Music Supervisors Panel Enlightens Nashville
L to R: Dave Parker, Julia Michels, Dave Jordan, Anastasia Brown, Julianne Jordan, Rachel Levy and Jojo Villanueva.
On May 21, 821 Entertainment Group President Anastasia Brown (music supervisor for Footloose, August Rush, Taken) moderated the Nashville Screenwriters Conference’s annual “Music In the Movies” panel. Sponsored by Ole, one of the world’s largest independent music publishers, the event took place at the Country Music Hall of Fame and was well attended by songwriters, publishers, producers, songpluggers, artists and others seeking a foot in door of Hollywood’s music department.
Featured panelists included music supervisors Julia Michels (Sex and the City 1&2, The Blind Side, The Devil Wears Prada), Dave Jordan (Captain America, Iron Man 1&2, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle), Julianne Jordan (Hop, Valentine’s Day, Mr. And Mrs. Smith), Rachel Levy (Little Fockers, Fast and Furious 5, Change Up), Jojo Villanueva (Prom, Arthur, Marmaduke) and Dave Parker, a highly-regarded indie publisher with more than 100 placements this year.
There were some common threads that ran through the discussion—as far as dos, don’ts, and other things to be conscious of—for those searching out song placement opportunities. Here’s what resonated most:
• Do your research before reaching out to music supervisors.
Know exactly what project they are working on and what kind of music they are looking for. If you send them something that contradicts what they need, you’ll most likely be blackballed from the supervisor’s working order. Make sure to include all “metadata” for your songs for digital delivery. “Track 2” doesn’t work. Deliver songs via DropBox, YouSendIt or a similar method. Don’t send mp3s unless agreed upon beforehand.
• Secure a publisher or a specialty film & TV pitching agent
If you’re not in the precious position of having direct contacts/relationships with music supervisors, your best bet is to hook up with a publisher or a film & TV placement company to work on your behalf. The panel stated that they generally delete all unsolicited outside communication—meaning songs or links that come from untrustworthy sources, or outside their working network of publishers, placement companies and others.
• If you have the talent and resources, produce great-sounding cover song recordings
(Except Beatles songs and others that don’t lend themselves to licensing ease, or are outright impossible to clear.) Directors these days love to use old familiar songs that are re-imagined by new voices and visions. This can generate you income on the master-use license side of things.
• Make sure your songs are easy to license
Now more than ever, music supervisors and directors are generally more welcoming of independent artists and writers because they don’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops to obtain licenses for their songs. The one-stop-shop approach is what is working most effectively. Don’t pitch songs that you know a co-writer (or co-writer’s publisher, especially if it is a major label publisher) won’t sign off on, for whatever reason. Anything that could stand in the way of a song successfully being licensed should be considered BEFORE pitching it. Deal-breaker situations reflect poorly on the song’s promoter and can lead to the aforementioned blackball list.
• Filing away instrumental tracks is essential
Have all of your instrumental tracks available and on hand for quick turnaround if and when they are needed for a placement project. Not having them is a good way to lose a great opportunity.
• Attention new indie artists and bands: you can compete!
In recent years, music placement in film, TV and advertisements have been trending toward new and/or unknown artists and bands, as opposed to successful and well-known acts like Led Zeppelin or Coldplay. One reason is that going indie is a lot less expensive, and as stated, there are less licensing hurdles. The other motive behind the trend is that music supervisors, directors and ad agencies genuinely take great satisfaction in breaking new acts and talent through their projects.
The playing field is pretty darn level, so get after it while the getting’s good.