Music supervisors are the gatekeepers for music-to-picture, selecting the music & closing the deals between artists and productions.
Here’s a quick guide of the best & worst practices for artists to win a music supervisor’s ear and get their music discovered from the seasoned professionals behind “Music Supervision: The Complete Guide to Selecting Music for Movies, TV, Games & New Media.”
Have questions? Ask the authors anything on Reddit HERE on Saturday, December 9 at 9:30-11 AM Eastern Time.
— DO’s —
1. Do your research
Know the music supervisor’s work before you contact them. There are big directories of music supervisors available, but blindly blasting out “Listen to My Music!” emails to them is a waste of their time and yours. Just like your music has its own sound, many music supervisors have their own brand and distinctive credits. Cold contact the ones that you know have a track record of placing music that’s in the vein of what you make – it’s a higher percentage play.
2. Show you know their brand right in the subject line
You can demonstrate to music supervisors that you studied up on them with an intelligently crafted subject line in your initial email. If that Netflix series that your EDM is perfect for is always playing big beats in the weekly nightclub scene, differentiate your email or social media intro with, “Techno for ‘Vampire Zombies’ nightclub scenes.” The music supervisor on the receiving end will know and appreciate that you’re paying attention.
3. Make music that’s authentic
Music supervisors, almost always, are charged with finding music that’s real and will therefore resonate with the audience. If your music comes from the heart, and is made because this is art you’ve GOT to express, your odds of a synch will greatly improve. Put another way, writing a song about tires just to score a synch in a Goodyear commercial probably won’t get you very far.
4. Make your presentation unique
Established music supervisors receive hundreds, if not thousands of pitches from musicians, music libraries, managers and A&R reps. Most often it’s an email with a generic heading with a generic body text and a link to a YouTube video or a Soundcloud file. It also is often a manila envelope with a thumb drive and a generic cover letter. Those emails and envelopes are mostly not opened and usually deleted. Instead, try something different to get the attention of the Music Supervisor. Send a box of candies. Write an email header that is unique and personal. Anything different will increase your chances of getting them to open the email/envelope and take a listen.
5. Be polite and persistent
There is a fine line between being politely persistent and being down right annoying. A general rule is three outreach attempts. Send an email or an envelope. Attempt contact to ask if they received it and a final outreach asking if they might have a use for the music. If you’re polite and persistent you may land a deal right away or the music supervisor may keep you in mind for future projects.
Sync up with Matt FX to learn about the taste-making process of music supervision and making moves as a producer & DJ.
— DON’Ts —
1. Don’t hit up music supervisors who don’t want to be contacted by the general music-making public
Music supervisors like Thomas Golubic (“Better Call Saul,” “Breaking Bad”) would love to hear your music, but they’re gonna tell you right up front: They don’t have the time for unsolicited submissions. It’s not just listening to your music that’s an issue, it’s also being sure that a song is something they can easily clear. Check out a music supervisor’s Website whenever possible, and see if they have a policy. Golubic explains the guidelines in great detail here.
2. Don’t cold call music supervisors on the phone
While there’s a bit of bravado and self-confidence evident in such a move, it’s not what they want and is a red flag for unprofessonalism. Music supervisors may be managing literally dozens of active contacts if they have multiple projects going. Find another way to make that first contact via social media, email, attending an event, or – better than anything – building an audience that’s passionate about your music, and have the music supervisor come to you.
3. Don’t send attachments in a cold email
Attaching music files to an initial email is a rookie mistake, since a big attachment can get your email jettisoned into a spam folder before your target music supervisor even sees it. So send a link to music, or better yet, simply introduce yourself and ask them if they would be interested in receiving a link to your music – if they say “yes,” then you’ve started a dialogue. Also, golden rule of thumb is always link a WAV over a MP3.
4. Don’t submit music that isn’t exactly within the genre or style being requested by the music supervisor
If and when you have the luxury of being furnished with a creative brief or song style request by a music supervisor, make sure you give them either exactly what they’re looking for to the best of your interpretation, or do not give them anything at all. Nothing is more frustrating when you ask for one thing, and you receive something that’s completely not that thing (wrong genre, tempo, it has vocals when the call is for an instrumental, etc…). You’ll gain more respect, and better yet, maybe even a second chance, if you submit nothing at all rather than something that’s far off the mark.
5. Don’t sell Yourself as a “Jack of All Trades”
No one is great at everything. Put your ego aside, and market yourself based on your strengths. Any time a composer or producer introduces themselves as a master of all genres, the red flag of warning goes up immediately. Any music supervisor with experience knows that the best of any genre comes from those who specialize in those genres! Stick to what you’re great at, and offer your services with that style or those styles first and foremost. And you never know – once a music provider proves themselves on the first project, they may get to show what else they can do later on.