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DIGITAL HANDBOOK

Songwriting and
Producing Music
Online Bachelor’s Degree Major
Begin a new musical journey.
Berklee College of Music was founded on the revolutionary
principle that the best way to prepare students for careers
in music is through the study and practice of contemporary
music.

Berklee Online extends that tradition to serve an even wider


audience, for a fraction of the cost. Alumni of Berklee College
of Music and Berklee Online have collectively won more than
250 Grammys and Latin Grammys.

This free handbook features educational content from inside


some of the required and elective courses within Berklee
Online’s major: Songwriting and Producing Music. The degree
is a deep plunge into what you need for success in the music
industry of tomorrow: versatility.
Study from anywhere,
on your schedule.
Berklee Online offers you the opportunity to obtain a degree
in your own rhythm. With access to Berklee’s acclaimed
curriculum from anywhere in the world, you’ll be able to
participate in award-winning online courses, multi-course
certificate programs, and earn a Bachelor of Professional
Studies degree. All of Berklee Online’s courses are accredited
and taught by the college’s world-renowned faculty, providing
lifelong learning opportunities to people interested in music
and working in the music industry.
Earn your bachelor’s
degree online.
Berklee Online’s bachelor’s degree program is the most
affordable and flexible option for earning your music degree
from Berklee College of Music. Apply today and receive an
admissions decision within two weeks.

Degree Highlights

• 64% less than campus tuition

• Financial aid available

• Part-time and full-time study

• Transfer credit from other institutions

• Credit issued for prior learning

• Berklee degree completion opportunities


Songwriting and Producing Music
is for the musician of the future.
Because of the intense focus on multiple disciplines—writing,
producing, and the latest music software available—you
will become a versatile asset to any project within the music
business. People who are hiring in the industry are searching
for talent familiar with a variety of styles and methods, and you
need to have proficiency with traditional skills as well as the
newest technology and hybrid production techniques. This is
what the Songwriting and Producing Music major is all about:
making you commercially viable. The major begins with a set
of core music courses that provide a foundation in theory, ear
training, and keyboard; essential information that will enable you
to collaborate with other musicians. From there, you will explore
the role of the producer, how to get the best sounds from your
DAW, and techniques for recording drums, bass, guitar, piano,
and other instruments.

The Songwriting and Producing Music major includes in-depth


focus on recording and producing vocals, with an emphasis on
capturing the proper emotion of a performance, in addition
to the art of mixing to enhance the quality of your recordings.
At the same time, you will learn techniques for strengthening
the harmonic underpinnings of your songs and making your
melodies more expressive. You will work in collaborative
songwriting contexts across a variety of musical styles. The
program culminates in a capstone project that showcases your
abilities and readies you for the career of your choice.

Apply to the Songwriting and Producing


 Music Online Degree Major Today!
Step Up
to the Mic
The vocals on your recordings could make or

break your demo… make it work!

By Chrissy Tignor Fisher

 Excerpted from the class Producing


Songwriting Demos with Pro Tools

BASIC TERMS TO
UNDERSTAND One of the most important skills for any
Pop Filter
A pop filter is a fabric, mesh,
self-producing songwriter is knowing how
or metallic filter used to block
the rush of air toward the to record vocals.
microphone created by the
vocalist, called a plosive. Plosives Vocal Recording Setup
cause the microphone to distort
or cause low-frequency boom,
usually on Ps and Bs. Always
When setting up to record vocals, keep in mind all of the terms
use a pop filter to prevent this you see in the sidebar. Your ultimate goal is to get a high-
problem.
quality recording the first time to avoid a lot of damage control
Proximity Effect in the mix later. The most common problems in vocal recording
The proximity effect is an
increase in bass or low frequency
come from bad microphone techniques, especially from
response when a sound source plosives and proximity effect. For vocal recording, you should
is close to a microphone.
Remember this when placing use a condenser microphone in cardioid.
your vocalist, so your recording
doesn’t sound boomy, muddy,
and unclear.  Watch Video

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STEP UP TO THE MIC

BASIC TERMS TO Problem-Proof Your Recording: Preventing Plosives and


UNDERSTAND
Proximity Effect
Headphone Bleed
Depending on the type of Now that you know about the terms and how to get set
headphones you’re using, you
may experience some bleed up, let’s compare and contrast the effect that plosives and
from the headphone playback
proximity effect have on the recording, so you can better
into the recording. Make sure
your vocalist isn’t monitoring detect problems.
too loud, and make sure to
leave enough space between
the headphones and the
microphone.
 Watch Video
Room Acoustics
The natural sound of the room
Recording Vocals and Punch Recording
that will be picked up by the
microphone. Try to find a dry In Pro Tools, it is a good idea to record vocal parts in pieces, to
environment, with as little natural
reverb/ambience as possible.
keep the voice from tiring out. This is called punch recording,
If you have acoustic treatment and the following video will demonstrate the process.
on the walls of your space, even
better.

 Watch Video

Playlists and Compiling Vocal Takes


Even if you’ve used punch recording, you may want several
takes to choose from for the final mix. Making a new take is
called a playlist in Pro Tools.

Once you have all of your takes recorded, create a vocal


comp track, or one track with all of the best takes combined
together.

 Watch Videos

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STEP UP TO THE MIC

Vocal Layering and Harmonies

Just like guitar recording, layering vocals is a good technique to beef up the
arrangement, especially in choruses. DO NOT copy and paste your comp
track; it will only create phasing problems layer. You should always record
the vocalist several times, in unison, to layer the vocal tracks. It is also useful
to pan them throughout the stereo spectrum, to make the vocal parts lush
and full.

 Watch Videos

 Enroll in Producing Songwriting Demos with Pro Tools now!

Chrissy Tignor Fisher is a full-time faculty member in the Contemporary Writing and
Production department at Berklee College of Music. She is a producer, songwriter, recording
engineer, and vocalist who has worked with the likes of Alex Clare, Gary Go, Bastille, Lauren
Hashian, and Notting Hill Music. Her music has been synched on Discovery Channel and TLC,
and she currently produces, writes, and remixes under the pseudonym Data Child.

Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 8


Jingle All
the Way
The key to writing successful advertising music

is to think of it like visual advertisements.

By Peter Bell

 Excerpted from the class


Writing and Producing Advertising Music

From the shark theme in Jaws to the three-note NBC musical


logo, music is part of the identity of universally shared
elements of our culture. When an advertiser puts up a
billboard or creates a print advertisement, they may use eye-
catching photography and/or a clever message throughout,
but the boldest, most colorful, and largest type is usually
reserved for the name of the business, the tagline, and
often the website or phone number. A good jingle follows
the same principle. Instead of using large or bold type, you
as the jingle creator have other tools with which you can
emphasize the most important components of the message.

One way to think of the melody of a jingle tag is to see it as


analogous to a business logo. In both cases, the message can
be delivered with or without words. Let’s look at the case of
Nike. We’ve seen the association between the “swoosh” logo

Writing & Producing Music 9


Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 9
JINGLE ALL THE WAY

and the brand Nike for years, so the famous graphic logo is
now synonymous with the brand. When we see the swoosh, we
don’t need any other information, we know it’s Nike. The Nike
swoosh doesn’t even need to have the name affixed. Everyone
knows what it means. The same principle pertains to logos that
are musical rather than graphic. In broadcast advertising, there
are musical phrases that are just as ingrained in our ears as the
Nike swoosh is in our eyes.

TOOLS OF EMPHASIS WHEN COMPOSING A JINGLE

As a composer, you can choose melody notes that emphasize the business name or tagline by
selecting any or all of the following:

High note Pause


A high note takes more energy to sing Especially when unexpected, a
and creates increased intensity. pause will grab our attention.

Note of long duration Melodic leap


Long duration focuses the ear on the In a singable, largely step-wise melody,
note, and therefore the lyric. a larger leap will stand out.

Melodic resolution Harmonic resolution


If you end on a melodic cadence Like melodic resolution, ending on a harmonic
resolution to do, sol, or less commonly, resolution to the tonic (I) chord or substitute
mi, it allows us to feel that the message will bring us home to a sense of finality.
is complete, positive, and secure.

There is one key feature that a jingle producer has to offer


to a business that sets his or her product apart from all other
broadcast ad producers: the custom made musical logo, also
known as the hook. There is nothing more compelling or

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JINGLE ALL THE WAY

memorable than a pleasing melody, especially when sung by


the human voice. We are universally drawn to songs as small
children, and the appeal never diminishes. Our preferences
regarding style and genre mature as we do, but our emotional
response to melody and song endures for our whole lives.
When you offer a custom jingle to a business, you are offering
a unique service that no non-musician can give, a unique
musical vocal phrase that will be associated with their business
or product alone.

Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

In advertising, the words usually come first. Hopefully whoever


is writing the copy will have a musical sensibility, or is using
an existing song as a template in order to ensure the lyrics
are suitable for a jingle. Either way, the point of the music
is to support a marketing message. In particular, your job is
to emphasize the “billboard” information, the name of the
business and the tagline.

In addition to being Electronic Music and Production faculty at Berklee


College of Music, Peter Bell is a producer, composer, and guitarist. His
compositions and productions include the themes to This Old House, New
Yankee Workshop, Victory Garden, as well as countless jingles and production
tracks. Peter has produced tracks featuring many world-class musicians,
including Bonnie Raitt, Layla Hathaway, New Kids on the Block, and more. His
awards include two Emmys, seven NEBA awards, and six ASCAP awards.

 Enroll in Writing and Producing Advertising Music now!

Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 11


Get up for the
Downtime
It’s easy to collaborate on a song when a project

is due, but writing without an assignment can be

a challenge, unless you follow this advice…

By Neil Diercks

 Excerpted from the class


Collaborative Songwriting

When a co-writing team is tasked with creating a song for an


artist, it’s a nice problem to have. It’s amazing what can happen
when you and a fellow songwriter are bouncing ideas off each
other, under the duress of a deadline.

But what do we do when we don’t have such a request? To


liberally paraphrase George Clinton, how do you get up for the
downtime? Everybody get up!

As songwriters, we have to be self-starters. We can’t wait


around to be asked to be involved in a project. We have
to take initiative and create songs on our own. If there’s no
outside impetus, just pretend there is.

While it is totally valid to just start writing a song, and then,


upon completion, give thought to what artist(s) the song might
potentially work for, sometimes it can be wise to take a more
focused approach.

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GET UP FOR THE DOWNTIME

A common practice in the industry is for co-writers to get


together and choose an artist to target and then write a song
with that artist in mind.

Since this situation doesn’t start with direction from any


specific artist’s entourage, co-writing teams will need to make
intentional choices regarding the artist they will target as well
as the characteristics of the song they will write for that artist.
To help make these choices, co-writers are often heard asking
two questions:

“Who Is Cutting?”
“What Are They Looking For?”

What do these questions mean? Why ask them?

“Who is cutting?”: This question is really industry lingo


shorthand for three questions:

1. “Which artists are currently recording and looking for


songs?”

2. “Which other artists are scheduled to be doing so soon?”

3. “What is the recording schedule of these artists?”

“What are they looking for?”: This question is simply asking for
any details about the characteristics of songs specific artists are
wanting to record.

Why do songwriters ask these questions? (Questions wrapped


in a question!)

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GET UP FOR THE DOWNTIME

It may seem obvious, but it’s worth taking a moment to look


at this a bit. Getting answers to these questions can help your
team refine focus and plan a strategy.

“Who Is Cutting?”
There are many artists in the music industry. Not all are
scheduled to be recording and not all are looking for “outside
songs” (meaning songs not written by the artist). Writing a
song for an artist who has no current plans to record and/or
doesn’t plan to record any outside material might be fun, but
it’s usually not very productive.

Knowing which artists are recording and are looking for songs
helps narrow your team’s focus.

An effective creative strategy can be planned if your team


knows the specific recording schedules of artists.

For example, if “Artist A” is scheduled to finish recording in


one week and “Artist B” isn’t scheduled to begin recording
for another six months, writing a song for “Artist B” right now
might eliminate your chances of creating a song for “Artist A.”
Also, if you’re wondering about the deadline outlined in the
scenario above, artists often do solicit songs right up to the
eleventh hour of recording.

If instead, your team immediately targets “Artist A,” you’ll


have an opportunity to write for that artist as well as as an
opportunity to target “Artist B” later. You just doubled your
odds.

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GET UP FOR THE DOWNTIME

The above may seem obvious, but sometimes when you’re


driving along the song highway with your windows down and
solely focused on the creative landscape, the neglected map
of strategy can get blown to the backseat and slip between the
cushions.

“What Are They Looking For?”


You may feel you know a particular artist’s style and catalog
pretty well and you probably do. What you may not know is
what that artist may be looking to do next. That’s where this
question can help out.

While remaining consistent with their image and brand, artists


will sometimes enter new musical territory with each new
recording project. Artists might want to record a song with a
certain stylistic influence, lyric topic, or vibe that differs from
their past recordings.

Additionally, an artist may have already selected and/or written


certain songs for their project and now they’re looking to fill
a specific remaining slot. Maybe they need a rowdy irreverent
uptempo number, or a sentimental ballad, or a social issue
song.

Since in this collaborative setting your team hasn’t been


directly contacted by an artist’s entourage and given direction,
do what I’ve already suggested: use a Pitch List!

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GET UP FOR THE DOWNTIME

What’s a Pitch List? Where Does My Team Get One?

I’ve heard them called all different names in the industry:


“Cutting List,” “Recording Schedule,” “Tip Sheet,” etc. I
like to call it a “Pitch List.”

A Pitch List is simply a list of artists currently recording or who


will soon be recording, along with their recording schedules
and what they are looking for song-wise. As you can imagine,
this becomes useful in answering the questions above.
Staggeringly convenient.

Pitch Lists are typically compiled and circulated within the


industry. Record labels will often provide others in the industry
with information about their artists’ recording schedules and
the type of songs they’re seeking.

Music publishers will often gather this information from the


various labels and put it together to create their own Pitch
Lists, so they can focus the writing efforts of their songwriters
and pitching efforts of their staff.

Songwriters affiliated with music publishers will typically be


given a Pitch List by their publisher. Independent songwriters
often compile their own lists by getting information from their
songwriter friends who are signed to publishers. They can
also gather information through their industry relationships,
folks such as record labels, A&R, artists’ managers, producers,
publishers, etc.

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GET UP FOR THE DOWNTIME

Building relationships with people in all parts of the music


industry is incredibly important. This is a theme that is quite
handy to grasp in collaborative songwriting.

As you can see from what I’ve described, Pitch Lists tend to be
available to only those “inside” the music industry. (Don’t start
bullet pointing your complaints. That list may rhyme with “Pitch
List,” but it’s an entirely different kind of list, and just not as
productive!)

Take a look at the sample Pitch List, and pick a project for you
and your collaborator(s) to start. Even if you don’t have the
industry connections to pitch to the actual artists right now,
you’ll at least have a new song in your suitcase, and you’ll be
able to see how closely you were able to write to the artists’
parameters when their next albums eventually come out.

Example Pitch List


ARTIST SONGS WANTED CUTTING WHEN?
Adele Mid to uptempo, fun, positive, and/or inspirational, Nov - Dec
no ballads/sad songs (we already have them!)
Calvin Harris Fun, uptempo, songs for summer a la Justin Jan-March
Timberlake “Can't Stop the Feeling”
The Weeknd Uptempo, funky, current with retro sound: think Fall/Winter
Lenny Kravitz meets Prince meets Skrillex
Drake Super sexy slow jams Oct-Jan
Mike Posner Edgy, issue-oriented (no politics), or clever comical Now - Dec
mid-uptempo: think Jason Mraz meets 21 Pilots
Keith Urban Contemporary classics! Genre-transcending songs, undetermined
new "standards," Keith is looking for what he calls
"timeless." Songs like "Always on My Mind," "Cat's
in the Cradle," "So Far Away," and "Take It Easy"
should be the benchmarks here. He's wanting
the next "standard," needs to be contemporary
yet timeless, so he can put his own spin on it.
Cole Swindell Edgy bro-country, punch of Big & Rich/ Oct- Dec
early Montgomery Gentry

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GET UP FOR THE DOWNTIME

Example Pitch List (continued)


ARTIST SONGS WANTED CUTTING WHEN?
Lady Gaga Ultra contemporary, edgy, message, issue, uptempo, Looking now, may cut single
in-your-face, production must be forward-reaching if right song found, studio
dates begin in Sept - Jan
Kehlani Similar vibe as “CRZY” and “Gangsta,” something Starting in late Jan
that can work with a featured male hip-hop artist

Marc E. Bassy Fun summer songs and ballad like John Legend’s Oct - Dec
of "All of Me"
Jason Aldean Rootsy country, southern rock, think modern day Nov - Jan
"Sweet Home Alabama" and "Life in the Fast
Lane," with references to Georgia a plus
Shawn Think "Thinking Out Loud" Now - Dec
Mendes
Niall Horan Thoughtful but fun, think "Took a Pill in Ibiza" Sept - Oct

Ariana Grande Uptempo, dance, fun, young or one Jan - Mar


serious song like Pink's "Try"
Alissa Cara Uptempos and something dramatic Feb - Mar
like Sia's "Chandelier"

Neil Diercks is a Los Angeles-based songwriter, song coach, and musician. He served for many years in various
capacities at Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., in Nashville, beginning as an intern and eventually becoming
Manager of A&R Activities. It was within this role that he worked with hit songwriters including Gary Burr, Steve
Bogard, Stephony Smith, Jeff Stevens, and Victoria Shaw, who penned hits for artists such as Tim McGraw,
Garth Brooks, George Strait, Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill, Ricky Martin, and Christina Aguilera.

 Enroll in Collaborative Songwriting now!

Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 18


Let’s Dissect
Songs!
You thought you had cut open your
last specimen in biology class.

By Suzanne Dean

 Excerpted from the class


Arranging 1: Rhythm Section

Most songs are comprised of distinct sections. Song analysis


is a method of identifying each part of a song. Song analysis
expertise is a useful skill when laying out scores and while
making musical decisions about the flow of different parts of a
song. Here we present songs that illustrate the song sections
most commonly used by composers. Those parts are:

• Introduction • Instrumental solo


• Coda (outro or ending) • Verse
• Chorus • Refrain
• Transitional bridge (or prechorus)
• Primary bridge

Keep in mind that the song forms presented here represent the
most common song forms. Since song forms differ from song to
song, not every song will conform to one of these examples.

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LET’S DISSECT SONGS!

Introduction and Instrumental Solo


These are the two easiest sections to identify. Just about every
song has an instrumental introduction designed to immediately
draw the listener into the music and set the style of the song. In
some cases, the instrumental intro has an additional function;
that is, to give the vocalist their starting pitch.

The solo section is an instrumental section designed to feature


one or more instruments. They are usually 8–16 bars in length.

Coda (Outro)
The coda (outro), or ending of a tune, can be many things. Two
possibilities are a vamp or tag, which are repeated bars at the
end. Vamping usually refers to the rhythm section playing a
repeated section of chords, and often will have the direction
of “repeat and fade.” Tag refers more specifically to repeating
the last few bars of the tune itself, usually culminating in a
heightened dynamic feeling on the final beat.

Verse
The verse tells the story of the song. Verses generally have
different lyrics in each musical repetition, while the melody and
harmony stay essentially the same. Some songs feature verse
lyrics that are different from verse to verse, but touch upon
the same certain phrases in different ways. “Fields of Gold” by
Sting is a good example of this.

(Continued on page 23)

Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 20


LET’S DISSECT SONGS!

Getting in the Mix


By Alejandro Rodriguez and Richard Mendelson
Level balance is the first thing that comes to mind when mixing. We are talking about relative
loudness.

• What instrument or instruments should be featured and at what time?

• Does a certain musical event, such as a guitar lick or a sample, create an interesting musical
result that should be featured or downplayed?

Certain music genres have specific common practices as to what is more prominent and what is
considered a “color” detail.

Pop-Rock Hip-Hop
A typical pop-rock song will have the lead A hip-hop mix will typically have a dry and up-
vocal, drums (with snare on top of them), and front lead vocal with heavy, big low-end kick
guitars, most likely in that order, as the louder and bass, drastic transitions for vocal tracks,
sounds in the mix, while keeping some strings from dry and centered to processed or not,
or keyboard pads, ethnic percussion sounds, but duplicated and hard panned, stressing
and some other sound components lower in certain phrases.
the mix.
Latin
Hard Rock Some Latin music genres, like salsa, have a
On the other hand, a hard rock mix will very up-front percussion component. Since
have more distorted guitars and less of the percussion is essential for dancing to this
guttural lead vocal, everybody loud, with music, the various percussion instruments
usually no dramatic level changes, and almost need to be spread all over the stereo field
no depth. This might sound like a bad thing, and placed at prominent levels, while keeping
but it perfectly matches the reality of a band the main vocal message on top, but usually
performing this music, and so is the type of downgrading guitars or keyboard pads, etc.
message that needs to be transmitted.

 Enroll in The Art of Mixing now!

Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 21


LET’S DISSECT SONGS!

Good Form By Peter Bell


In popular music today, we have very different definitions for
verse and chorus. Today the verse is not a preamble at all. It is
the musically repeating part of the song that tells the story, with
different lyrics each time it appears. The chorus also repeats,
and is the part that has the same lyrics each time it appears, and
usually contains the high point and often the hook.

Here’s a look at song structures of popular music styles. Generally,


the letters are assigned as follows: A represents the verse, B the
chorus, and C the bridge. Occasionally, when there is an additional
section, the letter D is employed. An intro is usually at the
beginning of the song (such as the last two bars of section A), and
an outro at the end (such as section B, repeated).

Music Style Common Forms


American Standard AABA
Rock and Pop ABABC

ABACB
R&B and Hip-Hop ABABC
ABAB
Dance AABAAB
ABC
AB
AAAA
Jazz ABCD
ABC
AB

 Enroll in Writing & Producing Advertising Music now!

Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 22


LET’S DISSECT SONGS!

Refrain
The refrain appears at the end of every verse. The lyrics for
the refrain will always be the same. Typically, the refrain is the
most memorable part of a song, called the hook. The words
presented in the refrain are often reflected in the song title.
The refrain is usually the shortest part of the song. Think about
the refrain in “The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylan.
In this case, the refrain is the title phrase, a one-line tag that
comes after each eight-line stanza.

Chorus
The chorus usually stands alone from the verse. Like the
refrain, it can be used to present the hook or title of the song.
However, a chorus can be different from a refrain in that it may
not come after every verse, and it can lead to a new section
of the song. A chorus is generally longer than a refrain, usually
eight bars.

Transitional Bridge
A transitional bridge connects the verse to a chorus. A
transitional bridge, also known as a prechorus, is used to help
connect the verse to the chorus and give the feeling of forward
motion leading into the chorus. Listen to “After the Love Has
Gone” by Earth, Wind & Fire, and you’ll hear the transitional
bridge at the “something happened along the way” part.

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LET’S DISSECT SONGS!

Primary Bridge
A primary bridge usually comes later in a song, after some
verses and at least one chorus. It may return to another chorus
or just continue to the end of the song. In some cases it can
return to a prechorus, then chorus, or it can even return to a
final additional verse. It provides contrast, both musically and
lyrically, to the verses and choruses. Think of the “Dear Daddy,
I write you, in spite of years of silence” portion of “Say It Ain’t
So” by Weezer.

Suzanne Dean has taught at Berklee College of Music since 1997. She is an
arranger, educator, composer, keyboardist, and vocalist who has released two
albums on Nova Records and worked as an orchestrator for the CBS television
network. She is a member of Broadcast Music Inc., and the National Academy
of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Richard Mendelson is a senior faculty member in the Music Production and


Engineering department at Berklee College of Music. His former students
include many Grammy-winning mixing and recording engineers, and his
mixing and recording work has been featured in recordings by artists such as
Rihanna, Nicole Scherzinger, Fergie, and Garbage.

Alejandro Rodriguez is an associate professor in the Music Production and


Engineering department at Berklee College of Music, with more than 20 years
of experience as a recording, editing, mixing, mastering, postproduction, and
live sound engineer and producer. He has worked with artists such as Mariah
Carey, Compay Segundo, and more. Prior to Berklee, he was an acoustics
professor at the National School of Arts (ENA) and a professor of sound
studies at Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA)—both in Havana, Cuba.

 Enroll in Arranging 1: Rhythm Section* now!

*Arranging 1: Rhythm Section is one of the many elective courses you may
take as part of your Songwriting and Producing Music degree major

Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 24


Selling Your
Songs to the
Screen
The path for payment of music differs for each
medium. Here’s what you need to know.

By Brad Hatfield

Excerpted from the class


 Songwriting for Film and TV

The use of songs in visual media has changed from generation


to generation. Because new technology keeps emerging, there
are many new opportunities for songs to be licensed.

Film
The income trail that results from a successful placement in a
major motion picture is a long one. Even a small indie film will
deliver some peripheral income from broadcast on TV or other
broadcast technology.

Recently there has been an increase in the usage of songs in


motion pictures, chipping away at the amount of underscore.
I believe this is partially due to directorial artistic needs, as
well as the fact that there is so much music available now for
licensing. Also, soundtracks that contain the most popular
songs have been quite successful, financially. There are
soundtrack CDs that feature the underscore, but this is a

Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 25


SELLING YOUR SONGS TO THE SCREEN

limited market compared to soundtrack CDs that contain full


songs. Also, due to streaming, this income isn’t quite what it
was a decade ago.

If your song is used in a major motion picture in the US,


you’ll negotiate licensing fees for the initial use. The fee that
you are paid is for the “theatrical” release and the probable
subsequent release as a DVD, download, or whatever media
may exist in the future. The good news is that if the film is
successful, it will also play in foreign territories, entitling you to
foreign theatrical performance royalties. The next move down
the income chain is to broadcast on TV. Typically, a feature
film will be available first on subscription TV such as HBO,
Showtime, etc., earning you performance royalties. If the film
is really big, it will probably end up on network TV as well,
generating more performance income. Of course, this same
process will be repeated in foreign territories, so I think you get
the picture: a successful placement is the gift that keeps giving!

Potential Income Flow after Placement in Film


1. Initial Song Placement in a Feature Film
Sync license fees paid to writer(s), publisher(s), master owner(s) covers:
A. US Theatrical Release
B. DVD/Download Release
C. CD Soundtrack Release
Mechanical Licenscing Fees paid per unit sold/downloaded

2. Performance Royalties
A. Foreign Theatrical Release
B. US and Foreign Subscription Broadcast Television
HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Etc.
C. Radio Airplay - Foreign and Domestic
D. US & Foreign Network TV Broadcast Television
E. Stage Shows Based on the Film

3. Print Rights - Sheet Music


4. Mechanical Fees - Toys
5. Cover Songs, Etc.

Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 26


SELLING YOUR SONGS TO THE SCREEN

Television
The use of songs in network television series as a dramatic tool
and atmosphere creator is on the rise. Even if a song is not the
most prominent part of a scene, there are many types of song
usages that will still earn the writer some great royalties once it
is included in a show. Songs that are played in the background
of a bar or café scene still need to be licensed, and if the show
is successful, such a licensed song will continue to earn money
for the writer as it moves through repeated broadcasts.

Television shows (as of this writing) are moving towards using


“artists” as opposed to “writers” for their song needs. A show
that affiliates with recognizable or even an up-and-coming
artist, can add viewership based solely on this relationship.
With an increase in soundtrack albums being released by
shows, an artist’s name will be more of a draw as opposed to a
behind-the-scenes writer. In most cases, shows are trying their
best to be cutting edge, and want to avoid using common or
“generic” music from music libraries and their writers.

To position yourself as a more marketable songwriter, it is


advised that you maintain an artist site on SoundCloud or
similar Internet site to display your songwriting. Being a “real
artist” may help you get a song placed.

The income trail for your song in TV shows as opposed to film


is a little shorter because you will not have the initial domestic
and foreign theatrical release.

However, if the show becomes syndicated, it can still generate


many years of income as it moves through foreign markets
and onto channels that broadcast syndicated shows. Having

Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 27


SELLING YOUR SONGS TO THE SCREEN

one of your songs featured prominently on a popular TV series


can create a buzz that will increase traffic to your online sales
method: iTunes, CDBaby, Napster, Bandcamp, etc. Major
artists benefit from a show informing the viewer of what song
is playing by a screen crawl, or substantial mention in the
closing credits. As technology advances, I’m pretty sure the
content will be instantly accessible for purchase to a viewer
through other means. These are indeed exciting times to be a
songwriter!

Personal Insight
I wrote several songs that were used in the popular HBO
show The Sopranos. It was to my great surprise that when
technology to view the show on a cell phone became a reality, I
had a licensing income windfall because the initial licensing did
not include that method of distribution!

Animated Film
With Disney classics as the most salient examples, this medium
for songs creates an unbelievable cross-marketing opportunity
for soundtrack CDs (yes, actual CDs, since parents still tend
to buy physical products for their kids), downloads, DVDs, ice
shows, radio airplay, Broadway versions, sheet music, toys, and
other merchandise. Licensing fees and royalties from many of
these peripheral usages can add up to a substantial amount of
income for a songwriter.

Having a song on a soundtrack CD (even if yours isn’t the “hit”)


can earn income based on the sales of the full CD in physical
form or downloads. If the animated feature is adapted to stage,
ice shows, or even a live actor feature film, new opportunities

Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 28


SELLING YOUR SONGS TO THE SCREEN

will arise to have the song performed and/or recorded. And


then there is always the toy that sings the song—more royalties
there!

Although Disney tends to use staff writers and other well-


known composers, there are many other film companies that
produce animated features that utilize songs and may provide
opportunities for lesser-known writers.

Video Games and Other Media


Video games have long had musical accompaniment with
memorable themes and fantastic underscore. As of this
writing, video game producers are licensing more songs from
well-known bands as well as some new acts to include with
the games. Recent studies have shown that 26 percent of
the gamers are over 50 years old, and 25 percent are 18 and
younger. The average game player is 33 years old and has
been playing games for 12 years.

The video game songwriting landscape is a unique one,


because you may be sonically challenged by the sound of
explosions, racing engines, or battling robots, so the song
really has to be able to keep up with that energy and keep
the game player fired up! Other opportunities for having your
song used in a video game might include having your song
translated into Simlish for use in the Sims game. If you’re not
familiar with Simlish, you really owe it to yourself to look up
some of the songs online. You’ll hear Katy Perry in a brand
new way.

Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 29


SELLING YOUR SONGS TO THE SCREEN

There are many other outlets in visual media for your songs,
and many more outlets yet to be discovered. More than ever,
entrepreneurs of all types are moving their storefront to the
Internet, and often need some great music for their sites. I’ve
had a few of my instrumental songs licensed for use on sites
displaying visual artists’ and photographers’ works. There will
forever be a use for good songs, and if you write them so they
work instrumentally, as well as vocally, they will serve you well
for many years.

Brad Hatfield is a Boston-based Emmy award-winning composer, keyboardist,


arranger, orchestrator, and award-winning educator. Writing and producing
songs in a variety of genres, Brad’s works have been heard internationally
through repeated placements in film (Borat, Iron Man 2, Analyze This, The
Break Up), and TV shows/promos (Friends, CSI, NCIS, Saturday Night Live,
American Horror Story, The Sopranos, GLEE, The Good Wife), just to name a
few. Brad served as co-composer for the FX series Rescue Me, and is currently
composing for the CBS daytime drama The Young and the Restless, where he
received Emmy nominations in 2015 and 2016.

 Enroll in Songwriting for Film and TV now!

Songwriting and Producing Music Viewbook 30


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