Part I: Using Their Need for My Inspiration

I’ve decided to take a break from analyzing other people’s music. In my introduction to myself, I talked about Taxi. I have used their listings as writing assignments. They offer me a jumping off point, and show me marketable trends. (If I was writing only for myself, I wouldn’t need to watch trends.) Listings also give me a very specific direction and a strict deadline. The song above is the most recent version of one I wrote for the listing below:

NY Ad Agency URGENTLY needs a SLOW, almost MELENCHOLY SONG about EXPLODING, or things that go BANG. No, this isn't for Smith and Wesson! The song will be juxtaposed against some VERY slow-mo shots of beautiful objects exploding, only to reveal a product shot at the end of the spot (which doesn't explode). They were originally thinking of using the song "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" which has NOTHING to do with exploding. The TV spot DOES have flowers in it! They've also considered using Nancy Sinatra's song "Bang, Bang," as well. They want us to find them something that COULD sound retro to the '60s or early '70s (but doesn't have to). They even tossed around the idea of finding (and we're quoting the agency directly here) "an emotional love song that can feature the word 'color' in it, or a song from the flower power era late '60s early '70s. Lyrically you CAN go OPPOSITE of the 'destruction' theme both lyrically and style-wise musically. We're looking for a nice CONTRAST here. It could be a new love song, OR it could be a folk song or protest song that dates back to the flower power era. One thing is certain, the music needs to be SLOW!"TAXI Tip: This is for a new product launch for a global brand, and we're making an educated guess that the payday for this TV spot will be among the largest we've seen in 2011 if you've got the PERFECT song. The problem is that nobody really knows what will BE perfect until the agency people hear and see it against the picture (which we're not allowed to show you). When the agency falls in love with the perfect song, our GUESS is that price will ALMOST be no object (within reason in the tens of thousands). Give them a SLOW SONG that stylistically reflects the hippie, flower power era. Lyric themes like "No more flowers," "You don't have to bring me flowers" could work well for this, but don't go overboard on the flower thing. The visuals of things exploding in slow-mo also lends itself to lyric themes about booms, bangs, and explosions. Again SLOW matters here, and we think being KITSCHY and sounding a little RETRO could win the day. Get the idea? Read this listing through a few times before submitting. It's a tricky one, but of you land it, it will be ALMOST as cool as nailing an Apple commercial. We're not going to do full critiques on this because the timeline is really short and it's going to be impossible to give feedback in the context of this listing. It will either work or it won't, and all decisions will be based on expert GUT opinions. This is DIRECT-to-the-Agency, so you'll KEEP 100% of this deal with NO Publisher Splits! Broadcast Quality is needed (excellent home recordings are fine). Well-recorded guitar vocal or piano vocal songs could potentially work for this! You must own or control 100% of the Master and Composition rights. Full-length songs with faded endings are preferred. DO NOT title your SONG like you would for a music library. If you ARE chosen, the Ad Agency or the Music Supervisor will contact you DIRECTLY. Please submit one to three SONGS online or per CD. Please include lyrics. All submissions will be screened on a YES/NO BASIS. NO FULL CRITIQUES FROM TAXI due to the extremely short timeline. Submissions must be received no later than TOMORROW, THURSDAY, DECEMBER 1st at NOON, (PDT). TAXI Listing #Y111201SS

The trick to a lot of these listings is to read between the lines. I had to think, so I went for a walk. It seemed like the essence of the listing was, “The visuals of things exploding in slow-mo also lends itself to lyric themes about booms, bangs, and explosions.” I finally came up with what I thought was a brilliant title, I Don’t Miss You Anymore. It was ironic and perfect. I had to write a real song around that title, so I started to think about what it meant, what the context would be. I decided it was about a woman who was trying to convince herself she was over an old lover. I wrote the lyrics of the first two verses pretty quickly. I now had to make it sound like a folk song from the 60s and early 70s. I had just a few hours before the deadline, so I had to use something simple and familiar. I used the chord progression to House of the Rising Sun. I ended up with this:
I Don’t Miss you Anymore, the first incarnation.

I quickly finished the song and submitted it… I received a response in a matter of a few days. Taxi takes up to 30 days to respond. I’ve often thought the amount of time a screener takes with a response is important. The response I received from the screener was, “Lyrics are too relationship based to work for this pitch.” It’s strange, but I found that encouraging. I felt like I had a good song. Six months later, this listing came up:

FEMALE SINGER-SONGWRITER SONGS with FOLK/JAZZ influences in styles ranging from Joni Mitchell to Laura Marling are needed by a top Indie Publisher working directly with Major Networks for a variety of popular TV shows, as well as movies and other media. Songs should have a powerful sense of forward motion with literate and descriptive lyrics that drive an emotional and visual narrative. Make the listener feel your joy or fight off tears. Your vocal PITCH, PHRASING and CONTROL must be strong. However, avoid over-doing it with insincere vocal embellishments and acrobatics. The song has to sound honest. They are looking for songs with unique and memorable melodies. Acoustic guitars and/or pianos should form the basis for your ORGANIC accompaniment. Synths or electro elements will NOT work for this project. Despite the referenced artists, you need to bring your own individual sound, style, and personality to your songs. They are looking for UNIQUE and EXCEPTIONAL songs that display an INVITING and FRESH approach to this classic genre. You must own or control 100% of the masters and publishing. Broadcast Quality is needed (great sounding home recordings are fine). Please submit one to three songs online or per CD. All submissions will be screened on a YES/NO BASIS by the PUBLISHER HIMSELF - NO CRITIQUES FROM TAXI - and must be received no later than Tuesday, June 19, 2012. TAXI #Y120619SS

The response to this listing was simply a check mark in the Music field, explaining why it was returned… not as encouraging.

If you are getting frustrated with your own songwriting, keep this in mind. It might not be the song that is standing in your way. The music business is primarily a business. For example, a music supervisor might be looking for a song for a male character’s big scene. They might not make that obvious to you in the listing, but by including only male vocals in the reference tracks, they think it’s clear. If you submit the perfect song, sung by a woman, it will be returned. To the average person, this sounds unfair. It’s simply business. So, that’s why I’m writing this. Every return is an opportunity to listen to a song again, and make a choice to make a change. My process with this song is too involved to write in one post, so I’m going to go all Charles Dickens, and write it in installments. Please stay with it…

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