I Sync, Therefore I Am
By Justin Gray (Songwriter/Producer and founder www.wearemdiio.com)
Writing music for sync is not the same as writing a hit song.
As much as there is a “formula“ to writing a hit song, so too is there a “formula” for writing effective music for film and television, and advertising.
If you think about it, Pop music is linear songwriting. In other words, there is a beginning middle, and end. Sync music songs often take 90° turns in the middle of a song to create new moments.
Consider the way a listener will listen to a song on Spotify. They are accustomed to experiencing the beginning, middle, and end of a song. In film and TV (much like TikTok), sync songs are made up of moments.
In most cases really exceptional sync songs have twists and turns, ups and downs, and oftentimes can challenge the listening habits of casual music fans.
Here are five secrets to striking sync success.
Reset Button - Perhaps I’m being a little overdramatic on exactly how twisty and turny a song needs to be. Pressing that reset button every eight bars or so is crucial in giving music editors fodder for their job. What does that mean? It means every eight bars, add a new element to your song. Maybe it’s a melody? Maybe it's new instrumentation? Maybe it’s a dropout, or a build, or a complete change in vocal cadence. As often as you can try switching it up without allowing yourself to change the BPM or the general energy in the tempo of the song.
Energy - Be aware of the energy of a song that you’re writing. Up-tempo songs tend to get used for certain types of advertising. Downtempo singer-songwriting songs are often reserved for film and television. Rock is pretty adaptable, as is Hip Hop. If you’re going to write something up-tempo, stay up-tempo. Keep that energy fresh and write in sections so that a music editor can chop it up without completely derailing the essence of your song.
Lyrical Content - Try and avoid writing hyper-specific lyrics. Specifically, lyrics tend not to work as well in film and TV placement. Keeping lyrics relatable, yet general will increase your chances of finding those elusive sync placements. Remember the song that you are writing is meant to complement the scene on television. Not the other way around. So be considerate that what you are writing is meant to punctuate the visual content.
Generality - There are often times common themes to music written for film and TV. What is important to note here, is although this entire blog is about writing songs for film and TV, most music supervisors can see right through songs that have been specifically designed for film and TV. Apologies for the contradiction. It is crucial to stay authentic to what it is that you are writing for, and at.
Research - Do your research. When you hear something on TV that you think is fantastic, grab Shazam, and Shazam it ASAP. Go find it on Spotify or YouTube and analyze why that song works. Again, the idea of writing moments as opposed to minutes is a key point in really building an undeniable sync smash.
The Coda: The biggest mistake you can make when writing music for film and television, is to actually write music for film and television. The idea is to create something that still feels authentic and true to the genre that you are writing in. Remember, there are more TV shows, advertisements, video games, and opportunities than ever before, and every single one of those opportunities needs your music.
See you next week, and keep writing them hits.