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How To Break in TV Ad Composing
Old 23rd August 2007
  #1
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How To Break in TV Ad Composing

Any advice on how to break into the TV ad composing industry? I am an independent composer, don't live in LA or NY, but I would like to compose tracks or at least market my productions to ad agencies outside my local area. I've done a lot of research about the industry, gathered a lot of contact info on specific agency creatives and producers. I've also written a wide range of 30 and 60 second tracks, and started pitching them to a number of ad agencies in the US. I'll appreciate any advice on my endeavors.
Old 23rd August 2007
  #2
Sounds like you're going about it the right way.

Get yourself a slick showreel and website and toute them around to any and all directors/creatives/producers in advertising that you can bend the ear of.
They're always looking for people who can do the work well, quickly (and cheaply!) so if you can come up with the goods you're in with a chance. You've just got to get your foot in the door with as many people who make it happen as possible and that means the guys at the advertising agencies.

You could also try applying for work at a dedicated ad composers agency who look after composers and find them work in the industry for a cut of the fees. You might have to give up some dollar but you'll get the work.

Basically, WORK WORK WORK!

Good luck! It's great when it happens. (I'm pitching for a campaign for Sky right now - fingers crossed).


Peace

the tortoise
Old 23rd August 2007
  #3
Old 24th August 2007
  #4
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Thanks for the advice.
Old 24th August 2007
  #5
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Well, you could also contact the companies who are doing that type of work. Google commercial music production, look up the companies involved, go to their websites, listen to the type of work they do, see if there is a fit there. If not, you'll know what type of work you'll need to do to get involved in this type of thing. I can tell you, ya' gotta' be REALLY good, fast, & willing to work at a moments notice. Advertisers are looking for a hit song, something really special. Our company has been doing this type of work for about 25 years. It's a tough business, but I get to hear our stuff everyday on tv and radio, and I'm making a living making music. Of course, advertisers & agencies are looking for music that does not sound like commercial music. Most want something that sounds like an artist's cut. You know, something that could come off an album or cd. Hope this helps. PM me if you'd like me to hear something.
Mark Miller
Old 24th August 2007
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harvestmark View Post
Of course, advertisers & agencies are looking for music that does not sound like commercial music. Most want something that sounds like an artist's cut. You know, something that could come off an album or cd.Mark Miller
Are you speaking of full-scale songwriting for ad agencies? Right now, I have been writing a wide range of instrumental tracks only. Yes, I make hot tracks along with other stuff, but I haven't written anything with vocals and lyrics for my commercial demo reel. I am a singer/songwriter, but the songs that I have weren't written for ad agencies. If I have to venture into songwriting for this purpose, I definitely will. What kind of music, lyrics and message do you think would represent these artist's cuts that ad agencies are looking for?
Old 24th August 2007
  #7
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You should see if you could get your music bought by a company that puts out production music libraries. They would be easier to sell to (if your work is good enough) because they deal in a large number of cuts.
An ad agency is only going to buy one cut per client and even if they are a huge agency they won't be buying that many pieces per year compared to a production music library who will put out as much as they can in order to offer a variety of music.

You also need to pick the companies that actually sell a library and then charge for useage of the cuts because the buy-out production libraries tend to be small "one-guy" or "two-guy" shops. It is not impossible that they'd like your cuts, but they can't pay what the larger companies pay.

Having ad agencies right in your imedeate vicinity is going to almost be a must because the producers will probebly be VERY hands on.
If someone has a track record and the producers trust them they will use people who are in different cities, but they really like to feel as if they are "in control" on larger pieces.

Remember that the producer ultimately answers to someone higher up whether it is his boss or ultimately the client. They don't take many risks and tend to stick with established writers who they trust.

I have seen people break into the business and be VERY sucessful (you could hum their melodies right now) but it didn't happen overnight.
I have seen people start with an agency that grew and they were carried along.
Once that agency started doing some heavy-hitter campaigns (winning some Clios and such) other agencies started to want the music writer)s) to do stuff for them.
Be aware that I am talking about something that was a 12 year or more process, too!

Also, producers are fairly transient and move between agencies. they tend to work with talent that has a track record because their career is only as good as the last campaign that they wrote, produced, etc... Because of this they don't take too may risks.

The other important thing is that they tend to use people that they identify with.
I have seen a few younger music houses get gigs because they hung out at the same places that the younger producers did. Bars, scene, etc...

I'd mostly advise you not to shoot too high and expect to be doing national campaigns in the short term. Local spots that might pay $500.00 for a cut are a good place to start. It might be for a tiny agency that has only a few clients.

If anything, you need to know how to write VERY WELL in A LOT of styles!
You might write a great Cheryl Crow style cut that they love, but when they come asking for a tejano cut you'd better be able to crank that out, too. If you can't then the guy that CAN will get the gig and he'll get a chance to demo something the next time they ask for a Cheryl Crow type cut. Suddenly you'll have competition.
You won't survive and florish unless you can write a lot of styles.
There are a lot of starving guys that CAN write a lot of styles. I have worked with them!
If you yourself can't write and produce in a variety of styles then you need an ally that can. This is a must!

Gor persoective: I know people who are great writers and have written hit songs.
They couldn't write a radio/TV cut if they had to! They don't know the style and format.

It used to be that agencies needed lots of music because they ran more individualized spots. Since the early '90s the trend has been to have the same basic spot (same music) and many versions.
I could go into detail about why, but the short explanation is that computers and DAWs have made it VERY easy to produce multiple versions of the same spot.
It used to be that each campaign meant a music jingle session with a whole group of players, a V.O. session and hours of assembly and editing.

You'd be surprised how little original music is bought now compared to the earlier times!

BTW, I tel you all of this because I was HEAVILY involved in the business for many years and I saw many changes take place.

Good luck!

....and NEVER turn in a cut that is anything other than 9.5 , 29.5 or 59.5
If they ask for a cut they will expect it to be EXACTLY those times and ALL of those times. Nothing makes you look worse and cost them money than handing them a cut that is a half second too long. I have seen music tossed many times because it was too hard to edit and make it sound right because it was too long.

... and it has to translate to radio/TV
... that's a whole different topic.

Danny Brown
Old 24th August 2007
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbbubba View Post
You should see if you could get your music bought by a company that puts out production music libraries. ..........You also need to pick the companies that actually sell a library.
Any suggestions on specific companies that buy production music libraries, or how to find them?
Old 25th August 2007
  #9
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libraries

Go to google and type in production music lib. and sart cold calling.
I ghost write for another company and have done over 600 commercials over many years.The owner of the co i work for is great at business and he sells himself very well.I am just a well paid sub urban contractor.The other service to check out is taxi.
I also know somone who writes jazz specific type standards and works with a library.I believe he has placed some 60 cuts of his tunes in major movies and splits royalties with the library.I believe he generates a couple hundred thousand dollars a year so far but i could not give you an exact figure.
Good Luck
Dan
Old 25th August 2007
  #10
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Hey Everyone,
Just received an e-mail from an agency about 10 hrs away. The sender tells me that she has received my cd and that I have some different and interesting sounds. She said that they would love to schedule a screening sometime after September. I plan to fly up there in October. What exactly is a screening? What is it like and how do I prepare for it? I don't mean to sound ignorant, remember I have no experience in the business.
Old 25th August 2007
  #11
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screening

They want to see what you are made of.Go with confidence.Do not tell them that you are new to the business.Tell them that you can fulfill there need.
Pretend you have had the xperience.The fact tha someone has commented on your tracks in a good way means that they are interested.
Dress up and look sharp.There is some hollywood in this.Make yourself biiger than life.Good Luck!

Dan
Old 27th August 2007
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbbubba View Post
If anything, you need to know how to write VERY WELL in A LOT of styles!
You might write a great Cheryl Crow style cut that they love, but when they come asking for a tejano cut you'd better be able to crank that out, too. If you can't then the guy that CAN will get the gig and he'll get a chance to demo something the next time they ask for a Cheryl Crow type cut. Suddenly you'll have competition.
You won't survive and florish unless you can write a lot of styles.
There are a lot of starving guys that CAN write a lot of styles. I have worked with them!
If you yourself can't write and produce in a variety of styles then you need an ally that can. This is a must!

Danny Brown
This is good advice. You should be able to write to a VERY specific brief, in any style, on ridiculously short notice to a very high standard and be prepared to make any changes at any point - listening to their (often frustratingly vague) demands and visions of what they want and interpret it correctly.

Above all - bluff it! Whatever they ask for, say yes! Whether you can do it or not. Find out when you do the pitch (which you should be paid for anyway) whether you're up to the game or not. Just work work work.


Peace


the tortoise
Old 28th August 2007
  #13
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Still trying to get more specific input on what a screening is. One of the ad agencies that I contacted seems to be pretty in my work. The contact person told me that they want to schedule a screening in October, and they would suggest a "lunch screening" (12:00-1:00 pm) because it is the best time to get a large turn out. I am clueless about what she means and I don't want to disclose my lack of experience to her. Am I expected to provide lunch for these people? Are they expecting some sort of presentation from me? What's up with the "large turn" or "good crowd" thing that she is referring to. I would like to know some specific details so that I can effectively prepare for this appointment. Appreciate any input on this.

-David G
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