What Music Supervisors Expect From You

Posted by Aaron Davison on Tuesday, January 29, 2013 Under: January 2013
Today's post is part three in a three part series about how to pitch your music directly to music supervisors from music supervisor Joseph Miller.  Joseph and I recently created a course together all about how to pitch music directly to music supervisors based on Joseph's experience of working as both a music supervisor and music coordinator for CBS sports.  I'll have more information about our course tomorrow.

In Joseph's final guest post he covers what music supervisors expect from you, the songwriter.

Take it away Joseph, and a huge thanks for your contribution to my site and blog! 



Tailoring your pitch as if you, yourself, were a music supervisor may be the most rewarding strategu you could move forward with.  Even if you have never music supervised a project yourself, just remember that this is again a people business.  Get in their heads and send yourself something you would want to read / listen to.  Stop making it about YOU and about what you can do for THEM. 

Music placement reigns holders are extremely busy.  We do not always have time to listen to your music or read your e-mail right away… but the genuine ones always will (at some point) or will have a team do it on their behalf.  Never waste an e-mail asking, “Did you listen to my stuff?” Instead follow-up by telling them you have more!  Include it!

You have to remember that some of these people get hundreds of emails a day asking the same old thing.  It’s very much like a job application.  You’re applying to fill the position to have your music fill a spot in their office (film/TV show/advertisement/etc) and you will first be judged on who knows you in the office and how attention grabbing your resume and cover letter were.  You must be persistent, clever and always answer quickly whenever corresponding with supervisors.  Do not allow yourself to become annoying.

Let’s say you were forwarded a brief or synch lead – hopefully sent directly from the music supervisor.  How are you going to make sure you send the best, ensure it gets consideration and ultimately ink a deal? 

1) Less is always more.  If you were advised to send 5 tracks… send 3.  Send only 3?  Send 1!  Send only your best and never add extra work for anyone, including yourself.  In most cases, sending songs to a brief you got from a middleman usually will not land you the spot – although it’s well worth developing a relationship with your contact and getting your name out around to the people that trail up to the supervisor. 

2) Wildcard pitches: Strictly only if you know the supe extremely well and have an intimate working relationship.  As amazing as your other songs might be for general sync use, if we don’t need it at the moment, it’s likely to be forgotten.  You should focus this kind of pitch towards synch agencies and friends in advertising as they may be able to develop a campaign from start that will revolve around your song.

3) A second call for music for a particular scene allows you to dig a little deeper and assume that the music supes are probably going for a sound that isn't necessarily always on screen or directly related to the dialogue.  Offer something original with a new look on the scene.  Share them your angle.  Sometimes they decide the tracks have to be period specific so be sure to stay on the same channel as they are.

4) If you are offered a synch and need to send a high-quality audio file, know that 2-pops in all your recordings are helpful when sending it off to a TV program or film that’s in post-production.  It allows the music editors to properly align your music to a video.  This is not critical but shows you mean business.  Also not required to add if just to audition tracks, send to music libraries or if the track will be cut up for different timings.  If you send a full length track and the music team says we’re going to make a :30 version then they’ll take care of it for you.

5) Provide all writer, publisher and label affiliations with percentages totaling 100% when you send out all tracks.  If the brief states “must be pre-cleared both sides” then do not send anything but that.

6) Music supervisors have egos – we have to!  We’re always trying to find the next best thing and a hidden gem of an artist.  So let’s say you have had success in licensing your music… great!  But do you really need to tell them your entire story?  Do not tell them you placed X song in X film or X commercial because X song most likely won’t be used again.  Definitely say you have had placements within “studio features and high profile advertising accounts” but the song details should be hush-hush. 

7) Library and song exclusivity: A portion of music supervisors utilize music libraries for their needs.  Lately I’ve noticed an upside to having your music exclusive to a single entity as opposed to non-exclusive with a few entities:

Personally I think non-exclusive libraries confuse the clearance process.  In some cases, an artist may have the same song with multiple libraries and the supervisor may simply be turned off as to having more people than necessary involved in the clearance aspect.  Wouldn’t you prefer an elevator ride with one person you know well over a crowded elevator with people you don’t know?  Corny reference but it applies.

Non-exclusivity devalues music.  Being exclusive to a company or agent means that you fully trust that entity and their ability to secure placements on your behalf.  It’s always easier to go to one person instead of potentially leaving out a member and being sued for infringement.

8) The fundamental things we evaluate in every song pitched:

            1) Song quality

            2) Production quality

            3) Vocal quality (if applicable)

            4) Lyrical content (if applicable)

9) Know the genre and platform you are pitching for.  Is it advertising?  Then you should know what’s hip (right now):

            1) Electronic, hip-hop, pop dance, Americana and indie pop

            2) Make it anthemic!

            3) Positive, motivational, spirited

            4) Vocalese for the kiddies (Ooh ahhh oohh la la la)



The best advice I can give you is to leave a music supervisor wanting more from your pitches or “service.”  Give them a taste --- and never reveal the secret to your magic trick.

In most cases your song is not the star.  Always remember this when your song is playing a supporting role to a project.  Have it complement, not overshadow.

Never tell a music supervisor that your song is the best for a project.  We don’t like being told what to think or use.  Tell us why it’s good and give us a short reason.  It shows you did your research.  Try creating a mock scene and include characters if for example pitching for a TV show.  Paint the picture in our heads… make it easy for us!

Lastly, do not be discouraged by the reality of where your material stands against the competition.  There at hundreds (maybe thousands) of synch licensing professionals competing for the same placement.  Your chances are slim when getting a brief forwarded from someone that is not the direct music supervisor or advertising music producer.  Sometimes the briefs you see are created by interns to fill some time and to try to get the scoop on emerging artists.  Be skeptical of the wild and wacky placements but always pitch the best because you’ll regret it later on if you just let it slip by you.  However, I’d respect someone more for admitting they didn’t have anything for a spot instead of sending whatever might come close.  If it’s not hitting the mark, do not send.

In : January 2013 

Tags: music supervision  music clearance  music licensing agent  sync deals 
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