Cathy Heller is a go-to artist when it comes to licensing music to TV commercials. Her songs have been featured in major ad campaigns for McDonalds, Walmart, Petco, Quaker, KFC, and many others. For years, Cathy has been successfully pitching her own music and helping other artists do the same. In this podcast I ask her how she does it.
I usually feature a hit song from the music charts in this section, but this time out I want to take a look at an artist who has built an extremely successful career on Film & TV placements, Joshua Radin. More than 40 of Radin’s songs have appeared in top TV series, including Bones, Parenthood, Grey’s Anatomy, Beauty and the Beast, Hart of Dixie, 90210, and the list goes on. You won’t find his songs on the mainstream music charts, nevertheless, he has sold over 2.5 million singles and 700,000 albums.
Radin’s songs are atmospheric, mood-based, and emotionally evocative rather than attention grabbing radio hits. They tend to feature refrains instead of big, over-the-top choruses, as radio singles do. The production is simple but carefully thought out, with chiseled performances that lock into a groove.
Each song is a gem filled with insight, fresh twists, and beautiful payoff lines that are perfect for film and TV uses. If you’re a singer-songwriter looking at the Film & TV market, here’s an artist who’s worth studying.
TECHNIQUES TO HEAR AND TRY: Turn a simple idea into a compelling lyric. Add interest to a melody with unpredictable phrasing. Create an arrangement that supports your lyric concept.
Buy it now or listen on your preferred music site (Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, etc.) or watch on YouTube
Recorded by Joshua Radin
Writers: Joshua Radin & Kenneth A Pattengale
GENRE/STYLE(What is a genre?)
The song’s genre is Contemporary Folk/Rock. It fits right in with songs by Passenger, Phillip Phillips, Ed Sheeran, American Authors, and Iron & Wine. “Beautiful Day” has been featured in three primetime TV series and a Subaru commercial. Radin recently released a second version of this song featuring Sheryl Crow. You can reference either one since they’re essentially the same. I like his solo version better.
In many of his songs, Radin pays his respects to the Singer-Songwriters of the 1960s. The relaxed, conversational vocal style and harmonies, image-filled lyric language, and strummed acoustic guitar track are reminiscent of Folk Singer-Songwriters like Simon and Garfunkel. Yet Radin’s songs fit right into today’s Indie Folk renaissance. If you’re a fan of the ’60s Folk scene but want to pitch your songs to current projects, listen to Joshua Radin for techniques that will help you update your sound without losing heart and soul. Continue reading →
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IN THIS ISSUE…
New Song Tip: “FASTER & BETTER: Pick Up Your Songwriting Speed” Want to write more and better songs faster? Do you want to finish more songs and get them recorded and into the hands of publishers and music supervisors? What’s holding you back? We’ll take a look at a few of the reasons your songs may be moving at a snail’s pace or not getting finished at all. Then we’ll explore concrete ways you can pick up your speed while writing songs that are moving and authentic.
Study the Hits: “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran (Adult Contemporary): In this issue, I’m taking an in-depth look at Ed Sheeran’s beautiful ballad “Thinking Out Loud.” It’s an excellent example of a retro style (Van Morrison on Astral Weeks) blended with the contemporary singer-songwriter sound. It’s on its way to becoming a classic. Don’t miss this one. You can do this!
And be sure to check out my songwriting books: Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting, Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV, Study the Hits, and The 30-Minute Songwriter. Find out more about all of my print and eBooks on my Author page at Amazon. In each book you’ll find dozens of useful, real-world shortcuts that will show you how to craft songs that work for today’s music market, plus dozens of hands-on exercises to get your creative ideas flowing.
This is just the kind of song that every American Idol finalist and semi-finalist hungers for – and so do record labels and publishers. The melody has a huge range, which works well for singers with big voices, and there’s plenty of passion and excitement in the lyrics. If you’re interested in today’s melodic Pop/Rock genre, this is a song that’s worth studying. It offers a master class in contemporary melody and lyric craft.
Read the lyric here.
The Shortcut numbers refer to specific chapters in my books “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting” (“Hit”) and “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV” (“Film/TV”).
Recorded by Kelly Clarkson Writers: Jörgen Elofsson, Ali Tamposi, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin.
GENRE: Pop/Rock and Pop/Dance
This is a great Pop/Rock song that went to #1 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary (AC) chart. It also made it into the top ten on the Hot 100, Pop, and Dance Club charts. It has enough pumping beat to work in the Dance Clubs and enough lyric depth and craft to make it stands alone as a Pop/Rock song. It’s a great combination.
At 3:42, the song is on the long side, but once it gets rolling, there’s no stopping it! The basic song structure is:
The verses in this song are short, just four lines. This is a good thing because the chorus (beginning with the line “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”) is quite long. It’s double the length we would expect, repeating the phrase “What doesn’t kill you…” four times in each chorus – that’s fourteen times before the song is over! Continue reading →
Here’s a successful singer-songwriter song with simple production and an honest, moving lyric. Alexi Murdoch has sold over 50,000 CDs through CD Baby making him one of their biggest sellers of all time. He self-releases his music and has turned down several offers from major labels. Most of his sales came as a result of the film & TV uses of his songs.
You’ve probably heard his song “All My Days” without realizing it. It’s featured in a commercial for Sprint and has also been used in several TV series, including CSI, Scrubs, and The OC.
Recorded by ALEXI MURDOCH
Writer: Alexi Murdoch
Lyrics are available online.
Shortcut # refers to my book “Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV.”
The genre is Indie Singer-Songwriter, a style the film and TV market absolutely loves! There are many similarities to English folk revival and folk/rock artists such as Nick Drake, Sandy Denny, and John Martyn. The simplicity of the recording and intimate vocal style both owe much to the work of Nick Drake, an artist Murdoch has cited as an influence. Drake is another artist whose work was introduced to a broad audience through TV commercials and films.
The structure is: VERSE / VERSE / VERSE / VERSE / TAG out.
This is a traditional folk song structure. The song doesn’t have a fully-developed chorus. Instead, it relies on a memorable, repeated refrain line – “All of my days” – after the first and third lines of each verse to provide the hook. Continue reading →