Part II: Using Their Need for My Inspiration

Two weeks ago, I started to tell the story behind I Don’t Miss You Anymore. This is the second installment. As I mentioned earlier, the song above was inspired by a Taxi listing for a commercial featuring things that explode. The first iteration was a bare-bones version. It was returned.

“NY Ad Agency URGENTLY needs a SLOW, almost MELANCHOLY SONG about EXPLODING, or things that go BANG…”

This week begins with the next step…Just like clockwork, six months later I submitted to this:

CONTEMPORARY, ACOUSTIC GUITAR and/or PIANO-DRIVEN SINGER/SONGWRITER SONGS written and/or recorded in 2012 U-R-G-E-N-T-L-Y needed for our End-of-Year Compilations we’re sending to our Record Label, Publisher, Library and Music Supervisor friends working on TV Shows, Films, and Movie Trailers. We’ve been blown away by the quality of music you’ve submitted during this past year, and want to share the best of the best with our closest industry connections. So please send us your most CREATIVE TRIUMPHS and TOP TUNES of 2012! We need dynamic and emotionally compelling SONGS (Male and Female Vocals are BOTH okay) that keep the listener ENGAGED from beginning-to-end. Your songs should exhibit STRONG and INVENTIVE songwriting, CREATIVE Melodic and Lyric HOOKS, and showcase your talent as a performer. Your vocal performance must be EXPRESSIVE, BELIEVABLE, and APPROPRIATE for the genre. In other words, don’t send a Mariah style vocal for a heartfelt guitar/vocal breakup song. STRIPPED-DOWN productions WILL work for this pitch, but they’ll have to have an outstanding ability to convey a singular, strong emotion, especially with the melody, lyrics, and VIBE! It's IMPORTANT that your SONG sounds like an ARTIST or BAND, and NOT like a typical production music library track. We’re going to hold the bar high on this listing, but if you land on this compilation, your music will be given DIRECTLY to some of our favorite Labels, Publishers, Libraries, Film/TV Music Licensing Companies, and Music Supervisors in a “Best of 2012” compilation series. In other words, people and companies that love TAXI, love our members, and have probably signed and placed music from us during 2012. Broadcast Quality is needed (excellent home recordings are fine). You must own or control 100% of the Master and Composition rights. No samples of other songs can be used in your recording. Original songs only! NO COVERS. Please do NOT submit songs that are already in EXCLUSIVE publishing agreements. Please submit one to three songs online. Instrumentals are NOT needed at this time. All submissions will be screened on a YES/NO BASIS. NO FULL CRITIQUES FROM TAXI. Submissions must be received no later than 5:30PM (PST), MONDAY, December 17th, 2012. TAXI #U121217SS

We need dynamic and emotionally compelling SONGS (Male and Female Vocals are BOTH okay) that keep the listener ENGAGED from beginning-to-end.

The response to this was very useful…“Holly, I think some more variation on the guitar with more complexity here and there would help the song have more movement to better keep the listener engaged.” So, I added a bunch of guitar lines, and ended up with this. A few months later the perfect listing came (don’t they always?):

FOLK SONGS in the style of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, etc., are needed by an Independent Music Publishing Company specializing in Film/TV placements. They're looking for Songs that have a HONEST and INTIMATE sound that can add the right emotion to various scenes. Please sure your lyrics are UNIVERSAL - avoid featuring specific names, places, or storylines that might conflict with a scene. Instrumentation MUST be ORGANIC and NATURAL SOUNDING - NO synth or electro elements for this pitch, please. Vocal and Instrumental performances MUST be top-notch. Broadcast Quality is needed (excellent home recordings are fine). You must own or control 100% of the master and composition rights. Please submit one to three songs and/or instrumentals online or per CD, include lyrics (if applicable). All submissions will be screened by the OWNER of the company on a YES/NO BASIS - NO FULL CRITIQUES FROM TAXI - and must be received no later than Monday, April 22, 2013. TAXI #Y130422FO

They’re looking for Songs that have a HONEST and INTIMATE sound that can add the right emotion to various scenes.

“This is pretty cool. It feels more modern than what I was looking for.” Well, crap. I was getting irritated and a little depressed. I needed more, something specific, something straight forward. I invested in a custom critique. These are less than $50.00, you can request a specific screener (by number), and you can ask specific questions. I made it clear I wanted to use this song for film and TV placements, and that I needed to know what I should tweak or throw out. What I got back was like gold to me. It was very involved and quite long. Below is just the Overall Comments section:

Dear Holly, overall I think you are pretty close. For reading your bio I see that this is probably a departure from what you have spent most of your career focusing on which demonstrates a great ability to be flexible which is very important in this business when pitching for film and TV especially. I want to talk a little about the recording and then I am going to give you some general comments that I hope you can use in this as well as other songs as you go forward.
When I pressed "play" the first thing I noticed was the quality of the recording. When pitching a song to an artist the recording doesn't always have to be perfect because they are going to rerecord the song. For licensing for film and television, libraries are going to require super clean, broadcast quality recordings to pair to picture. If there are any hisses, fuzz, distortion, unbalanced levels, etc. the song can be distracting against picture and can stand out against other songs/score and risk pulling the listener out of the universe of the film/show. To achieve a more broadcast quality sound this is what I would suggest: Make sure that the guitar is really fluid and clean in both performance and recording. Try to eliminate any sustaining notes that buckle or distort at all which I hear a little in some of the lower notes. I would also suggest bringing the guitar back more in the mix and bringing the vocals out more. Most importantly I would make sure that there isn't any hiss in the recording which I am hearing over the guitar during the pauses in the vocals which leads me to believe that the hiss is coming from the vocal track. If this is the case, singing louder could help you eliminate this hiss.
Going forward I would really focus on the intimacy and earnestness of the vocals and melody. Try to imagine creating a song that you are going to perform for 4 people sitting on your couch in your living room. I also suggest concentrating on ensure that the melodies stay varied with good sectional contrast. The third thing I would suggest is playing more with rhythms. Now, the mood of this song is pretty languid so I don't think too much rhythm would be appropriate here but lots of interesting rhythms and phrasing really help push a song (and therefore the movement of a scene) along and are very contemporary. Here are a few artists i would suggest listening to for a good sense of mood, intimacy/earnestness and rhythms. Josh Ritter, Alexi Murdoch, Kurt Vile (Smoke RIngs For My Halo), The Civil Wars, Priscilla Ahn, A.A. Bondy, Nekko Case Ingrid Michaelson, Meiko and Birdy are a few.

Dear Holly, overall I think you are pretty close.

I had something solid! It felt like some stamp of approval. It wasn’t about honing my songwriting skills. It was about production value. I had to stop trying to do everything myself and get other, trained professionals involved. My final installment will talk about how unbelievable my studio experience was. Take my advice. Don’t try to take it all on by yourself. Find great musicians and great studio people to work with you. Let them do what they do best. You will NOT regret it!

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