Three Little Notes: The Danny Elfman Story

We’ve been zeroing on success stories recently. You know – those famous (and not so famous) people who came from nothing, so to speak, to reach the highest peaks of prominence in their respective fields.

 

One of the main truths we’ve uncovered, where success stories in the music business are concerned, is that opportunity comes in all shapes and sizes and can rush out to you at any moment. Music creators indulging in songwriting and lyric writing, for instance, have various ways to benefit from their creations if they manage to get their foot in the right doors.

For songwriter and composer, Danny Elfman, his big break came in the form of a three-note composition that lasted a grand total of five minutes, but which has kept paying him for close to 30 years now.

 

You’re probably aware of Elfman’s story if you’re a fan of the hit TV series, The Simpsons. But whether you’re familiar with it or not, it’s a story worth telling over and over again. At the very least, it is great inspiration for many aspirants out there who may want to create music for TV or film. Here’s a brief rundown of the story.

In 1989, Elfman was approached by filmmaker, Tim Burton, to write the opening musical score for The Simpsons. Elfman has gone on record saying that he got a retro vibe from the show’s opening sequence and felt inspired to write something reminiscent of The Flintstones. Well, as it turned out, Elfman wrote the piece in almost no time, recorded the songwriter demo at his home studio and the rest, as they say, is history.

With Season 29 of The Simpsons currently underway, the opening music, which is made up of a mere three syllables – “The Simp-sons” – continues to put money in Elfman’s pocket. The show has gone well past 500 episodes and allows Elfman to get royalties from each airing. Elfman has written music for Burton on many different projects before and after, but none have been more fruitful than that fivesecond jingle.

Songwriting to create music for TV shows and movies is big business and can turn out to be a lucrative avenue for the songwriter who is able to get a song of any size into a production. For Elfman, all it took was three little notes, for you it could mean something more complex. But one thing is certain, as long as you keep working on your craft, anything is possible.