What is a Music Supervisor? (A Complete Guide to the Profession)
What exactly is a music supervisor?
Many people have no idea, so they assume that it's the person who picks the background music. You know, they sit at home all day watching TV with an eye out for anything that could be used in a TV show or movie they're working on.
This couldn't be further from the truth. Background music is often either picked by the director or composer. It's rarely even seen by a music supervisor unless they're asked to clear it for whatever reason. So what exactly does a music supervisor do then?
The most straightforward answer is that a music supervisor finds songs and/or soundtracks for projects they're working on. A good music supervisor will be able to figure out what kind of music is needed, who would be best suited for it, and how much they'll need to spend on the artists. This is a tough job because you're not only looking for songs but also negotiating contracts. If you remember correctly, someone mentioned earlier that an artist's manager would also have to be contacted as well as the publishers who deal with contracts. In the end, a music supervisor does a lot of juggling for one song or album.
In some cases, they'll pick out albums from different artists and ask whoever is directing the show/movie to choose a song from it. It's not uncommon for a music supervisor to pick out a few songs or albums and give them to a director with a note saying "Choose one of these".
What's the main goal of a music supervisor?
To make sure that what they're working on sounds as awesome as possible, of course. Since they choose from hundreds of different songs every day, it's very easy for them to accidentally pick something that doesn't fit the project they're working on. For example, if you were an actor and had a scene where your girlfriend was just shot and died in your arms, would you rather have "I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne playing as background music or something more dramatic like "Fix You" by Coldplay?
There's no easy answer to this question because there are several factors at play: what kind of movie/show is it (comedy or drama), how many songs could they afford (very limited or can choose from anything), etc. A good music supervisor should know all these answers ahead of time so they don't put the director in awkward positions by giving them terrible choices.
Different Types of Music Supervisors
Like I said earlier, a music supervisor could either be an employee of a production company or they could freelance. If you're employed, your main goal is to make the director happy so that he or she will keep giving you work. They also have other responsibilities like negotiating contracts and tracking down royalty information for every artist used in the project.
If you're freelancing, your main job is to find songs for different productions based on their requests. You'll need to have good relationships with everyone from publishers to managers to artists themselves since they often get asked if their song can be used in a show or movie without them knowing anything about it ahead of time. This requires building up trust with people over long periods and most freelancers make most of their money from repeat business rather than the initial project.
By far, the best part about being a music supervisor is that you get to listen to all sorts of new music every day. It's not uncommon for people in this job to be exposed to hundreds of albums and/or songs each year which helps out when they're trying to find something good for whatever production they're working on.
It should also be noted that finding a song may not be easy depending on what's needed. A music supervisor might have trouble finding an artist who sings both Spanish AND English or someone whose style goes well with the director's vision while still appealing to everyone else involved with the project.
What kind of salary can you expect to make as a music supervisor? Well, that depends on how much experience you have and what your contract says. If it's just an hourly wage, then the rate will depend on where you are living at the time. It would be extremely difficult to find information about this kind of thing but if we were to guess, we'd say something like $50-60/hour isn't unheard of (this is assuming 8 hours per day).
On the other hand, if it's a salaried position (which probably makes up most of these cases), there's no telling what they're getting paid—it could be anywhere from $30k-$100k+ depending on their experience. Just know that most online articles would have you believe that music supervisors make far less than they do.
Do I Need a Degree to Become a Music Supervisor?
Short answer: no. Long answer: yes, but not necessarily from a school. The more people you know who work in the industry, the better off you're going to be so it would help if you had some sort of degree on your resume just so employers will take you seriously. On the other hand, it probably wouldn't be as useful if someone only has a degree and nothing else on their resume since there are hundreds of people out there with degrees who can't find work in this field either.
What's more important is actual experience, for example working as an intern at some production company to the point where you're now familiar enough with how things work that someone would want to hire you as an assistant. This is much better than a degree because it shows that you actually care about this line of work and want to prove that to others.
Is It Easy to Get a Job?
If you have experience, then yes, it's easy to get a job even if it's just a part-time position. If not, well...no—it's going be extremely difficult no matter what your situation is unless your name is Timbaland or something along those lines (as I said before though, he doesn't do music supervision for movies).
As long as you have connections in the industry already, then there should be no problem getting a job as long as you're willing to start small. Of course, if you don't have connections, what are the chances of getting those in the first place? For every person who has an internship under their belt and wants a full-time position afterward, there are dozens more who couldn't care less about the industry and just want to make a quick buck.
That said, you should really only go after this line of work if you genuinely love music; otherwise, it's going to be much harder for you to find motivation in any kind of position. You also need great communication skills since this is an extremely social job and like we mentioned before: it's all about building up trust with people.
What Kinds of Skills Do I Need?
As we've already mentioned, communication skills are crucial—you don't want to end, there's going to be thousands of others with similar credentials but no connections at all—and they'll often win out over people with tons of experience simply because they're willing to work for free.
Your best bet is to talk directly to music supervisors themselves and see if any of them know anyone else who might be hiring soon so it doesn't look like you're just some random kid looking for an opportunity without knowing anything about the industry. Once again though, this is a very difficult field so don't be surprised if you hear nothing back from your efforts.
In the meantime, try to work on music projects of your own and have them on hand so you can prove that you're actually interested in this line of work even though it may not seem like it immediately. Try looking on Craigslist for any sort of positions that might be available but only really go after ones that specifically need someone who knows how to do proper music supervision since there's no sense in trying to get a job as a production assistant unless of course you already have experience working in a studio or something similar beforehand.
Also, make contacts with people who are already working within the industry since they'll know exactly what kind of qualifications are expected from anyone who gets hired. They're the ones who are going to be looking at your resume or application for work, so they'll know if you have any experience within this field or not—so try getting in touch with them as quickly as possible and doing whatever you can to impress them.
If I Don't Have Any Experience, Is There Anything Else I Can Do to Get My Foot in the Door?
Well...not really. Well...there is something else but it's extremely difficult since nobody really thinks about it. The thing is, all those big companies that do music supervision for movies hire independent contractors on occasion, which means that they might need someone to do soundtrack work themselves! This doesn't happen often though—and again, only do this if you're actually passionate about music or else it could get very frustrating for you—but it's something that might pay off in the long run since it means being able to work on your own terms.
As we've already mentioned though, this is an extremely difficult field to break into so don't be surprised if you hear nothing back from any of your efforts after sending out resumes or anything like that. You might have better luck with personal connections since otherwise there's not much hope unless you know the right people, which is another reason why networking is everything!
The Best Way To Contact These Companies?
There are no special tricks here—you just need to find their contact information online and then send them a resume along with some samples of your own work. It's not the best way to find a job, but it'll at least give you something to put on your application if nothing else!
It's extremely difficult to land any sort of position within this field without having actual experience though so don't be surprised if you hear nothing back after sending out your resumes or anything like that. You might want to try putting some samples of your music online and contacting anyone relevant through social media—or even send them physical copies of your stuff! The second option is obviously the most time-consuming one—but again, it could prove useful since this industry moves at lightning speed; you never know who's going to see what and ultimately hire who beforehand!
That said, good luck!
If you're looking for the perfect music to soundtrack your next production, then look no further! Our list of 50 Music Supervisors has all the information you need about each company and their contact info.
Check it out today for more details on how they can help you find that one song or score your show needs to be complete.
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