Writing good Descriptions and Keywords for your stock music tracks

A letter / note to all musicians sending in music to Shockwave-Sound.com…:

When
I first started Shockwave-Sound.com in 1999/2000, I was working with a handful
of composers and those composers would simply send me their music and I’d write
the Descriptions and Keywords for all tracks. But as more and more people have
joined up, we are now over 300 composers on the site and I’ve had to start
asking people to include Descriptions, Keywords
and BPM Tempo
for all tracks that are submitted to Shockwave-Sound.com
because it’s simply not possible for me to write all that for all the composers
any more.

So
now, whenever a composer sends a music track to be included in our catalogue, I
need that composer to always include good quality information / description
along with their tracks. Many of you are very
talented composers and producers, but sadly, not as interested, or talented, at
writing the descriptions and keywords that the customers will see before, or
during, listening to your tracks. Some of you send descriptions that are,
frankly, terrible. For that reason, I’ve decided to write this “guide” to help
you guys submit better information with your future track submissions, for the
benefit of your own sales and earnings, as well as the business as a whole.
I’ve
decided to start with a fictional example
of an information file that looks something like actual ones that I receive
from time to time. This is just me coming up with some “bad example” of what
you should not submit:
This amazing
track is all about adventure ,thrills ,confident macho ,underscore film music!
a great track
for you with goosebumps ,corporate ,business track,
Riff
Distortion Power Heavy, Raw,,Gritty
dirty,hypnotic.trancey,mesmerising
,corporate.
menacing,unnerving,distortion,exciting,excitement,,brutal.dramatic,,
This
is so bad on so many levels. Firstly, read the description. It doesn’t make
sense at all! It’s not built up of coherent sentences. It’s just a bunch of
“jibber jabber”, as Mr. T would have called it!
Now,
look at the punctuation. Spaces before
the commas? Ending the entire thing
with a comma? Frankly, I can’t use something like this on the site.
Now,
the keywords. Look at the punctuation. Most keywords are separated by a comma,
but NO SPACE. This is a very bad idea, because without the comma and a space,
it’s all going to be seen as one word by the search engine, and as a result,
the track is not going to be found. The keywords / key phrases must be separated by a comma and then a
space. Like this: “inspiring, strong, meaningful”. NOT like this:
“inspiring,strong,meaningful” and NOT like this: “inspiring ,strong
,meaningful”. And the same thing goes when you are writing a sentence. You
cannot write “powerful ,punchy and gutsy”. You must write it as “powerful,
punchy and gutsy”. Do you see the difference? When using a comma in a sentence
(OR in a list of keywords), you must always
write the comma, THEN a space, THEN
the next word.
Also,
why the hard line breaks in the list of keywords? Why “gritty” then a HARD LINE
BREAK, and then “dirty”? I can’t use the list like that. I can’t have hard line
breaks in the description OR the keywords. So I find myself having to detail edit
all of this before being able to put it into my database.
Ok,
that was my fictional but somewhat
typical “bad example” of the day taken care of. Now let’s go to some guidelines
which I hope you guys can keep in mind, and adhere to, when sending tracks in
for inclusion in our catalogue.
1)      
Do not use excessive superlatives about your tracks in the description. NEVER
use words like “awesome”, “perfect”, “incredible” or similar. It just makes us
look stupid and childish. Sometimes I see something like “This track is perfect
for any media production!”. WHAT??? A track that is PERFECT for ANY MEDIA
PRODUCTION???? Come off it! NO track is PERFECT for ANY MEDIA PRODUCTION.
Never! Can’t you instead try something like “Will work well with corporate
media and business applications.”?! I refuse to believe that your track, no
matter how great you think it is, is perfect for any media production. No way.
2)      
Never  use exclamation marks (!) in your descriptions. Just never. If you
want to say “This track will bring a surge of energy to your production.” – end
it with a full stop (.), NEVER with an exclamation mark (!). The exclamation
mark is BANNED, with only ONE exception and that is when used for comic effect. For example: “This is a thigh-slapping, barnstorming, chicken
chasing hoe-down with a crazy fiddle and banjo. Yee-haw!”
. This is the only
type of setting in which an exclamation mark is accepted.
3)      
Try not to put the customers’ minds onto a
very specific scene
when you are describing your track, because generally,
your customer is not working on a scene exactly like that! Descriptions such as
“This is a good track for two people holding hand while walking on a beach” is a
BAD IDEA because 99.99% of our customers are NOT working on a scene where two
people hold hands and walk on a beach, so you have pretty much excluded those
customers by putting a specific image
in their mind, which does not match the scene that the customer is working on.
In this case, you would be better off writing something like “A gentle and romantic
track that will work for scenes of love and quiet romance”. This leaves so much
more open to the customer’s own imagination, and perhaps now you are giving the
customer a chance to listen to your track while imagining the track in their own scene – not in your scene.
4)      
Don’t be afraid to use pretty short, neutral,
almost boring

descriptions. I have some descriptions on the site that just go: “Electronica / dance track with a moderate
energy level. Swirling synths / mid-tempo beat
”. That’s it. This track
sells really well! I have many others with similarly bland, but functional
descriptions. This is clearly a good quality description that works well for
customers and make them want to listen to, and buy the track. This is all you
need, really. You do not need to stir the imagination too much or take the
customer on some kind of amazing journey with your description. Customers like
to make their own minds up about just how “amazing” your track is. A neutral,
to the point, description is enough.
5)      
Now we come to the Keywords. The worst sin for keywords
is to spam the keywords field with
unrelated keywords
. That is the WORST offense in my book. Many of you will
include a lot of keywords that just aren’t that related to the track, but you
figure you want to include them because you think a lot of customers search for
that, so you want to include those words just to make your tracks come up in
search more often, even if they are not relevant to that keyword. An example of
this is the word “corporate”. Some of you include that word in the keywords
list NO MATTER WHAT the track sounds like. Like a gentle piano ballad. Or a
jazz track. Please! Don’t do it! Okay, it
may be
that some corporation would want to use your piano ballad in a
project, but that does not make the track suitable to include “corporate” in
the keywords.  I also see quite often
that some of you have a “standard list of keywords” that you copy to ALL your
tracks, and then you just write in a couple of new keywords individually for
each track that are relevant to the track. Like you will have “uplifting,
bright, warm, confident,” and several other keywords and copy these to ALL your
tracks, no matter what the track sounds like – and then just write four or five additional keywords that are actually
related to the track. This is considered spamming
and is not tolerated. Your hardcore electro/grunge industrial track IS NOT
“warm”! As a collective of composers and music marketers, we do not want
customers to search for “warm” and then get a post-industrial hard core grunge
metal track to come up in the search results! It just damages the reputation
for the entire site, and in turn, the sales of your music and your income. The only time a standard
list of keywords copied to all your tracks is acceptable is if you have been
working on a project with several tracks of exactly the same style. For
example, a whole bunch of 1970’s funk tracks, that are all different tracks,
but have the same style, same sound, same usage area, basically same
instrumentation etc. THEN you may submit them with all the same keywords for
all the tracks.
6)      
Now to the punctuation in the keywords: Always separate
keywords and key phrases with a comma,
and then a space
. LIKE THIS: “cold, isolated, lonely, homesick, desolate”.
NOT just a comma but no space “cold,isolated,lonely…” and NOT a space and
then comma “cold ,isolated ,lonely…”. The same is the case when you are
writing descriptions. Never write a space and then a comma, and never just a
comma without any space. It’s ALWAYS a comma, then a space. Like this: “Useful
for workout, aerobics, running and exercise”.  Never use HARD LINE BREAK (“paragraph break”)
in either the Descriptions OR the keywords.
7)      
Please always include the BPM Tempo when you submit track information. If you do
not submit the BPM tempo, then the track will simply go into the database with
a BPM tempo of “0” and if a customer decides to browse music with BPM Tempo (or
tempo range) as a criterium, your track will never come up in his searches. So
you are losing potential sales. If you don’t know the BPM Tempo of your tracks
from your DAW / sequencer / Protools etc., then you can find the tempo of your
tracks by listening to your track while tapping the keyword on your computer,
on this page: http://www.shockwave-sound.com/tools/tap-BPM-tempo.html
8)      
Finally, a request that you please put the descriptions,
keywords and BPM tempo for your tracks into one document per submission, NOT one document per track. It just
makes it a bit easier for me when I can simply have one document open and then
copy & paste from that one document while working on your tracks – rather
than constantly have to close a document and open a new one. And my preferred
format is Excel format, with one track per line, and columns for title,
composer(s), genre(s), BPM tempo, Description, and Keywords. Although Word /
Text format is accepted also.
I
guess many of you will be asking yourself why don’t I create some kind of “self
upload” and “self publishing” feature on the website, where you composers have
to log in, upload your files, type in your descriptions and keywords, set the
genres etc. and do everything yourself. And I can simply sit back and let you
guys do everything yourself, and stuff just comes out on the site.

The reason why I’ve never done that is quite simply that I don’t want it like
that. Especially having seen some of the descriptions, keywords, genre
classifications etc. that come in from some of the composers, I’d be MAD to let
you guys loose and just put stuff out on the site, as submitted. The site would
deteriorate into… well… something like those sites that DO practice that
self publishing method. It’s a wish-wash of badly written descriptions, tracks
put in the wrong genres, keywords spamming and such that generally make for a
very bad user experience. You guys already know about some sites like this. I
don’t have to mention them. Here at Shockwave-Sound.com we don’t want it like
that. I myself take on the role and responsibility of “Quality control” for
everything that goes out on the site. If you spam the keywords field, I will
simply edit your keywords field before publishing it, or worse, I may decide to
skip your track and not put it on the site at all, because it’s too much hassle
for me to fine-tune your descriptions or keywords.

I
guess it’s not fair to expect all composers to be good writers, or even to be
able to write with correct punctuation. Perhaps it shouldn’t be necessary for
success, to be expected to be able to compose and produce amazing music, AND
also to be able to write good English. But the fact of the matter is, in the
business of stock music / production music / royalty-free music that IS
necessary. You DO have to be able to compose a great track AND to write a
reasonably well written description. And also to keep yourself pretty organized,
so that you know what you’ve submitted, when you submitted it, where to log in
to check your sales, when to expect payment. It’s a harsh reality, but “just”
being a great composer isn’t enough in this business. You have to have other
skills too, like writing and organizational skills.
In
this letter I’ve used a lot of “loud language”. I’ve used ALL CAPITALS, I’ve
used bold and italics, I’ve even used exclamation marks! Which, really, are
banned. 🙂 But there’s a difference between me writing a letter to you guys,
my partners and friends, and writing language to appear on our website, in the
descriptions of our tracks, which customers by their thousands come to read
every day.
Thanks
for your time, guys! I’m always looking forward to your new submissions, and
although I don’t use all tracks that are being submitted to the site now (I use
maybe half of the tracks sent in, and skip/drop the other half, due to the
sheer volume of new music being submitted, at a faster rate than what I’m able
to handle), I always appreciate your submissions and listen with great interest
when new tracks come in.
I
have one final note. I’m sending this letter to more than 100 different guys. A
lot of you are going to reply, to send me your thoughts and feedback on these
subjects. You are more than welcome to! I can’t answer everybody, because I
have a ton of stuff to do, and an
overflooded inbox. But I will read
all your responses and take everything into consideration, even if I do not
respond.
Have
a great weekend, guys! And for no reason what so ever, here’s a photo of my
daughter and myself in an elevator, on our way to the gym.
All
the best,
Bjorn
A. Lynne – founder, CEO and composer