Soundtracks play an important role in setting the tone in movies and TV shows. When done right, the music enhances the scene and helps the audience make an emotional connection with the characters.
There was a time when TV and movie soundtracks were composed on-demand, and usually by established artists. Today, music directors and producers use music from a variety of artists, depending on their needs. As a result, soundtracks can revive the careers of older artists, and launch the careers of newer artists. Take the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack, a group of songs by artists from the late 70s that have all seen a major resurgence thanks to the popularity of that movie. The Garden State soundtrack is another example of music from less well-known artists getting wider exposure, thanks to its inclusion in a movie. Even television shows are getting into the act with shows like The Vampire Diaries using music from new, independent, and up-and-coming artists.
If you are a musician who is interested in getting your music onto a TV or Movie soundtrack, here are some tips on how to make that happen.
The Easy Way
If you’re going to have the slightest chance of someone using your music in a movie, you have to actually get the music in front of them – which is not such an easy task if you’re in Athens, GA and they’re in Vancouver, BC and have never heard of you.
However, if you join a synchronization, or sync, licensing program through a major music publisher, your music will become part of a library that is available to movie producers and music supervisors all over the world. Even if there are movie producers and supervisors in your area, that doesn’t mean they’ll be exposed to your work.
A lot of movie professionals use sync licensing catalogs and databases, like TuneCore sync licensing, to find music for their projects. With a database they can search by genre to find the music they need, and all of the licensing is taken care of so that it’s one less thing that they have to worry about. Artists who license their music with these companies have a better chance getting their music in front of the right people.
Another advantage to the artist is that these types of services reach a broad range of people, because anyone who needs licensed music will go to the catalog. This means that your music could be used in any visual presentation, from movies and TV to commercials and documentaries.
The Not-So-Easy Way
The not-so-easy way involves a lot of research and legwork on your part. Instead of putting your work in a central library where produces and music supervisors can find you, you have to go out and find them.
You can find listings of music supervisor at the Film & Television Music Guide or at The Guild of Music Supervisors. You can also run into them at industry conventions and panel discussions at events like South by Southwest. It’s important to cultivate strong professional relationships with these people because, if a music supervisor knows who you are, he might be more likely to consider your work when he’s looking for music, or even refer other people to you. He is also more likely to take your calls, or read your emails, when it’s time for you to pitch your music to.
In addition to cultivating strong industry relationships, you also need to stay on top of which projects are in production, by checking trade journals, and websites like IMDB Pro. Keep in mind that there could be hundreds of movies and TV shows in production at any given time.
If a music supervisor expresses interest in your music, you need to make sure you get a copy to him by overnight delivery, and that it’s a broadcast-quality finished master. You also need to send two or three tracks, with your best piece first.
If you have already had some of your music appear on movie or TV soundtracks, going the not-so-easy way could work out very well for you, because you already have an established track record with some music supervisors.
However, if you are just starting out, adding your work to a sync licensing database is a great way to get your foot in the door.
Regardless of which method you use, you should also make sure that any music you submit is registered with the U.S. Electronic Copyright Office, to ensure that no one else can claim it as theirs. Do not try mailing a CD to yourself as a poor man’s copyright, that method is no longer considered valid.