John Houlihan has been the music supervisor on an impressive range of studio film and TV projects. A music supervisor is responsible for keeping a topline view of all things music in a film project. This includes curating song options, interpreting the director's music tastes, making recommendations on score, and ultimately securing song rights. Watch here for the inside look.
- A music supervisor helps the director and producers select music that best supports the characters, story and the creative vision of the film.
- A music supervisor will often start at the script stage, and then be present for the director when spotting the film for music, between the editor’s assembly and the director’s cut.
- As taste in music is completely subjective, a music supervisor can interpret the film team’s musical preferences and help them agree on a creative direction.
- A music supervisor will put different types of song choices to picture to help the team see how a scene, montage or piece of dialogue will play. Sometimes not knowing the song title or artist will help the creative team make unbiased choices, and sometimes silence (no music) is the best option.
- To break down the licensing budget, a music supervisor will work with the director and producers to create a grid of the desired choices for music, including the use, timing and price. This will guide the negotiations.
- Licensing a song requires getting the permission of all listed artists, the record label and the music publisher. This process takes time and is subject to financial constraints or an artist not wanting their work used in a particular film.
- To secure a song, having a director make a passionate pitch video for the artist can be effective, if the negotiation with their reps doesn’t succeed.
- A good music supervisor will work hard to get the song a director wants, but a good director will also be willing to pivot in order to keep the film on budget and on track.