How Do Music Supervisors Find Music?


There are literally thousands of people that license music whether its music supervisors, creative directors, editors, or agency producers. The major and indie labels are pushing their latest and greatest artists so they can hopefully align a sync or 2 with a release schedule. The major and indie publishers are looking to recoup on advances and artist managers know the value of a good sync placement both in revenue and promotion.

So understanding the process of how music supervisors and creatives find their music is key to getting your music heard and synced!

Some TV shows might have soundtracks that will only license the latest shit hot genres that can only come from the latest shit hot artists. The ones that are buzzing all over the joint and the ones that people are already talking about.

So when you're not in any Spotify buzz charts, or any charts for that matter, how do you get anyone's attention?

You do your homework and you hustle! The hustle is real and people respect the hustle, why? - Because they are all hustling themselves. It's a bloody tough world out there and it isn't getting any easier.

Music supervisors get sent a tonne of music all day, every day whether it be from major labels/publishers, indie labels/publishers, artist managers, self managed artists or custom composers. Finding amazing new songs is a big part of their job and as much as they don't always get to read every email or listen to every track - if you're not pitching then you're not going to get heard!

To know whether your catalog is going to fit into a TV show, all you have to do is listen to the songs that are being licensed. There's no point in trying to pitch current songs for shows where the music they license is only from the 80's. Marrying up songs to shows and brands is the first thing that needs to be done. If you send a track that ticks all the boxes then there's a better chance the song will be listened to, tagged and filed away for future sync placements.

There are so many ways that music supervisors and advertising agency creatives can discover new artists these days!

For example…

Several years ago an agency producer heard a track on the radio that could fit a sports brief they had at the time, and they tracked the song clearance to me. It was as simple as doing up a license and invoice, and voila… the song was used in a national ad campaign.

Then there was the time I had a song that was perfect for an airline. We found out who looked after a particular airline brand and we pitched it direct and within a year it was being used within a digital campaign for the brand. Sounds easy right? But to get that agency producers attention I had to email him several times, left a few messages and eventually he listened to the track. If I hadn't persisted then the campaign would have never happened.

Some music supervisors prefer to deal with sync agents when they are looking for affordable one stop songs but many are also happy to deal with indie labels, artist managers and directly with artists. Sometimes it's just potluck with who will take a listen to your tunes.

How do advertising agencies find music for their commercials?

  • The copy has been written and the tone and target has been identified. The client and agency feel that a song from an under-the-radar artist could do the job, but they have to be able to clear the song within a certain budget and tight deadline.
  • The first port of call is going to be writing a detailed brief and jetting it out to a bunch of people, who can then send back songs that match the brief. If the agency has relationships in place with certain businesses and people then they will be the first to receive the brief.
  • If nothing comes back that's working then the brief will be expanded to other people and organisations from all over the world (hundreds of people can potentially receive the brief). The agency might listen to hundreds of songs before creating a short list, which will then be presented to the client.
  • If it's a big campaign then focus groups can sometimes be used to see which tracks are working best against the picture.

The reason why these people and organisations are getting the briefs is because they're professional, and have made the agency aware that they have killer tracks – making them worthy of receiving briefs.

How do music supervisors find songs for TV shows? (example)

  • A scene needs a mid-tempo singer-songwriter song with a female vocal about the warmth of being at home.
  • The music supervisor knows that they only have $2,000 for the cue so they can only license a one-stop song.
  • They start the search with the songs they have tagged and filed on their computers - searching keywords such as 'home', 'female' and 'singer-songwriter'.
  • They find several songs that fit, which were songs sent to them by an artist manager, indie label and an artist they saw at a local show 12 months ago.
  • They then also send the brief /budget/deadline out to their go-to people, who then start to send back their track ideas.
  • The music supervisor collates a playlist and sends it back to the producer or music editor. They choose a song and it gets licensed.

So to recap....

The key is to make sure people in the biz know the kind of music you rep or produce, and the only way to do that is to hustle! Do your research, send that email and follow up.

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