Universal Lyrics


In case the title didn’t clue you in, this blog is primarily directed at songwriters. Of course all are welcome for the ride….

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been encouraged to “put some furniture in the room” when writing lyrics. “Paint a picture” and “show don’t tell” are phrases that also come to mind. I was taught that the listener would easily become bored without these specific, vivid images. It made sense to me and I often found that my picture phrases e.g., “croissants and cappuccino” were some of the first, and often the only thing, that many listeners remembered.

So far, so good. Well not really. I won’t bore you with another blog about the shifting sands of our business but suffice it to say that the economic environment for songwriters is rather daunting these days. But there is one market that seems to hold some promise: Film and TV. But film and television provide their own images and their own pictures. The last thing they need is a song with a lyric that contradicts the story being explained visually on the screen. So for this market, lyricists are required to have little, or preferably, no furniture in the room. The emphasis shifts from the external to the internal and now we’re relegated to the role of filling in the emotional details.

I have no problem with this and it makes perfect sense. I guess my quandary is figuring out a way to serve both seemingly opposite scenarios. How do I write a lyric that would serve the Film and TV market yet still have enough detail to satisfy a listener who is not staring at a screen? I want to write songs that have enough detail to satisfy an audience at a concert and that would still be able to sit unobtrusively behind the action on the screen.

Admittedly there are songs that crossover and work in both capacities. I’m just trying to figure it out for myself.

Have you grappled with this yourself? Either way I would love to hear from you.

One last thing....Don't even think about pitching to the F & T industry before you read Robin Frederick's most interesting "Shortcuts to Songwriting for Film & TV".

Jimmy James Page


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