Your song might sound awesome, but it sucks for sync. Sorry, but it’s true. Songwriters rarely consider how their song might be used to help tell someone else’s story. They’re often preoccupied with telling their own story, emulating songs they admire or maybe just trying to make something their fans will think is cool. And that’s totally fine, but it’s not going to get you far with sync. To help you out, here are some tips to help you write more universally appealing, sync-friendly songs.
How to Optimize your Songwriting for Sync
Support the Narrative
If you really want your music to stand out, it’s important to understand that songs are used in sync to support a narrative, not to tell one. If there’s a sad montage where someone dies, you’re not going to hear a song with lyrics about someone literally dying. The music supervisor will want a song that evokes the emotion behind losing someone you love, because the focus of the story is the survivor.
Even in advertising, which is typically far more literal, music will be used to add depth to whatever you see in the footage or hear in the voiceover. You know what’s not a great song for Toyota? A song about Toyotas.
If your song is going to have a narrative, it’s smart not to get too specific in the details. This is true in songwriting generally, but especially for sync. If the goal is to connect with the listener, you should craft your song to be as relatable as possible.
The lyric “I love my girl Amy” forces the listener into the mindset of being a person in love with a girl named Amy. “I love my girl” is better, though it’s still about you being in love with a girl. “She makes me happy” is gender-specific, but now the subject can be any woman and it doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic. It could be about your mom or even your dog. But best of all, “You make me happy” can be used in a romantic montage or a candy commercial, it just works for everything. This is a basic example, but it illustrates how specific details can make your song less relatable to both listeners and music supervisors.
Sharpen your skills…
Keep it Clean
There’s more uncensored content out there than ever before, but if your music has profanity you’re not going to get synced in advertising or network television. Profanity isn’t limited to just curse words either, there are plenty of offensive things you can say without ever using those specific words.
If your music only has a passing curse word in the verses you can always do a clean edit, which might make it passable for television uses. This would typically be done by dropping out the vocal track on the offensive word or even replacing it with another clean word that fits the lyric. But this is only worth doing if your song is inoffensive overall. Otherwise, it’s best to just leave it as is and focus on media that doesn’t have issues with profanity like film, cable television and streaming.
It’s never a good idea to pretend to be someone you’re not, so don’t try and write songs outside your comfort zone. Use your own unique voice and identity to your advantage. While there are certainly trends in sync like anything else, music supervisors also respond to authenticity, not imitation.
If these recommendations don’t work for you, ignore all of it and write a song that is meaningful to you and seek a production where that story will resonate. Send your song to the music supervisor on the show that inspired you to write a song and tell them how it relates to your life. They will appreciate the thoughtfulness and if it really resonates, you just might find your song in your favorite show and a few grand in your pocket.
You don’t have to do it alone. As a Symphonic Distribution client, you have the opportunity to apply for representation by our in-house sync licensing division, Bodega Sync. If accepted, they’ll help place your music by pitching to music supervisors and advertising agencies for you, negotiating licensing deals and completing all the paperwork to make sure you get paid properly.
Click Here to Apply for Sync Representation with Bodega Sync.