Thinking In Sync: Interview with a top music supervisor

You already have great songs - now you just want to get them licensed and step out of the shadows of anonymity for good.

No more confusion or mystery of what music supervisors are actually looking for. Just knowing how to connect to the right people in licensing is all you need.

Watch this interview I did with top music supervisor Amanda Krieg Thomas about her new book, “Thinking In Sync: A Primer on the Mind of a Music Supervisor“, to discover some of the most important (and often forgotten) steps of having a wildly successful career in music licensing.

You’ll hear the most mind blowing inside information about what works in sync. If you pick up Amanda’s book (which I highly recommend because I did and loved it), you will learn the fundamentals of how to actually get through to the gatekeepers.

BTW - Amanda’s credits include The Americans, 9-1-1, American Horror Story, Life In Pieces, Proven Innocent, American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, and many more.

Join Chris LIVE with an entertainment lawyer

Do you ever wonder how to protect your music? 

Do you want to make sure you are getting paid what you're owed?

Join Chris on WEDNESDAY MAY 1st @ 6:00pm PST for a live webinar with top music & entertainment lawyer, Cheryl Hodgson.

Cheryl specializes in music copyright. So much so, that she was hired by the 1960's band, The Kingsmen, to secure the rights to their recordings. After four years of litigation she finally won the case for the group.

On the live broadcast, Cheryl will cover:
 

  • What song copyright is and why it is important to you

  • The best way to protect your music 

  • What copyright means to your bottom line

  • How streaming and licensing royalties work

  • How your copyright changes if you have a publishing deal

  • What rights do you have as the copyright holder of your songs


Plus, you can ask Cheryl any questions you have in the Q&A portion of the broadcast too.

Register for the webinar below and even if you can’t make it live, we’ll send out the replay link afterwards.

See you on Wednesday May 1st @ 6pm PST!

15 Easy Tips for Writing Songs for Sync

Struggling with writing songs for sync?

Do you have a bunch of partial songs but can’t seem to finish them?

In The Art Of The Song Pitch we teach what works in sync over and over again.

BUT how do you build up that golden catalog that allows you to pitch for LOTS of sync opportunities?

This post was originally written as a blog for our online recording studio, Sundown Sessions Studio, but these songwriting tips will easily help you write that next great song for sync.

#1. Start Writing

This may seem like a no-brainer but even seasoned songwriters can struggle with it. One of the biggest questions beginner songwriters ask is how to start or where to start.

Should you begin with the lyrics or the melody? Is it better to find a good instrumental hook or chord progression instead? The simple answer to these questions is that there is no answer.

Everybody writes music in different ways and it’s up to you to figure out what works best. Try several different approaches to songwriting and you’ll soon discover a preference. The biggest part of it all is just sitting down to start writing or nothing will ever happen.

 

#2. Listen to Lots of Music

The best lesson you can get in songwriting is through listening to other songwriters and trying to understand how they convey their works. This seems like an easy step but it’s not as simple as putting on background music while doing other work.

Try to attentively listen to the songs and make mental notes as you do. Figure out what works, what doesn’t and what you want to try in your own writing. You’ll soon discover new chord progressions, lyric forms and styles you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

 

#3. Write a Song Every Day

As with any other learned skill, learning how to write a song takes a lot of practice. The best way to do this is to commit yourself to sitting down and writing a song every day. Once again, what you write doesn’t have to be anything too fantastic, it could just be a silly tune about what you ate for lunch.

The important thing is that you force yourself to write on a regular basis. Some songs won’t amount to much but periodically you’ll sit down and write something amazing. You’ll soon discover that the more you spend time on it the better your songwriting will become.

 

#4. Carry Around a Journal

One of the most difficult aspects of learning how to write a song is finding the inspiration. Thankfully inspiration is everywhere if you open yourself up to it. So, carry around a small notebook with you (or use an app on your smartphone) and write down every little thing that incites creativity.

This doesn’t have to always be song lyrics or melodies either. It could be a phrase someone said, a reflection on your day or a sketch of something that looked inspiring. Writing things down will force the creative side of your brain to work overtime and find song ideas in everything you do.

 

#5. Learn New Chords

If you’re new to playing an instrument your musical toolbox may be relatively small. Because of this it’s easy to get into the habit of using the same few chords for every song that you write. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the listener but it can start to make things dull for the songwriter.

After some time you may wonder why you don’t feel inspired in the same way as when you first began writing. This could be because what you’re playing doesn’t give you the same creative surge after hearing it over and over.

Learning some new chords or chord progressions is a quick way to challenge yourself as a songwriter and get your creative juices flowing again.

 

#6. Record Your Ideas

The voice memos app on your phone is one of the most useful tools to the songwriter. I’ve made the mistake too many times of having an idea and not recording it then forgetting it shortly after. Sometimes this can happen in a matter of minutes of having an idea for a melody or chord progression.

Learn from my mistakes and always record your song ideas as soon as you have them. Leaving a recorder running while you come up with ideas is also a great way to write a song. It lets you focus on your spur of the stream of consciousness and not on writing down or perfecting things. After working this way for a while you can go back through your ideas and flesh them out further.

#7. Use a Rhyming Dictionary

A rhyming dictionary is key to keeping form and structure when you’re learning about songwriting. One of the things that makes popular music so memorable are rhymes from one line to the next. This makes it catchy for a first time listener and it will stick with them for much longer.

Thinking in terms of rhyming schemes can be especially difficult to the amateur songwriter. Thankfully there are tools like RhymeZone.com or Rhymer.com that make it easy to find words that go well together.

You’ll probably discover rhymes in words you didn’t even know existed. Not only that but the more you use a rhyming dictionary, the less you’ll need it as your brain becomes accustomed to thinking in this manner.

 

#8. Use a Thesaurus

Many people may think of using a rhyming dictionary when first learning how to write a song. However, not everyone realizes the importance of a thesaurus. Often times you can come up to a brick wall with a phrase you want to say that doesn’t fit your form.

Instead of trying to force lyrics that fit awkwardly, try to find alternatives for what you’re trying to say. A quick Google search of “synonyms for ____” will quickly show you a bunch of options you could use.

You may even discover a brand new direction to take your song that you would have never thought of otherwise.

 

#9. Co-Songwriting

Many of history’s greatest songs were written by more than one person and there’s a good reason for that. Collaboration is a great way to come up with ideas you normally wouldn’t have and it will help a song reach its full potential.

Finding one or two friends you can bounce ideas around with can be a great learning experience. You’ll discover new tricks and techniques and will create new music in a fraction of the time it takes to do it alone.

 

#10. Use GarageBand

Songwriting in a DAW such as GarageBand, Ableton or Pro Tools can be a great way to quickly put together an idea. The instruments and loops in DAWs are all tools for inspiration, and experimenting with new sounds can help with writer’s block.

One word of caution, however, is not to get caught up perfecting your arrangement while writing. This can ultimately slow you down, when the point of writing in this style is to compose quickly. Remind yourself that you’re not producing a finished track for release. You can always go back to flesh out ideas or fix the production after an idea is complete.

 

#11. Understand That Nothing’s Perfect

To make it easier for you to start, remind yourself that nothing you write is ever going to be absolutely perfect. This is especially true in the beginning when you’re just starting to learn how to properly write a song.

It’s easy to be overly critical of your work and this can be a good thing at times. However, it can also be your biggest enemy. Taking time to go through your writing with a fine-toothed comb can cause you to lose momentum. I don’t think any great songwriter was ever 100% satisfied with their work. The important thing is that they never let that stop them from creating.

 #12. Share Your Music

For many people, this is one of the most difficult parts of learning how to write a song. Sharing your work can be a scary experience, but it’s an important step in all creative industries.

When you are ready to show someone a song for the first time, find a close friend that you trust. You don’t have to do so in a way that asks for feedback, especially your first few times. However, once you’re comfortable with playing your songs for a friend start to ask for constructive criticism.

Being able to ask for and take this criticism is a principle quality when learning how write a song. You also don’t have to take every suggestion to heart. However, getting an outside perspective on something will shed light on areas where you can improve.

 

#13. Finish Your Songs

A major problem all songwriters struggle with is actually taking a song from the idea to a finished product. Coming up with an idea for a verse or melody is easy but making it a finished composition takes hard work.

The more ideas that you have and leave unfinished, the more you’re teaching your brain how to write parts of songs but not the whole thing. Instead, try to come up with the entire shell of a song as soon as you have the concept. Not every aspect has to be amazing as long as you create an initial rough draft while you’re feeling inspired.

Once you’re able to finish even the worst of ideas, you’ll be more prepared when a great one comes along.

 

#14. Combine Ideas

If you can’t finish a song no matter how much you write, try to combine it with another incomplete idea. This may take some reconfiguring of lyrics or melody, so keep an open mind and don’t box your ideas in.

Something that you thought was the perfect chorus for a song may actually be the much needed bridge for another. Or, try taking a melody from one idea and using it with lyrics from another.

By “frankensteining” your best parts of multiple ideas together you can finally have some shelved ideas see the light of day.

 

#15. Just Start Writing

This point is so important that I want to conclude by mentioning it one more time. The best way to learn how to write a song is through trial and error. Don’t expect everything you write in the beginning to be awe-inspiring or groundbreaking. Most likely, it won’t and that’s entirely okay.

The important thing is that you begin writing and don’t stop or be discouraged. As with anything the more you do it the easier it will become, and before you know it writing music will become second nature. Eventually you’ll wonder why you ever had trouble songwriting in the first place.

 

How To Get Sync Success Fast

How long does it take to get a sync placement (once you know how to do it the right way)?

It’s different for everyone, but it can happen VERY fast.

Before the class for The Art Of The Song Pitch finished, Adrian already landed a song in the movie "Go Back To China” coming out this year. 

He follows in the footsteps of two of our other students who just got their music into big Hollywood films such as “Annihilation" (starring Natalie Portman) and “The Christmas Chronicles" (starring Kurt Russell).

We like to celebrate their wins and wanted to share this latest one with everyone in the Sync Songwriter community. Adrian is an indie songwriter like most of you, who had no previous connections in the licensing industry. If he can do it, so can you!

All The Pieces Of The Puzzle

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know I’ve given you a lot of pieces of the puzzle.

BUT have you ever wanted to hear more about ALL 5 proven steps I teach in one place?

I was asked to be a guest on the Musician Monster podcast where I dove into it all.

The episode was just released and you can check it out here

Greg Wilnau asked me how our members are getting such AMAZING results licensing their music to TV & film. These are just a few of their recent successes…

Feature films:

  • Annihilation  

  • The Christmas Chronicles 

  • Professor Mack 

  • Go Back To China 

Television:

  • Dancing With The Stars 

  • The Real Housewives of New York   

  • Wet Hot American Summer 

  • The F Word 

And lots and lots more…

If you want a quick peek at the 5 steps that have led to their success, you can find them here on this podcast.

PS. Our main focus is music licensing, but if you’re interested in some great advice on how to kickstart your music career, check out Musician Monster.

Is Someone Stealing Your Song?

Do you ever worry about someone ripping off the music or lyrics to your song? Is It safe to put a song out there that hasn’t been registered with the copyright office? What is the best way to protect your music?

I interviewed top entertainment lawyer, Cheryl Hodgson, who has been working with copyright for over 20 years. You can hear it here straight from the expert. This is Part 1 of the interview.

Someone You Should Know In Music Licensing

I’m heading to this year's "Guild Of Music Supervisors Awards". Should be a blast and fingers crossed that some of the supervisors who are on our panel win!

If you don’t know what the Guild Of Music Supervisors is, I just did this awesome interview with Hunter George, the Executive Manager, about what they're all about.

They play a vital role in the liaison between music supervisors, directors, movie producers, composers, and musicians.

The Most Common Trait of Sync Success

There is one thing that all musicians who are successful in music licensing have in common. There are some obvious ones like being a good songwriter and producing music that sounds as good as everything else getting into TV & film. But what is it that allows them to get sync after sync compared to a one-off or none at all.

There is one single trait that they all have that impacts almost all of us in some way every day…

The Best FREE Resource For Licensing Is Back...

**UPDATE - THE WORKSHOP IS NOW CLOSED. CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW TO SIGN UP AND BE NOTIFIED WHEN THE WORKSHOP WILL BE AVAILABLE AGAIN.

It's that time of year again. We’re kicking off our free "The Art Of The Song Pitch Workshop".

A lot of people tell us that this video series is THE best out there for sync. Our members have told us they can't believe it’s totally free.

Check it out now.

You will learn WHY most musicians fail at music licensing, WHAT works in the sync world, and HOW to target your music for TV & film.

Inside Scoop From Another Music Supervisor

Here is another inside scoop straight from the top.

There is a lot of stuff online talking about how to get your music into TV & film. I'd rather get my advice from the people who actually do it or have had proven success doing it.

Music supervisor, Valerie Biggin, appeared on a recent song pitch for our class in our course "The Art Of The Song Pitch". 

The cool thing about our song pitches is our students actually get to meet the supervisors LIVE online.

Doing this instantly kickstarts those first few critical relationships at the top of the licensing industry. It makes the inaccessible gatekeepers suddenly ACCESSIBLE.

I thought I would share a short clip of this interview with you right here. It will help you keep moving in the right direction to start syncing your songs.