Thursday, May 18, 2006

Rock Writing for Television Music Jingles


I know you are a musician, an artist, a creator of art. But you're probably starving right? Yes, most musicians fall into the "starving artist syndrome" also known as SAS.

Well here's an article written by Michael Laskow, CEO and founder of Taxi. For those of you not familiar with that organization, they help bring music to the people who need it the most; radio, theatre and yes, television.

I belong to Taxi and it is a wonderful organization for the musician who believes that getting your art to the world is a good thing.

Television Music
by Michael Laskow

Often, success in the music industry is about recognizing opportunity and then seizing it. Well, you constantly stare at one of the easiest ways to make money with your music, and it stares right back at you. As a matter of fact, it even talks to you and millions of other people. Wake up and smell the latte… it's your TV!

In the early days of television there were three networks and only slightly more channels. With the advent of cable and satellite transmission, the average American home has 60-100 channels of programming and virtually every show needs music. On top of that, there are a lot more countries other than the U.S. that have TV's with music-hungry programs, with more channels popping up every day.

You've got your big-time networks, your not so big networks, your food networks, your travel networks, hunting networks, beauty networks, health networks, et. al., and they’ve got one thing in common: they all have programming that needs music!

So where does all that music come from? Most of it comes from people like you. If you think all those shows have high-priced music houses to do custom scoring for them, think again. The majority of the music you hear on TV comes from what are commonly called production music libraries.

Production music libraries buy much of their music from people who work out of home or project studios, so you don't even need to have an arsenal of equipment. A studio with MIDI and eight tracks should do the trick.

You also need to know that making music for TV isn't like making records, and it isn't like making demos. The quality of your recording has to be what is commonly called, "master quality." In short, that means, better than a demo, but not necessarily as good as a record. The companies that buy or use these tracks are not looking for good compositions that need to be re-recorded. They want something that's ready to air with no re-cutting or re-mixing.

Tracks for TV, radio, documentaries, and corporate videos are usually requested in lengths of :2, :5, :10, :15, :30, :60, and 3:00. Most libraries will ask for a specific track in all or most of the aforementioned lengths. Some lengths are used for TV commercials, some are for radio, some are used for station I.D.'s, and some are used for cues in films.

Be prepared to write your tracks so they are easily editable to the shorter lengths from the longer "parent" track, and make sure the tracks have a button, or closed ending. That simply means the tracks ends on a beat, not a fade, and by the way, should somebody tell you they need a :30 track, they really mean they need a :29.5 (reverb decay included), a :60 should be :59.5 and so on. If the tracks are too long, they will be cut off by the next commercial or segment of the TV show. Golden rule: never go over the allotted time. Come in just short, ring out included.

The exception to the button ending is when the film or TV show needs a song with lyrics, not just an instrumental track. There are often cases where a scene requires something that sounds like a hit song, but has never actually been a hit. It's cheaper to license a song from somebody who is "nobody" than it is to license a song from a major superstar. In fact, it can be tens of thousands of dollars cheaper.

For many people, a record deal is the brass ring they're after. The truth of the matter is that getting a deal on a major label is very, very difficult and getting a deal on many indie labels means that you've just signed with a label that can give you lots of attention, but they have no marketing machine or promotion money behind them.

The bottom line is that if you get off the couch and get motivated, you can make enough money making music to quit your day job, but the companies who need this music won't track you down. You need to figure out who they are and how to make contact with them. The networks themselves aren't the people to call. Try to find music libraries, publishers who regularly work in film and TV, and music supervisors working on film and TV projects.

Many of you reading this column would likely be very happy to just make a living exclusively doing music, and getting your music onto TV shows and film is one of the most realistic approaches to achieve it. You probably won't make millions, but you can earn a nice living.

Michael Laskow is the President of TAXI, the world's leading independent A&R company helping unsigned bands, artists, and songwriters get record deals, publishing deals and placement in films and TV shows. Find out more about TAXI and their services at

So there you have it folks. Get off yer duffs and get over yourself about being a rock and roll star. Create some great jingles, gather your friends around you, turn on the tv and have them listen to your latest "recording".

You might think you've sold out, but you'll be moping all the way to the bank. Then you can buy more recording gear and that new Stratocaster you've always wanted. . .oh and that. . .

Peace out!


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