NARIP markets & monetizes music | Learn Network Access Opportunity

How To Approach Music Supervisors

Last week I received an email from a NARIP member who is preparing to send his client’s music to music supervisors nationwide. He wanted to know “best practices” in pitching them, what they like to see, how they prefer to receive music (CD or e-mail attachments, for example), how many cuts they like to get, and what kinds of background material they like to get about the artist (reviews, clippings, photos, etc.).

I gave him a detailed answer, which he so appreciated that I thought I’d share it in case others
may benefit from it as well.

Here it is:

I have the answer for you. The best practice – BEFORE you begin wasting tons of money preparing and mailing fancy press kits, photos and CDs – is to research every single music supervisor individually. Mass mailing is like carpet-bombing and a complete waste of time and money. These people are hugely busy and do not typically respond to general inquiries from people they don’t know. Better to laser target three or four than to do a mass mailing. This requires time, thought, research and homework, which is why hardly anyone does it, and why so few people get through to the other side.

Each music supervisor has different tastes and preferences. Some like emailed press kits and MP3s, others prefer links to music or physical CDs. The only way to find out is to ask. A sophisticated music publisher typically has this type of information but would not be likely to share it as it contains personal preferences constructed over a long period of time and requires copious attention and frequent updates. Very valuable, but probably not for sale.

Private Lists

I am aware of several top music supervisors who circulate lists regarding their specific needs, but they are careful as to whom they add to these lists, it’s by recommendation only or through a personal relationship. Professionals only are subscribed to these lists by request, not people who are likely to deluge them with material they didn’t ask for or that doesn’t specifically meet their requirements (this happens a lot with novices and sorting through the oceans of inappropriate or mismatched material is time-consuming).

A list of music supervisor preferences definitely exists, but it’s probably not freely available and you’re better off identifying a few individuals and quasi-stalking them. That is, learn their habits, preferences, find out the name and preferences of their receptionist and assistant, find out where they eat so you can “bump into them” in the valet parking line, know their projects intimately, etc.

This is the same way you get through to a journalist, by showing a knowledge and appreciation of his writing and recent articles. People respond to this.  No one wants to be treated like a springboard to something else.  Treat people with respect, show them you’ve done your homework and that you know their work well.

Using this precision targeting method I just got through to a key person last week who will play an important role in helping to push one of our campaigns over the top.  She is very excited about our project.  Why? Because I targeted her so well, I absolutely KNEW it would interest her if I could get it to her attention and I created a custom, personal pitch that demonstrated I knew her, had done my homework and that I admire her accomplishments. This took time for me to write, and it took three months to get through to her, but it will be worth it.

Also, know what the people you wish to approach look like. Clip out their pictures from the trades (or conduct an online search) and paste their pictures around your office so you’ll recognize them when you see them at an industry gathering or in line at the grocery store.  Then you can approach with confidence.  Remember names!

It’s Like Dating

In a recent NARIP program, one person asked a top music supervisor the best way to get music into his hands. The music sup’s response was to get to know him a bit first, which prompted the next question: “How do I get to know you?” He said it’s like dating and getting to know someone you’d like to ask out. You study the target, learn what he likes (and dislikes) and devise ways to get near him in a non-intrusive way.

One-Stop Clearance

Very important in the music sup / clearance world is that you (hopefully) control all rights in both the composition and the master recording of the music you pitch. If you do, create a “One Stop Clearance” sticker to put on the CD itself and the jewel case, along with your contact details (obvious, right? You would think so, but many people just don’t do this and they wonder why they never get a response). This goes one step further toward communicating with the music sup that you’re a pro, you understand his time is valuable and if he calls you for a license, he can get it done in “one stop” (hence the term). Having to make more than one call to clear publishing and master is time-consuming, and a lot of this stuff happens with very tight turn-around time. Gotta be quick, responsive, easy to deal with and able to get the paperwork done lickety split.

Industry Custom & Practice, Fee Ranges

This doesn’t mean, however, that you should sign away all rights on the faint hope of being credited in a film or television project, and trust that everything will work out. The opportunity to place music in a project will only be worthwhile if you’ve done your homework and have a good sense of industry norms and price ranges. With the deluge of music on the market, licensing fees are dropping. But if your artist’s music is a great fit for a project, sometimes extra money can be found (or can be caused to materialize). And many more opportunities exist for music placement than ever before.

Your Competitive Edge

A person’s competitive edge in this extremely high-stakes field will hinge upon high quality music, an understanding of the business and quick turn-around time. A novice who receives his first request to license a piece of music but then takes forever to handle the paperwork or draws out the time-sensitive process by making too many demands may quickly lose that hard-won opportunity.

Learn To Negotiate

In any negotiation, you are somewhere on the continuum between begging and bargaining so it’s important to know where you stand and how urgently needed or unique your client’s music is. It’s also critical to take the attitude of “getting on the same side of the negotiating table” with the person interested in licensing your music. A deal that leaves one person unhappy and dissatisfied is not a good deal, whether it’s you or the other guy. Remember, building relationships in this business is critical. The way you handle your business matters. Be a pro, or find someone who can help you before you need it so you’re not scrambling and anxious when a placement opportunity presents itself. Everything is negotiable… but know where you stand.


Editors – the guys who splice up a film – are frequently in an excellent position to influence music decisions for a film project. Film directors often look to their editors for recommendations and sometimes editors even end up becoming de facto music supervisors. They are an important group of people to cultivate for music placement purposes. Frankly, anyone attached to a film project, however remotely, can be a way in or a source of good information about what’s happening (or not happening) with a project. Once again, information is key. Cultivate your information sources, take good care of them!

Hollywood Reporter Production Listings

The Hollywood Reporter publishes a list all shows and films in production once a week. This is hugely helpful, widely read and important information.


A service some of my colleagues swear by (but which I personally haven’t used) is IMDB-pro. Most people are familiar with, the Internet Movie Database, which lists film credits. You can subscribe to IMDB-pro, which provides production details and information about music needs. A free trial subscription is available and this is worth checking out. For those who do, please let me know your experience, it’s been recommended by people I know.

One Top Music Supervisor’s Preferences

NARIP produced a program with top music supervisor P.J. Bloom in which he discusses his specific preferences. This program is available in the NARIP Store online now.


If you are aware of any film or TV show soundtracks you especially like in which you feel your artist’s music would be appropriate, start by identifying the music supervisor of these projects, researching his upcoming projects and writing to him personally.

Most important of all, understand what the music supervisor needs and understand his challenges which usually include incredibly tight time-constraints and shrinking music budgets. Don’t try to force your material somewhere where it’s not appropriate or where it wouldn’t enhance a project. Be professional and easy to deal with, ask for (and remember) his preferences and follow up.

You’re competing with a lot of people, so it behooves you to do your homework, narrow your focus and be thorough.

They call it WORK for a reason!

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P.S. The response I got from our NARIP member?

“Tess – Many thanks for this advice! This is where the NARIP membership status really pays off. The ability to ask and get a great answer!”

Sources for More Info:

NARIP Article
“Publishing Hit Songs: Alan Melina Reveals the Secrets Behind 500,000,000 in Record Sales.” Alan Melina is the emperor of pitching. At a NARIP program, he talked about HOW to target and approach people, and the psychology of it. A very good read, click here.

Useful Resource
Music Business Registries (Film & Television Music Guide)

NARIP has affiliated with what in our opinion are the best directories in the music business – The Music Business Registries – now available online. These directories provide up-to-the-minute contact details to reach music supervisors, heads of music departments for the major and independent film and TV studios, A&R reps and their assistants (which is just as valuable), music attorneys, producers and more. In the words of Benjamin Disraeli, “As a general rule the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.” Click here to order now.

NARIP Audio Program
Conversation with Top Music Supervisor P.J. Bloom

This NARIP program covers how music licensing works; why certain songs are used in TV, film and commercials; the world of music licensing; and the profession of music supervision. NARIP presents special guest P.J. Bloom (Nip/Tuck, CSI), who discusses music from his current projects and the selection process, revealing important tips for getting music placed.

NARIP Audio Program
Money For Your Music

Music and movies. Where they meet, there’s money involved. This program addresses the symbiotic effect of music and movies on both record sales and box office. Also addressed: artist development vehicles for new and developing acts, label and studio economics; cross promotion and merchandising opportunities; talent leveraging, licensing music, fee ranges, rights, who to contact to license a song, who owns what, generating and negotiating a quote and more.

Book Recommendation
Secrets of Power Persuasion by Roger Dawson (scroll down to the center of the page)

Book Recommendation
Making Music Make Money: An Insider’s Guide To Becoming Your Own Music Publisher
by Eric Beall (scroll down)

Book Recommendation
Music, Money & Success by Todd Brabec, Esq. and Jeffrey Brabec, Esq.

Music Licensing & Placement
Optic Noise

Music Licensing & Placement
i.V Artist Management
Intravenous Records

Useful Resource

Useful Resource
Hollywood Reporter (weekly production schedule)

Event of Interest
The Association of Independent Music Publishers (AIMP) presents “Music Clearance in the New Millennium” on Thursday, April 17 in Los Angeles.  Get more details and click here to register now.

NARIP Event of Interest
Art of the Music Deal: Mock Negotiation of a License Agreement
Date TBA (watch this Web site for details)

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