Writing with a fountain pen

Some Tips On Songwriting For Sync Licensing

There are a few general rules to play by to help give your songs the best chance of landing that longed for sync license.  I’ll talk about them here in no particular order.

Write Loads of Songs

Once you have mastered the quality aspect of songwriting and producing for sync, then it’s time to think about the quantity you are creating every year that is available for pitching to libraries or direct to music supervisors.

It’s a numbers game.  Not all your songs will earn you money, and a few will be the ones to earn by far the largest percentage of your income.  You need to get as many songs as you can out there and working for you.

My own general aim is to get at least 52 songs and instrumentals into libraries and/or ready to pitch every single year.  52 is my minimum, I actually aim for (and sometimes achieve) 120.  But note, this is songs AND instrumentals.  Instrumentals are much faster to create.

Now this number will not be achievable by many, and a few will be able to produce more than this.  You need to figure out a sensible goal for yourself, and plan how you will manage it.  But the more songs you get out there, the more money you will earn from them.

Stick to Universal Lyrics

Universal lyrics are lyrics that do not mention names, places, dates, or anything else that will limit the use of the song.

Here is an example of a universal lyric.  It’s from a song called ‘So Complicated’ by Jane & the Taximan:

Love is come and gone

And still I carry on

It’s like a whisper for a melody

Like an old forgotten celebrity

And how can I believe

That what I haven’t seen

And dream about those gentle days

Of memories that we never made

It’s so complicated

Close but never made it

A love that could have been

But would sooner sink than swim

It’s so complicated

It’s so complicated”

Notice how it says everything, but keeps anything specific out of the lyric?  It uses vivid images to illicit the required emotion from the listener.

Now here is an example of a non-universal lyric.  It’s from ‘Hello’ by Adele: 

“Hello, it’s me

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet

To go over everything

They say that time’s supposed to heal ya

But I ain’t done much healing

Hello, can you hear me?

I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be

When we were younger and free

I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet”

This is much more specific.  The singer is in California which is about as non-universal as it can get.  Unless there is a phone conversation set in California in a TV series or film, then this song most likely wouldn’t be used.

Of course, the fact that it is a hit by Adele means it will get more uses.  But if you or I had written it we’d probably just get streaming income and no syncs.

Avoid Being Explicit or Swearing

Almost all placements require lyrics that are ‘clean’, meaning that there is no explicit language in them such as talking about sex or drugs, and no unpleasant swear words, or nasty slang either.

Instrumental Versions

Always have an instrumental version available.  This is a version with the vocals, all of them, taken out.  So the track is left with all the instrumental parts.

Taking out the vocals includes the oohs and ahhs, as well as the backing vocals (unless they are specifically asked for).

Single Emotion

Still to a single emotion in each song.  I will be covering this in more detail in a later post, but for now remember that going from really happy and in love in the verse, to being sad and upset because your love left you in the chorus, is a big no no when you are writing for sync licensing.

This is because they need a consistent emotion throughout so they can use different parts of the song and match it to the visual picture (film or tv show) where a particular emotion is being played out on screen.

To Sum Up…

Yes, I know there are exceptions to all of this.  But they are the exceptions, they are quite rare and they are usually well known hit songs.

Each of these subjects will be covered in more detail in new blog posts.

If there are any subjects that you would like us to write about, please just tell us in the comments below. Alternatively, send us a note via the Contact page.  Thank you!

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