On Friday October 25, the 9th floor of the NYU Kimmel Center for University Life was bustling with Music Business Program students, alumni and faculty for the 13th Annual Alumni & Current Students Networking Reception, an event produced by Professor Shirley Washington. Every year the music business program creates the opportunity for alumni and students to meet or re-connect, update each other on their professional progress, and have a panel discussion featuring our talented and knowledgeable alumni and current students. This year’s panel discussion was entitled “Cue to Cue, Concept to Completion: The Ever-Expanding Role of the Music Supervisor.”
Before beginning the panel, Professor Larry Miller, Program Director Dr. Catherine Moore, Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Sam Howard-Spink and Steinhardt Vice Dean Dr. Beth Weitzman gave attendees updates on recent additions to the program. Among these announcements were Dr. Ron Sadoff’s new appointment to Director of the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions, and introducing visiting Music Business faculty member Carlos Chirinos. Lastly, Dr. Howard-Spink is leading the process of publishing a journal of NYU Music Business colloquies, to display outstanding work by our graduate students.
Adjunct professor and grad alum Heather Trussell, Senior VP of Memory Lane Music Group, moderated the discussion using her music publishing expertise to ask all the right questions. None of the panelists are music supervisors, but they all work directly with supervisors and this gave attendees insight into how artists, managers and rights holders benefit from sync placements.
This year’s panelists were Seth Faber (UG ’04) of Primary Wave Music, Shira Flescher (G ‘11) of Sony Music Entertainment, Pauline Martin formerly of Spirit Music Group, Nicole Rivera (UG ‘01) of Wasserman Media Group, Chris Tuthill (UG ‘93) of Talent Consultants International and Alice Young, current student (G ’14) and intern at Downtown Music Publishing.
The panelists concurred that music supervisors have become the new “it” gatekeepers, building high profile careers and, citing ChopShop’s Alexandra Patsavas, Go Music’s Gary Calamar and Neophonic’s PJ Bloom, even creating their own companies. It’s grown into such a sought-after profession that even basketball star Lebron James is getting into the game, supervising NBA 2K14, due out next year. Over the past five to ten years, successful music supervisors have come to hold the power in creative relationships. The role has become so important that some supervisors can even influence storylines of a film or TV show, such as Jonathan Karp, Judd Apatow’s go-to music supervisor.
The panelists discussed from a musician, label’s or publisher’s point of view, how to pitch music to a music supervisor – a delicate endeavor since the pitch usually happens the opposite way. One should not be too “sales-y” or forceful, and instead listen and know about copyrights. When sending music to a supervisor, make sure the pitch is directed to someone with the right audience for the music, and tag all the metadata with contact and copyright information, making the supervisor’s job easier.
Like the rest of the industry, the panelists concluded that music supervision is a relationship-based business. A good relationship can make or break a placement. Trussell summarized, “if a bunch of songs all fit, they’ll pick the one with the writer, label or publisher they like to work with.” Before opening up for questions, Trussell and the panelists played out mock negotiations between a music supervisor and a label, and a music supervisor and a publisher – a helpful and entertaining way to end the panel.