I've seen thousands of briefs over the years and the one thing I see time and time again are the words 'Up tempo', 'feel good', 'positive lyric' and 'the song should build'. In general, genre selection really comes down to how they want the audience to feel. Happy, sad, angry, scared or excited, are all emotions brought out by the right song. However, different industry mediums may lean towards a certain type of genre over another medium. For example advertisement campaigns look for happy energetic upbeat music where as television shows have the ability to look for almost any genre. I would also say over 50% of briefs are trying to replace a song. Which means if you have songs that are in the style of other mainstream acts then you've already got a head start over artists that don't.
Ultimately, the only question that music supervisors/producers are needing to ask is “does this song perfectly invoke the feeling that the vision is portraying?'
Genre selection for television is literally like a wonderland for artists. Every genre gets a look in with TV, as TV always has the best opportunities to place nearly all types of music.
Certain TV shows only sync certain styles of songs - remember Dexter? Latin songs were the primary soundtracks because it was set in Miami. Then you might have shows like Grey's Anatomy that place singer-songwriter artists. Supes (music supervisors) might want to focus just on songs that are lyrically on the nose, that is, match the scene in it entirety, or they might just need the perfect song for driving down the highway.
Producers need songs to set moods, whether it be a car chase scene, bar scene or the cringe-worthy sexy-time scene. Matching your songs to certain shows is the best way to start doing your homework.
Again, like television shows, all genres of music will be considered. Within just one film (depending on the genre of the film), there can be a wide variation of music genres selected, all the way from moody cool indie rock, right up to knee tapping hoedown country. In saying this, the 'Action Adventure' genre of the film industry is currently the most popular at the box office. Therefore music genres with high energy that could be associated with car chases and intense building moments are always in favor.
The general aim for commercials and advertisement is to create a bright, happy and upbeat feeling for the customer. The main music genres that commercials are usually looking for are Indie Folk, Alt Pop, Electro Pop and Alt Rock with lyrics to match. These types of tracks are major key songs and have more hooks than a tackle box. Oh Yes, lets not forget advertising agency producer's favorite genre is DREAM POP!
Remember that feeling of ultimate power when you have conquered your enemy and your strutting along side a wicked tune to a sweet victory? Well the video game industry creates this euphoric atmosphere deliberately by syncing great cool driving songs to allure you into the idea that you're having the best time ever!
If you have wicked songs with cool fast uplifting feats, then your music is just the type of genre the video game sync industry is looking for to back the fast action that encumbers the 'gaming' scene.
The usual suspects are songs that BUILD. They start soft and slowly step up to be dynamic and epic songs. The genre style can vary depending on the type of film the trailer is featuring, but the build factor is always required, no matter what style of song it is.
Another important fact about music in trailers is that often trailer songs are instrumental edits of vocal based songs. This is something you should keep in mind next time you're in the studio recording as trailer houses and advertising companies are always on the look out for dynamic, uplifting, feel good instrumentals. The beauty of trailers is that they have up to 7 cues per trailer and bigger studios always get multiple trailers produced to promote their films.
Comedies are generally after happy songs and dream pop to create a mood of happiness and fun to be had.
Thrillers use a lot of suspenseful songs that create tension, mystery and excitement. These can be both upbeat and exciting tracks, to salutary instrumental melodies.
Adventure and action genres seek fast paced tracks with exciting feats, building electricity and dramatization.
Horror genres tend to lean towards a lot of instrumental versions of down tempo songs that build to scare. However don't write off lyrical songs completely, as long as it's eerie, a little strange and captivates the audience, then it might just fit perfectly in the horror film genre.
Trailer houses also sync heaps of covers so if you have covered a song in a “holy shit that's great" kind of way - then pitch away.
About the Author – Daniela D'Onofrio
Daniela has been responsible in representing hundreds of indie artists, and successfully securing placements for Virgin, Qantas, Contiki, Jeans West, Joe Fresh, Sony PlayStation and countless Films and TV Shows with Disney, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, HBO, Showtime, FOX, USA Network, MTV, CTV, Warner Bros, ABC (USA), and NBC Universal.
Passionate about the sync industry, Daniela has had many speaking and teaching engagements including Q Music, Music Industry Inside Out, and SYNC Master Classes at Queensland University of Technology.