logo
Interview with a music supervisor
23rd January 2020 By Vlad
blog

This article features some excellent advice for music creators from professional music supervisor Wendy Levy about placing music in television, which can also be applied to film and other media. This expert testimony Question and Answer interview article was published on the Berklee College of Music site under the title: Advice from a pro about song placements in TV productions.

A link to this article was also posted by ‘Strategy & Communications Consultant’ Eric Jensen for sharing and discussion.

This discussion already received many positive comments, currently making it one of the most popular topics on our professional discussions page.

Comments from the Music PAL members:

This was a great interview with a lot of useful tips for people starting out in the world of placements. Thank you for posting it here. I learned a lot.

What a great interview… extremely informative.

One of the best pieces of advice Wendy gives is to use the IMDB database, a seriously useful resource for music supervisor info. Watching a film you like the soundtrack of ? All the IMDB.com listings point you to the music supervisor if you scroll around a little.

Great article from Wendy Levy. Thanks for sharing.

Great article with some excellent advice from a seasoned music supervisor!

And many more!

Key point from one Q & A

Q. What makes a song easy for you to license?

A. It’s best if there is only one stop for me to clear it and if the writer can easily verify ownership of the song. Never lie or exaggerate. The last thing a music supervisor wants is someone saying they own a song when they don’t. That’s why a lot of supervisors will go through a third party, like a publisher or label. That puts the liability on the third party who is screening the songs and taking responsibility for knowing who owns them.

Some more great advice

When someone gets a good placement, the song can go to the top 20 on iTunes. One artist got some major-label heat because of placements. It gets the attention of the labels if you start to chart with your placements.

Some artists I know have been in and out of record deals and are now independent and have incredibly high-quality material. I may use a strong song over and over for several years. A successful placement should lead to more placements. When you get in with a supervisor and get a placement, build on that relationship. If you were useful to them once, you’ll probably be useful again.

Other questions and answers from article:

1. How can songwriters find music supervisors for TV shows?
A. It takes doing a little homework by checking IMDB [the Internet Movie Database] and reading a show’s credits to identify a show’s music supervisor. Sometimes the music department at a major studio will give out the supervisor’s contact info. Some productions don’t have a music supervisor, so you might call the postproduction office directly and talk to an associate producer or a postproduction supervisor. If you get them on a good day, you can pitch your material. Some registries list supervisor contact info.

2. Is it advisable to just cold call a music supervisor?
A. A cold call can be effective. If I have the time and the caller is respectful, I will speak with them. If it’s the wrong time and I say that I’m really busy, they should follow up at a better time. Understanding how we work is important. Speed is everything. There are days when I am putting out fires and trying to find replacements for six songs.
Note: Read more on the article!

3. How should a songwriter/composer prepare before calling a music supervisor?
A. You should watch the shows and know the sound of those shows the supervisor works on so that you know what they are looking for. Every once in a while something outside the palette of a show gets in, but usually it’s easy to tell what style of music they are looking for.

I have heard from small publishers that say they have watched a show and know what I need. If they do they are golden to me. As a songwriter, you won’t have a catalog as deep as a publisher’s, so you have to target. I know some songwriters with very small catalogs, but they are very good at pitching them. Know what you have and where it will work rather than just calling everybody and hoping something works out.

4. Are there any general criteria by which you judge whether someone’s music will work for the shows you work on?
A. First, the sound and production quality have to be at the level of stuff you might hear on the radio. If it isn’t, the producers will reject it. Beyond that, I listen for musical craft, emotional quality, and whether the style fits the palette of the shows I’m working on.

5. Can you give some practical tips for those making submissions to you?
Visit article for details…

6. Are there certain musical styles that you work with most frequently?
A. That varies with different shows and networks. The show “Make It or Break It” is about gymnasts and is stylistically agnostic. Any kind of music that’s up-tempo, driving, and competitive will work for scenes in the gym. We use indie singer-songwriter material for the family drama and big emotional moments. For shows on the CW Network, we primarily use contemporary pop, rock, urban, r&b, and, on very rare occasions, country.

7. What makes a song easy for you to license?
A. See “Important point from one Q & A” above.

8. What is the average fee range for a song placement?
A. Sometimes the fees are low and sometimes they are really nice. They range between a few hundred dollars up to $25,000 per side [for the writer and the publisher]. Reality TV shows typically pay low fees. On the networks, the back end-performance royalties from BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC-can be pretty good. Aside from the fee, a writer gets something into a show, which is an entrée to that audience and a résumé builder.

9. What are the different types of song placements for songs in a TV show?
A. A lot of my shows have between five and 15 songs per episode with placements throughout. Some are short, but the opening and the end songs are the more prominent placements. There are other places in some shows for big emotional songs as well.

Concluding remarks and advice

Some artists I know have been in and out of record deals and are now independent and have incredibly high-quality material. I may use a strong song over and over for several years. A successful placement should lead to more placements. When you get in with a supervisor and get a placement, build on that relationship. If you were useful to them once, you’ll probably be useful again.

 

Original post by LicenseQuote