4th Annual Guild of Music Supervisors State of Music in Media Conference
Last Saturday, Pop Disciple attended the 4th Annual Guild of Music Supervisors State of Music in Media Conference at USC in Los Angeles. Hosted by the Guild of Music Supervisors in conjunction with USC’s Thorton School of Music Industry program, conference participants were presented with 28 panels, lectures, and A/V presentations. The robust programming explored the complexities of music licensing, the art of storytelling, the impact of technology on careers in music in media, the legal aspects of music supervision, and more. Highlights of the proceedings included:
An in-depth discussion between composer, Ludwig Göransson and music supervisor, Dave Jordan about their process to define the musical identity of Marvel’s worldwide sensation, Black Panther.
A retrospective on the late composer Jóhann Jóhansson and his final score for Panos Cosmatos’ gritty and mesmeric, Mandy.
An insightful panel on the subject of storytelling architecture with Tangerine Dream member and Halt and Catch Fire composer, Paul Haslinger and Dark composer, Ben Frost, moderated by Guild president, Thomas Golubic.
Over the course of the conference, we caught up with several leading music supervisors to gain insights about where the profession presently stands and where it should be headed.
Music Supervisor for Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Halt and Catch Fire, Sneaky Pete
Founding Member and President of the Guild of Music Supervisors
“The one thing I love about the current state of our profession is that there is a level of diversity, curiosity, and development that is really exciting. We’re getting into our teenage years, where everything is a bit more experimental and abstract. The older generation has moved out and made space for many more people and a lot of very different voices to come into the flow. The music industry used to be the primary drawing point for a lot of music supervisors, but now, the people who are practicing the art are coming from many different fields.
What needs to change? It comes right down to the issue of money. I still think that music supervision is a woefully underpaid profession and many have to struggle too much to make a living. Even the busiest of us are still trying to find our way to make ends meet, which is madness in my mind. The economics are a serious problem, and we’re trying to address it as well as we can.”
Senior Vice President at Fox Music | Founding Member and Former President of the Guild of Music Supervisors
Music Supervisor for Deadpool, Atomic Blonde, John Wick | Music Consultant for The Shape of Water
“I think the coolest thing is the continued explosion of television and cable series, not just the number of them, but the quality of them. Nobody 5 or 10 years ago could have foreseen this. I know people who player hate on Netflix and call it funny money when they spend 8 billion dollars, but they are about to be nominated for their first Oscar. When you can get the right showrunners, writers, and directors, it leads to prestige TV, and it has coincided with the viewing public wanting more songs. I think it’s a great time to be an independent supervisor.
Film is about to change. There is going to be a big shift when Disney starts their direct to consumer streaming service, Disney Play. That's going to drastically filter out what's really a theatrical film and experience vs. something that should go straight to the audience without spending 30 million on P&A. As it stands, everything that can be taken off is being taken off. Everything that is already under contract and out to HBO will be honored, but everything else, all of the Disney stuff, all of the Fox stuff all the way back to the 1940’s will be included. It’s going to be a powerhouse of programming. When I heard about this, I was initially worried about Fox, thinking it would be the end of R rated movies, but they will end up on Hulu. We will see what Bob Iger [Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company] says, but I think there’s still a place for them.”
Music Supervisor for American Idol, The Annual NAACP Image Awards, Miss Universe, Miss USA
Vice President of the Guild of Music Supervisors
“My answer is a shameless plug for the Guild because we used to all be on our own, just individuals working on our craft, and now, we are a community. I really do love that. We all share the same issues, and we all get to work together. It's just a little village, and that's my favorite thing.
If there were one thing that I could change, I would have all the little, tiny pieces of songs able to be licensed by one entity. So, if somebody did not have a publisher and they own 2% of a song, which happens all the time, I wish we could have an organization here that could take care of those little pieces, get the money to the writers, and let us clear these songs. We know they want us to use them, but somebody’s always missing. One time, I was able to clear 99.98% of a song. You used to be able to say that someone’s just not owning up, but I found there was a .02%. The old school way was to split it with whoever you were writing with no matter who wrote what, but now, there are ten people involved, including the programmer, even the manager.”
Music Supervisor for American Horror Story, Claws, Pose, The Americans, American Crime Story
Guild of Music Supervisors Board Member
"I love how much awesome content is being made. I feel so blessed to be working on incredible TV shows with amazing storytelling that's so diverse. There's no limit. It makes you get that much more creative and dig that much deeper to tell the best story that you possibly can. It's really exciting to be a part of what’s happening right now on television.
What would I change? I hope the definition of what this job entails will become more well known. It’s so complicated, and we are asked to do so much for truly so little every day. Do people know that we get requests for this, that we’re asked questions about that, how much legal is involved in the creative aspects, what it takes to pull it all together on time? The answer is no. I want this to change, so supervisors are valued more, not just for making cool song choices, but for the myriad of other things that fall under the umbrella of what music supervision is. It’s a very challenging job, and I want people to know why we’re called music supervisors, not song curators.”
Music Supervisor for All American, Reign, Smallville, The Shannara Chronicles, Felicity
Guild of Music Supervisors Board Member
“It’s really interesting because I've been doing this for almost 18 years. Nobody understood what I did, and now, everybody wants to do what I do. What I love the most about it is that I’ve been at this long enough to see new genres emerge. I've seen the lines between genres of music blur, and it’s amazing. Things are growing. More people understand it, more people love it, and most importantly, more people respect it because not a lot of attention was being paid at the beginning, especially to music on TV. Now, there’s an incredible amount of value put on it. I cannot be disappointed about that.
What would I change? That we get paid better. It’s very ironic that music supervisors for film and TV are paid a flat rate, regardless of how much music is in the project. More often than not, you can get hired for a project that you think is going to need maybe five songs an episode. The show I'm on now is 15, and I'm going to get paid the same as somebody who only clears two songs a week. I’m not sure how we would accomplish this, but I would love to see us figure out a way for our fees to truly reflect the ever-evolving amount of work each project has.”
Music Supervisor for Empire, Power, Star, Quantico, Agent Carter, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World
“There is so much to love about the current state of music supervision. It has grown so much over the years. What's phenomenal is that there are a lot of opportunities out there. As long as you have the passion for studying the craft, you are eager, and you really, really focus on your dream, you can do it. I love that there is more and more diversity in the projects that are out there and it’s great to see there is also so much more diversity in the music that’s getting used.
I think changes will organically happen. In the last two years, there has been more education about what this craft is. I hope that more and more people will take the time to learn what exactly it is that we do because it’s a very detailed job."
Music Supervisor for The Bold Type, Future Man, Her Smell, The Intervention
“One thing that I love about the current state of music supervision is how much attention it's getting in the broader conversation of film and TV. In a way, I think it's becoming its own voice, in terms of how people perceive it and how people celebrate it, certainly with the Emmys and everything.
In terms of what I’d like to see change, I think I want people to continue to understand it further because I believe there are a lot of misconceptions about what it is and what a supervisor’s role is. Continuing to educate people about it is important because transparency makes everyone’s lives so much easier.”
Interviewers | Paul Goldowitz, Ruby Gartenberg
Editing, Layout | Ruby Gartenberg
Special thank you to Thomas Golubic and the Guild of Music Supervisors.