by Michael Laskow

Dear Passengers,

So, how did you like last week's homework assignment? Did you come up with some tracks that will work? Easier than you thought?

For those of you who answered "no" to that question, I'll bet you are over thinking, and over doing it! Remember, the actors are the stars, and unfortunately, the music isn't. People watching the show won't critique your music as closely as you will.

I'm not lobbying for a reduction in quality, just a dose of reality.

Honestly, I doubt anybody will even single the music out. People watch the ENTIRE show, not just the music. They almost "feel" the music, more than they "hear" it.

What that means to you, is that you don't have to drive yourself nuts with tons of parts and lots of overdubs. Production often doesn't matter as much as you might think. Concentrate more on accomplishing the right mood or texture with a great melody. Some of the best producers I know have repeatedly demonstrated that less is more.

With that in mind, I want to turn you on to the best-kept secret in Film and TV music. Drum roll, please . . .

Your "B" tracks and throwaways are probably good enough to make you some serious dough.

Side Note: People often ask us why we don't listen to people's music before we "let" them join TAXI. This is the reason: A track that might not even be close for a record deal, could be absolutely perfect for a TV show. We see it all the time. We can't totally dismiss somebody's talent or viability based on a song or two.

You've probably heard stories about a "terrible" TAXI A&R person who didn't forward a song for one opportunity, yet another one of our screeners DID forward it for a different opportunity. The reason is that one opportunity was looking for songs for a huge star, while the other was looking for a TV track.

The bar is often set MUCH lower for Film and TV, and that results in more opportunities and deals.

And now back to our regular programming: My entire reason for writing this series of notes about Film and TV music to you is to show you just how many opportunities there are for you and your music. It's nearly impossible for most people to land a record deal as an artist, yet it's PROBABLE that you can get a cut in a TV show.

Here's what you need to know about music for Film and TV with lyrics: Production isn't very important here either, but "texture" and lyric content may be key.

Imagine a scene in one of those WB teen angst shows, where a teenage girl is broken-hearted because she's been dumped by her cheating boyfriend. She's in her car, parked on a cliff at the end of Lover's Lane. She's crying her eyes out, and you're wondering if she's going to drive her white Mustang convertible over that cliff.

There's music playing. It's very quiet, but it's there. The scene would feel empty without it, even though it only lasts for seventeen seconds. It's a broken hearted love song, ostensibly coming from her car radio. If you were to listen very closely, you'd hear the lyric, "He doesn't love you any more. His new girlfriend is a . . . "

You get the idea! ;-)

But you might also notice that even though the song sounds "professional," you can't recognize the artist. Why? Because the show plucked the music from a music library or a publisher, and essentially, the writer/artist is very much like you – talented, capable of making good, clean home recordings, but not yet famous.

And that's why the shows use music from people like you. Because they don't have the budget to license a song from somebody famous who would charge them tens of thousands of dollars or more.

If you think back to the first exercise I had you do, you'll remember that there is an abundant need for all types of music in films and TV shows.

And that brings me to this week's homework. I want you to list five kinds of scenarios that would require music with lyrics, and then write a twenty-second chorus that fits each scene. You don't need to fully produce these tracks. For the moment, you can do just a guitar/vocal demo or a piano vocal demo.

Examples (using famous songs):

A murdered lover that takes place in the woods: "Down By The River," by Neil Young

A party scene: "Celebration," by Kool and the Gang

A victorious sports team, end of the movie scene: "We Are the Champions," by Queen

A tender first kiss scene: "I Will Always Love You," by Whtiney Houston

A bath in hundred dollar bills after robbing a bank scene: "Money," by Pink Floyd

I know these are pretty dated examples, but I used them to make a point. They work because they are classics – everybody knows them.

You won't have that luxury, so you'll need to write songs that "sound" like hits, but aren't rip-offs. That's the hard part.

I'm NOT suggesting that you copy the songs in any way, shape or form. But, I AM suggesting that you analyze what made the song work so well. Was it the just the word, "Money" being so prominent? Was it the exclamatory exuberance of "Champions," or the ever-lasting commitment that oozes from the pores of "I Will Always Love You"?

This is your hardest assignment so far. Try to come up with five scenarios of your own and then write the choruses. Good luck!!

I'll talk to you next week,

Michael

 Read Part Four



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