How To Write Songs For TV And Films


Today let’s consider what kind of songs get used in TV and Films and how you can write music that you will be able to license more easily. First of all, there is an extremely wide variety of music that is used in TV and Films. Pretty much every conceivable genre of music is licensed for a wide variety of media. But with that said, there are some general parameters that if you adhere to will greatly increase the odds that your music being licensed, particularly in film and television.


This is one of those topics that makes some musicians cringe, the idea of changing or altering their music to sell it. I know, because I’m one of those musicians! In the past I’ve been very reluctant to alter my music at all. But over time I’ve learned that by loosening the grip on my art and taking constructive criticism from others with more objective ears I’ve been able to have more success in actually making money from my music. If that’s not part of your goal with your music you can disregard the rest of this email. But… if you’re interested in learning how to make money from your songs keep reading.


Okay, you’re still with me. Let’s put aside our egos for a second and consider the reality of why music gets licensed at all. In TV and Films, music is used to enhance the scene the music is being used in. That’s it. Music is used to create or evoke a certain mood that works within the context of the story being told. Music plays a supportive role in music licensing. Some types of songs do this better than others.


Here are some general guidelines to consider when writing music with the end goal of licensing your music in TV and films:



1. Don’t bore us, get to the chorus. This is something my publisher often says. Music that is written for TV and Films needs to be concise. This isn’t the best forum for grandiose statements or long drawn out intros. Often times only a brief snippet of your song will be used, maybe 30 seconds or 60 seconds, depending on the scene. Your music needs to work within a shorter time frame and needs to be able to grab people’s attention quickly. Write songs that get to the point and have strong hooks and you will get a lot more of your songs placed.


2. Relationship songs are always in demand. Since songs are used to support the story being told and since most stories are about or at least involve relationships, songs that are relationship oriented have a greater chance of being used. Other themes work too and in some cases supervisors are looking for songs with very specific themes for specific scenes. But in general, it’s safe to assume that almost all stories will involve characters in relationships. If your songs reflect this, you’ll have a greater chance of your songs working in a broader range of situations. (This obviously only applies to vocal songs.)


3. The more mainstream the better. For licensing your music that is. Mainstream music is mainstream for a reason. A lot of people connect with it. If your music sounds really obscure, it won’t appeal to as many possible supervisors, publishers, etc.. Often times supervisors are looking for “sound alike” songs. Songs that sound like other well known artists. If your music doesn’t sound at all like anything else out there, that might be good from a creativity stand point, but you’ll probably be limiting the chances for getting your music licensed if your music is too obscure.



About Aaron Davison
Aaron Davison studied Songwriting at Berklee College of Music and he currently licenses his music for use in films and on TV shows. He teaches other songwriters how to do that, as well. You can learn more about that on his website: