You’re watching a movie in a theatre with your friends and you are totally engrossed in it. That’s mostly due to the fact that it’s good writing and a good looking actor or actress, but a reason that you are totally engrossed in the film that often goes unnoticed is the music. Think about it.
If there’s a random salsa song in the middle of a sad scene…it’s going to throw you off and distract you from what you’re watching, right? As such, choosing the right music at the right levels for those scenes is critical to the movie’s overall effect. That job belongs to the music supervisor. Here’s everything you need to know about the job of a music supervisor on a movie.
- It’s often post-production
While there are some movies that require a soundtrack/musical score song to be played during the scene to make sure it is acted correctly, majority of the music that you are hearing is applied to the movie after the fact – or, post-production. So, while a movie is being filmed, the music supervisor’s job is to get a feel for the movie, the atmosphere, and choose the perfect soundtrack for each minute of film. As you can imagine, it can be an intimidating job at many points.
- A lot of it is a gut feeling
Despite what many music supervisors like to think, a lot of what they do comes from a gut feeling. They’ll know what the right song is, often times, when they see a finished scene post-production. They’ll watch the scene and hear the perfect corresponding song in their head. It’s similar to a “Eureka moment” that many creative souls have at certain points in their career paths.
There is training to be a music supervisor, of course, and a lot of what they do comes from having access to a vast music library in their memories. As such, hearing the fresh and new music is a very important part of being a music supervisor.
- Gaining the rights to a song can be hard
As you may know, many of the songs that are in films – even if it’s just the main theme – are from other means. So, the music supervisor has the perfect song in mind for a scene, but the tricky part of the job comes when they have to approach the proper people to see if they can buy the rights to the song they want to use so that it can be featured in the movie. As you can imagine, sometimes buying the license to a song can be expensive work. This often means that the “music budget” has to be rather high to make sure that the licenses for the perfect songs can be bought without compromising on a second music choice.
The music supervisor is a key player in selecting licensed music such as Premium Royalty Free Music
- They do the dirty work with clearance
There can often be a lot of “nickle and diming” when looking at going through music clearance. This is because many of the famous artists out there who own the songs (or the record labels behind them) will try to get the largest amount of the money they can for their song. When a music supervisor is fighting to get a dozen songs, all of which expect a large payout, working with a budget can be really tricky work. It’s also a really frustrating job when it doesn’t go according to plan.
- They need a lot of creative license
In order to do their job right, a music supervisor needs a lot of freedom to scan through the song library in order to find the perfect one.
As mentioned, this is often a “gut feeling”, and the music supervisor will know when s/he’s picked the right song for that particular scene. When someone in this position finds that their creative freedom is being limited, however, it can often be endlessly frustrating, because the production supervisor or the director are not seeing things the same way. As the director and producer have the last word on what goes into the movie, many music supervisors are told to pick a “more preferred” song for a scene, even if it’s not the right one, or the one that the music supervisor would have picked to set the mood correctly.
The best producers and directors out there simply give the music supervisor a great budget tell them to do whatever they want. They understand that it’s a creative process that requires a lot of work and intuition that only a music supervisor has. Those are the ones that every music supervisor loves to work for.
- They’re the first ones to get blamed for a scene falling flat
Despite the fact that the director may overrule a music supervisor’s decision, the music supervisor is always the one who gets blamed for when a scene in a movie doesn’t go over well. As mentioned at the beginning, you don’t notice the music until it is distracting, and the music supervisor’s job is to make sure that you don’t consciously notice the music at all – that’s how one knows they’ve done their job correctly.
A music supervisor can often face a lot of reprimand from directors and producers if a scene doesn’t go across to the audience correctly…even if the problem was the actors or another element, entirely.
Suffice to say, being a music supervisor can often be a tricky job, but it is just as often rewarding for those who have a passion for the job. It is exhilarating for them, and each music supervisor knows the importance of their job, even if the audience doesn’t always recognize the importance of the job themselves.
When that next sad scene comes on in the next movie you watch and makes you cry, consider the fact that the reason you’re crying is because the movie scene is accompanied by the perfect sad song to elicit those tears in the first place…
The Role of the Music Supervisor in Film, Television, and Advertising.
Above all, Music supervisors oversee the music-related aspects of films, television, advertising and video games. They are qualified professionals in charge of interpreting the producer’s vision, finding the perfect track, and negotiating contracts and publishing deals for the film’s music with the composers/artists