Building a music career with TV
Even with streaming recently reaching new heights for both streams and revenues, the working musician needs every opportunity to generate sales from recorded music and reach new fans. With the explosion of independent and video streaming backed content, having songs placed in TV is becoming a powerful launching pad to either start or grow a career in music. In addition to the income generated from show placements, TV also is always in need of a wide variety of musical genres and styles, and can give artists the opportunity to reach millions of new potential fans. From “I’ll Be There For You” by the Rembrandts that famously started Friends, to Tony Soprano driving through suburban New Jersey to “Woke Up This Morning” by A3, television placements have the ability to bring notoriety to new music or breath life into old songs.
Here are 5 things to know before starting to break into the TV market.
- Start with placing music in the background of scenes
Most music played in a tv show will be on during the background of a scene and songs can be submitted in the form of songwriting demos to be recorded by the vast or other artists, or submitted as a finished work to be played. Background music also allows for the widest variety of genres and styles to be placed, and is a good way to begin to get established with the film and TV industry.
- You don’t need a full length song to get placed
A big component of any show are the snippets of music played for just a few seconds in the car, or playing in a restaurant, or in the background of a quick encounter. It can even include a band performing live on stage (even better if it can be your band!). It is also easier to get 12 to 15 seconds of music placed than a whole song, and more realistically accessible for songwriters than submitting songs to large artists or publishing houses. These small segments of music are often referred to as ‘source music’.
- The recordings you submit will likely be the ones that make the finished cut
When submitting a song for use in a show either as source music or a more prominent placement, the only time songs will be re-recorded are if the cast sings them or if the are the introductory or title track. This means songs need to be ready for prime time when submitted, and need to be indistinguishable from what you hear on the radio.
- Who decides what will be played on the show?
The job of choosing what songs go where in a show belongs to the music supervisor. They work with the director to what songs can augment and enhance the emotion of scenes, and also to pick all the source music that add realism to a scene. Music supervisors also need to find large amounts of music, and review the songs to see what can be licensed within the budget. After narrowing down submissions to several options for each scene, the music supervisor presents the director with all the recommended music.
- How to secure film placements
Begin by working with your PRO (ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC) and getting your music pre-cleared for use in TV and film. Pre-clearing means all parties who control rights to the master recording and the underlying composition have agreed to license the song for synchronization with visuals. After pre-clearing songs they can be submitted to industry libraries, or directly to supervisors (which is difficult without clout or existing relationships). SoStereo an easy way to get music onto a discovery platform for supervisor and brands, and allows you to make your song searchable by genre, mood, instrumentation, and other top tags used by supervisors.