIn, Twitter are your friends here. These tools give you a good idea of who your lead works and engages with.
Once you’ve done all your research on the music supervisors you want to work with, it’s time to SEND THEM MUSIC!
To get their attention in a sea of competition, you’ll have to communicate effectively….
3- Communicate Effectively
Effective communication is a little bit like writing a hit song: the intro gets you hooked right away, the melody and arrangement keep you going until the end.
Whenever you reach out to music supervisors to submit music for TV, it’s important that you find a way to:
- grab their attention
- keep your communication short and to the point
- make it easy for them to get back to you if they want to
Music supervisors looking for music don’t need to hear your life stories.
In order to land music placements on TV, it also pays off to show you understand what music supervisors are looking for.
You can do that by ensuring and mentioning that:
- the music you’re offering is cleared and ready to go (save them time)
- alternative versions are readily available if needed (give them options)
- you can provide stem files and different audio formats if necessary (give them options x2)
Submit Music For TV Placement: Key Takeaways
1- Set Clear Goals: know your market, be clear about who you want to work with and take action FAST
2- Know Who You’re Talking To: understand what they like and what they need
3- Communicate Effectively: short and sweet, professional and helpful
So there you have it!
If you’re going to submit music for TV placement, better make sure you come prepared!
There’s a lot of competition.
In addition to your music sounding great, you’ll have to convince the music supervisor that you and your music are right for their project.