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Interview With Robin Frederick
By Jan Fabyankovic - 03/08/2013 - 10:51 PM EST

Robin Frederick has over 25 years of experience in the music industry as a songwriter, music producer, and author of “must have” songwriting books such as “Shortcuts to Hit Songwriting" and "Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV."

Although Robin has written and produced over 500 songs for television, record albums, stage and licensed products coupled with heading the A&R/Screener team at TAXI and owning Robinsong Productions, this diversified lady's goal is to give inspiration and solid advise to amateur, upcoming and professional songwriters. As dynamic music guest and recording artist coach, Robin leaves no musical note unturned when it comes to sharing songwriting tips. Her specialties include: Songwriting, Digital Audio Recording and MIDI Sequencing, Music Publishing, Journalism, Music Production and other communication projects.

As a former A & R Production Director of Rhino Records, Walt Disney Records Album Producer and Songwriter and other prominent positions, Ms. Frederick wears many musical hats and is always eager to inform songwriters exactly what works and what doesn't work to get closer to their creative dream.

Q/A Interview

Jan:  IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RADIO HIT SONGS AND FILM & TV SONGS?

Robin:   There really is quite a big difference between the two. It is a question of the use for each type of song.

Radio uses the song to grab the listener's attention and hold it from beginning to end. There's usually plenty of dynamics, big build up of tension and then release.

For film and TV, however, the song is used to support a scene or an ad. Its job is to add atmosphere, energy, or emotion and enhance the effect of the scene on the viewer. This type of song might have a much simpler chorus, maybe even just a repeated refrain line that's very emotional. The scene might use the verse of the song underneath dialogue, then bring up that super emotional refrain line at the end of the scene to add a peak moment that makes the scene more memorable for the viewer.


Jan:  WHEN A MUSIC SUPERVISOR, LISTENS TO A SONG, HOW DO THEY DECIDE IF THEY WANT TO USE IT OR NOT?

Robin:    First, it's important to remember that every song you write, if it expresses what you feel, is a good song. That's the bottom line. Just put the needs of the music industry aside for the moment. If a song expresses your emotions and every time you play that song you think "Yes, that's what I feel!" then you've written a good song.

Now, that said, when you pitch a song to a publisher, record label, or film & TV music supervisor, they're looking at whether or not the song works for their current "use." If it doesn't fit that use then they can't take in the song. It's not a judgment about the feelings and the passion you put into writing the song.

Anytime you offer your song to the music industry, it's going to be judged based on what the publisher or music supervisor or label is looking for right now.


Jan:  WHAT'S THE BEST WAY FOR A SONGWRITER TO GET THEIR SONGS USED IN FILM AND TV?

Robin:  Absolutely the best way to successfully pitch your songs in the industry is to listen to what they're currently using. You really have to do this. If you immerse yourself in the music that's being used, you start to hear what works. Even if you pick it up unconsciously, if you listen a lot you'll find that new choices start to pop up spontaneously when you're writing. That's what you want. Don't get stuck in a rut, writing the same song over and over.

I recommend learning to play and sing current hits and songs you hear in your favorite TV shows. When you play and sing these songs, you embed the feel of the melody, chords, and lyrics. Once you do that, these techniques will start showing up for you as new ideas and choices when you're writing. It's the fastest way I know to be competitive and marketable, add new skills and update your style, while still remaining true to your own vision.

Once you have songs that are current and competitive, then there are plenty of music libraries, pitching services like TAXI.com, and publishers who will be interested. They eat these songs for breakfast (laughs). It's true though - they need them! If you've got 'em then they need YOU. You can do this!


Jan: I WANT TO PITCH MY SONGS TO FILM AND TV BUT I NEED TO HAVE "BROADCAST QUALITY" RECORDINGS. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN AND IS IT EXPENSIVE?

Robin: A broadcast quality recording for film and TV is one that puts across the energy and emotion of the song and is competitive with other songs in its genre. That means a Dance/Pop song needs slick, current, hot production because it has to compete with Nick Minaj or Ke$ha. But a singer-songwriter song, in the style of Ingrid Michaelson or The Civil Wars or Bon Iver can be very simple - just guitar and voice or piano and voice. The film and TV market likes to hear a very expressive, authentic vocal, so make that the focal point of your arrangement. Don't let anything get in the way.

You can hear plenty of singer-songwriter songs with simple production in today's big, national ads!  Robin has a link to many of them on her Facebook page for film and TV: http://www.facebook.com/filmtvsongwriting.




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