Ben Hochstein is a music supervisor who has curated the listening experience for many shows and films for MTV, including Jackass 3D, Bad Grandpa, 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, Ridiculousness and more. He has worked on many reality shows over the years and is currently diving into Lopez starring comedian George Lopez, and Crashletes starring football tight end, Rob Gronkowski.
When did you get started in music supervision?
Quite by accident really. I was working in a very corporate job right out of college, but my passion was attending live shows and listening to as much new music as I could find. A boss of mine just happened to know a couple music supervisors at MTV and introduced us at a Kings of Leon/ Secret Machines show. The supervisors were impressed with my knowledge of the local scene, but more so by my administrative skills and it wasn't long before I was working as a music coordinator at MTV. You could say knowing Excel and Outlook lead to my big break.
How did you begin working for MTV?
I've always just been freelance for MTV and work other places as well, but I've been working on Viacom projects for over a decade now.
You have been in ongoing collaboration with Jackass's production company, Dickhouse. Were you involved with the original Jackass TV show?
That was before my time. My first shows for the Jackass production company, Dickhouse, were Rob Dyrdek's Fantasy Factory and Nitro Circus.
What was your experience like working on Jackass 3D? Those guys are out of their minds! Did you finish the film unscathed?
It was an invaluable experience. I got to work with Paramount music executives and see how the big studio world operates. As for the Jackass offices, those guys are surprisingly professional. Besides, when you are getting punched in the nuts or shocked with a cattle prod, it means they like you. Not to mention director, Jeff Tremaine and Johnny Knoxville are musical geniuses.
It feels like Ridiculousness has been on television forever. How do you keep the music fresh each season? Do you have a lot of latitude for songs you use, or do the producers have a specific request for music?
We are actually on season 9. In early seasons we had a larger music budget and could create some hilarious moments using songs from artists like Loverboy, Def Leppard, Stealers Wheel, Sammy Hagar, etc. I had a lot of freedom to pitch the songs I wanted, but of course it was always a collaborative effort with editors and producers. Recently, lower budgets have dictated we use more instrumentals and indie bands. Luckily by now I have a large stable of talented composers and bands.
In your opinion, why have music supervision budgets shrunk?
It's fairly common for budgets to shrink as shows continue into multiple seasons. Production budgets are going down in general across TV, but that's a discussion for another day with someone more qualified.
What do you think makes Ridiculousness such a hit show? Most shows don’t last two seasons (Freaks and Geeks, etc.) but you guys are on Season 9!
“Ridiculousness” is an updated and edgier version of American's Home videos so I think it makes a lot of sense. The Internet is the gift that keeps on giving. Rob is the perfect host for the show as well, his genuine excitement for funny and bizarre clips really comes across. The show was his idea in the first place.
Can you tell us about one of your favorite placements you've been responsible for?
It's not recent, but speaking of Ridiculousness, I was really proud of the theme song we did with the host Rob Dyrdek. We covered "Uncontrollable Urge" with Mark Mothersbaugh himself and Rob provided the "yeah, yeahs". Kids think the song is original to our show and have never heard of Devo, but hopefully, their parents appreciate the connection.
While working on "Rolling Papers", did you learn anything new about marijuana?
Marijuana is completely legal in Uruguay and legalization was done top-down by the government, not piecemeal as is happening in the US. You should check out the film on Netflix, it's pretty fascinating!