Writing music for productions is not the way it used to be. The standards are high and getting higher, which makes landing placements all the more difficult. This article will give you some useful for keeping music productions fresh and placements plentiful.
The ever-evolving and fast-paced world of music production is tricky to keep up with at the best of times. New products! Digital sounds! Innovative watermarking/audio fingerprint technologies! WTF is trendy right now?!
As composers (and human beings) it’s easy to fall into a comfort zone with our music making routine. Unfortunately, times change, and they change fast – leaving old sounds, techniques and potentially, you, behind. Have you sent music to a library only to see little to no placement of your music?
In other words, have you ever received an email from a music library that looks like this:
“Following a thorough review, it was decided that your tracks as submitted are not a good fit for our library at this time due to shifting trends in the music and entertainment industry.”
There are some important areas that you need to invest time and money in to keep your music productions relevant and standing out from the rest.
How To Get Your Music Licensed
1. Make sure you have high-quality sample libraries
Upgrade those MIDIs! You have incredible song-writing skills. You can develop a song, building energy and mood to an epic earth shattering climax that you just know will brilliantly serve the next hit drama. Unfortunately, you haven't updated your sample library in the last few, maybe 5, 10, 15 + years. It doesn't matter how breathtaking your composition is, if the quality of sound isn't representative of current trends and expectations in the industry - your track will not be used.
The standards are high and getting higher. Long gone are the days of “passable” MIDI sounds. Don’t underestimate your audience, we as a society have become well versed at detecting nuances in sound. Your audience will be able to hear the binary 1’s and 0’s of bad MIDI strings a mile away.
Check out these popular examples below that show how sounds have changed over the years.
After consulting a few in-house composers at Bedtracks, we came up with a condensed list of our “must have” sample libraries:
Native Instruments - Komplete Production Suite
Spectrasonics - Omnisphere Power Synth, Trilian, Stylus RMX
Spitfire Audio - Spitfire Labs
East West - Quantum Leap
Steven Slate Digital - Drums
Output Sounds - REV, Signal
Visit their websites to dig deeper!
2. Customize: make those tracks sound like you
Now that you have your sample library, avoid relying solely on their presets. Mold sounds to make them uniquely you.
Presets are a great starting point when choosing your sonic palette and don’t get me wrong, if it sounds good, then it is good! Something to be conscious of is overusing common samples in your music. Ensure you are making the most and diversifying your samples by tweaking the presets.
A lot of commonly used sound libraries are easily identifiable by music supervisors (e.g. Damage Drums, Discovery Series: West Africa). This may seem trivial and the general population won’t notice, but when music supervisors are listening to music all day long unique sounds are refreshing and may help get your track placed.
3. Research and monitor emerging technology and products
Do Your Homework! Research new products and technology and adapt when possible. It feels like everyday a new fandangled tech advancement is coming to replace the old. Is it important to get every single new product that comes out? No. Is it important to be aware of it? Yes. Knowledge is power!
Subscribe to RSS feeds (I recommend Digg reader) from your favourite virtual instrument, plugin, technology innovators, etc and check in regularly to your feeds to see what’s new. Watch product demos on Youtube. The internet holds a wealth of information that can only benefit you.
4. Listen to what’s being placed today
Recognize the trends before they peak. (More Homework!)
The best way to stay on top of music trends in TV, advertisements, trailers etc. is by learning what’s working and why. Watch as much popular and high-rated television as you can. Turn on Netflix and look through their “Trending Now” category and use Twitter to find out what's trending on other popular networks like HBO, FX and AMC. What soundtracks have been nominated or won awards? Analyze the music. Every production has its own aesthetic. Identify a common theme among different visual media. Break it down - watch the cooking, reno, crime, drama, romance and children’s shows. Don’t skip, but watch the commercials for food, cars, fashion, and whatever else is awesome. Pay attention to the broadcasters and content providers that resonate with you and the music you make.
If you’re not already familiar with what’s being played on Top 40 radio, I would recommend subscribing to ‘Today’s Top Hits’ playlist on Spotify. Being familiar with today’s hits will give you a healthy advantage when the client sends a brief requesting “something that is like... [the pop hit du jour].”
5) Cultural Relevancy
Learn new styles and blend them to push creative music forward. It's great if you have a particular genre, beat, instrument or whatever it is that makes your sound yours. Keep doing that, but take it to new places. Get inside different genres and learn what makes them tick. If hip hop is your thing, what happens when you cross-reference hip hop drums with Southeast Asian music? Take the genre that you play best and work at blending it with another. Blending musical styles is where genres are born from. This will develop your versatility as a composer and give your tracks an added oomph of originality that sets your track above the rest.
I hope this article has given you some useful advice on how to stay fresh and relevant as a modern day production music composer!
“He not busy being born is busy dying.” - Bob Dylan