Midem is an elaborate international music event held annually along the beaches of Cannes. The French Riviera’s sands become a stage for the hottest new acts worldwide, and industry game changers share the music business’s latest trends. SynchAudio sat down with two of those game changers during Midem this year. In our two part Sync Exclusive series we spoke to renowned music supervisor Nora Felder (Stranger Things, Ray Donovan, Californication), and SVP of Television Music at Sony Pictures Entertainment Tony Scudellari.
Nora Felder, president of Picture Music Company, has emerged as one of the leading music supervisors in the business. In a June 2017 article, Billboard selected Felder as one of the 7 music supervisors to watch. That should not come as any surprise considering she has practically created the gold standard in curating music for television. To name just a few of the hit series she’s worked on, the list includes: Netflix’s Stranger Things and The OA, Showtime’s Ray Donovan, and the full seven season run of Californication. Nora has been twice honoured with the prestigious Hollywood Music and Media Award for Outstanding Music Supervision in Television, and in 2017 she won the Guild of Music Supervisors’ pick for Best Drama Series.
On a picturesque afternoon in Cannes, SynchAudio met with Felder to talk shop at the historic Hôtel Majestic Barrière. Set to the delicate ambience of the hotel’s upscale dining terrace, Felder discussed her craft, Stranger Things, and Midem 2017.
SA: You’ve worked on a lot of shows where music is a central theme to the show’s story itself. Generally speaking, how do you go about selecting tracks to help define a character or shape a story?
NF: When music supervisors go about their process, first we have to analyze the story and decide where the need for source music might be. We might look at if there are locales that need music playing in the background, or if there are types of music that a character listens to quite often. A character might be listening to his Ipod, or working in a grocery store that has background music. And then on a bigger front, there are times when a song is necessary to enhance a scene. Perhaps an end title, montage, or an opening song to set up an episode.
SA: What’s the difference between a track that’s good for album/radio airplay, and a one that’s good for sync?
NF: A great song on the radio might have this amazing story and lyrics, and people can relate to it, or like reciting it. A song used in sync has to play behind another story, so it can’t have too much of its own story. Also, depending on if the song is playing in the background, a song has to avoid getting in the way of dialogue. If it’s too powerful, or the vocals are too strong, it might end up swallowing up the scene.
SA: What types of difficulties do you encounter in the process of clearing tracks?
NF: A big difficulty is usually fees. Budgets were much higher back in the days when soundtracks were selling. It’s coming back a bit, but still the glory days (of when soundtracks were selling) are not there. Money was being poured into the productions from sales. Also, if you’re working on material that has delicate subject matter, bigger artists might have restrictions on what their music can be used for.
SA: I want to talk a little bit about your work on Stranger Things. There’s been a bit of resurgence in the use of 80’s synthwave theme music. What was the inspiration behind using Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein’s scoring, and why do you think it resonated so well with audiences?
NF: Matt and Ross Duffer, the creators of the show, first heard their music in a band called SURVIVE. They felt that could be a great style for the show, and the rest is history.
SA: What was your favourite moment from Midem 2017?
NF: Hands down, it was the last night on the beach: midnight, under the stars, with a crowd watching Acid Arab performing an amazing set. It was an amazing moment. Surrounded with some of my friends, and people from various parts of the world. Everyone was watching amazing music, amazing artists, and just dancing in the moonlight. I can say that we were not afraid, especially in light of what happened the other week in London, and what’s happening around the world. I think it’s very brave of Midem to make a stand in this way.
SynchAudio is a Toronto boutique music placement company that provides one-stop, representation for the use of music and media in all screen based storytelling platforms. Follow @SynchAudio for more great music industry news or log on to synchaudio.com to preview our extensive catalogue.