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GUEST BLOG: Writing For Television

Nicholas Watson - PromoAfter looking through this website and reading the guest blogs from other artists and bands, it became more and more difficult to find a subject that hadn’t already been covered. There is stellar writing and musical talent showcased in these blog posts; however, I’m going to write from my recent experiences writing music for television placements – how I approach the briefs and how they differ from my previous work collaborating with film directors.

Two of my most recent television placements have come from what one might refer to as ‘library music’. One track was an ambient piece I wrote and recorded quite a while back. As it was one of my personal favourites, and the fact that it fell between the recommended lengths for placements (between 2 minutes and 3 and a half minutes), I decided I would submit it to a sync agency I had signed a contract with. The same goes for a number of other tracks I submit to such companies. Anyway, I actually found out about the ambient track being placed by turning on the television one day and there it was on a UK drama series, which was quite gratifying. Sometimes in this part of the industry, a publisher may not even know that one of their artists’ tracks has been placed onto a television show until the cue sheet is submitted to PRS/ASCAP etc, and the same goes for the composer who wrote the music.

The other of the most recent placements was acquired by working to a brief. A sync agency put out a brief to its composers asking for, if I recall correctly, a bittersweet, mellow underscore (or something to that effect). As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the agency didn’t find out about the placement until after the show had been aired in the US and the cue sheet submitted to ASCAP – around two months after the first air date.

Now that I am to be signed with an agency for composers in the new year, I will reduce the amount of hours I put into music intended for direct television placement. It had its pros and cons. It meant I could write to a loose brief, which allowed me to perhaps be a little more creative (for some briefs anyway).

However, you are also dealing with royalty collection societies and the lengthy time frame of knowing when your music has been placed and when you get paid. Therefore, working with directly with filmmakers is my preferred method of composing music for films and television. There is more structure and if you find a director who really shares your ideas, the project becomes infinitely more rewarding.


England-based Nicholas Watson is a fast-rising film and television composer whose music has appeared on networks such as the BBC and MTV, in addition to composing much of the score for the 2014 German film Young and Wild. Having also recently completed his Masters in Composition For Screen, he specializes in the genres of ambient, electronic, orchestral and alternative rock, among others. You can stream the hauntingly ambient track “Forward Stroke” below and hear more of his music via Soundcloud.

Keep up with Nicholas Watson on social media: Official Website | Twitter | Facebook

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