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 at the Hôtel Majestic Barrière 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.
As Senior Vice President of Television Music at Sony Pictures Entertainment, Tony Scudellari is a major force in today’s music and television industries. In his role, he oversees music for all of Sony Pictures Television’s programming, which includes new media. His duties include hiring composers and music supervisors, while also serving as music supervisor himself on some projects. As lead music creative, he is also responsible for all soundtrack releases, including digital and physical formats of full length (Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad, The Get Down, Justified, Outlander) and singles of music from SPT programs (artists include Anika Noni Rose, Book of Fears, Christina Aguilera, Gangstagrass, Gloria Estefan & Pentatonix) . Tony has applied his craft and music skill to such current Sony Pictures Television projects as Better Call Saul, The Blacklist, Electric Dreams, Flint, The Goldbergs, The Last Tycoon, Outlander & Preacher. During his tenure at SPT, the studio’s television music has been awarded 2 Guild of Music Supervisor Awards, 8 Emmy Awards and multiple ASCAP, BMI & SESAC Film & TV Music Awards.
SA: You’re often involved in the process of hiring music supervisors. What makes a music supervisor stand out?
TS: I will try and find someone that’s appropriate for what the creative needs are for the show, for what the executive producers and director want, as well as making sure that the music supervisor is someone that we can get in terms of time, cost, and availability. A stand out music supervisor has an understanding of clearance and is on top of things both in terms of process and what’s going on with music in general. And, an outstanding music supervisor can create a unique musical voice for a show that enhances the storytelling.
SA: What creative styles are trending for sync in TV?
TS: There’s a trend towards pop, hip-hop, as well as synth-based retro 80’s-style music as well as having a knowledge of deep cuts of legendary artists or finding those hidden artistic gems from the past. Those are some of the trends that I’m encountering with a number of our more contemporary-based projects.
SA: Where do independent artists fit in sync for television?
TS: The top music supervisors know a wide range of music, so independent artists have always been on their radar. Part of a good music supervisor’s job is creating that alchemy of mixing major and independent artists. This is because of both the creative need of trying to have the most impact and frankly, a budgetary concern. So independent artists are integral. On our shows, usually about ¾ of the music tends to be independent artists. It’s been like that for a while, because of the budgets of television; we’ve had indies on our radar since day one. And frankly, having stand-out independent and new artists helps a music supervisor – and a show – become a tastemaker.
SA: Has the surge in technology/streaming music affected how indies are used in sync?
TS: I don’t think technology has affected the amount, or use, of independent artists. I do think it’s broadened the marketplace and made independent artists more available, and given them more opportunity. But I don’t think it’s really changed as far as the amount of independent artists that are in the mix of television programming.
SA: How has the shift to viewing content on streaming platforms/subscription based services over traditional television affected the music that gets used for sync?
TS: Because of all the content, and the amount of different programming on the air, whether it be: cable, premium services, subscription, or online, it makes a music supervisor’s challenge that much more interesting. It provides an opportunity for a music supervisor to create a unique voice, and by doing that, it allows for different musical choices to be used on our shows.
SA: Has it changed the kinds of artists or music supervisors you look for?
TS: With the new content platforms, there tends to be a willingness to go for music supervisors that might cross over from a different space. And, it’s also had the effect of allowing more up and coming music supervisors an opportunity into television. As far as changing what kinds of artists, again with the interest in trying to create an original, unique musical voice for our shows, it provides more opportunities for placement of new music or deep cuts from artists.
SA: What’s the difference between a song that’s good for an album/radio, and one that’s good for sync?
TS: The music that’s good for sync has to be what I call “in the pocket,” meaning that it needs to work well with dialogue. There has to be an ability for a song to allow that storytelling to take place. So not only is there a need for, and an understanding of, what’s being conveyed in the song, but it also must be compatible with how a song is used as part of the storytelling process in television. Having said that, each show is different, so there are different approaches a showrunner may want to use and the music supervisor is key to creating that voice. You have songs that are used over scenes, but you also have music that’s used over montages. And, the way that it’s cut can make it a much different experience. I’m getting long-winded, so I shall shut up now.
SA: What are some of the challenges music supervisors face in clearing music?
TS: Samples, because of the additional steps and the higher costs for approval. Whether an artist has a history of not clearing for television. How much a studio is willing to pay for an artist can also have an impact. Something as simple as whether an artist has a product placement deal, and the scene contains a competing product. Political, religious, or dietary beliefs impact whether or not someone will approve a piece of music. There are a lot of ways that music can have difficulty being cleared.
SA: What do you hope will be the biggest change in how music is consumed over the next 5 years?
TS: What I would love to see is a better appreciation by lovers of music for the value of music. By that I mean people begin to understand what the creative process entails; that people appreciate the time, talent and effort of songwriters and musical artists to create music. That would be my biggest hope for everyone, including music fans, studio folks, executive producers and directors, so that the notion of getting music for free becomes nonsensical. Much like we value a performance by Glenn Close or Helen Mirren, iconic music should be valued in that way. Hopefully budgets will one day reflect that change in thinking. That’s something I would hope to see as a cultural shift in the next 5 years – for people to understand and appreciate what musicians bring to the table. Is that too much to ask?
SA: What was your biggest take away from Midem this year?
TS: The incredible amount of talented artists from around the world. In the past, creators of visual content in the United States have not fully explored having international music artists heard on productions. I think because we’re fortunately seeing, in some ways, the world getting smaller in terms of visual content creation and having that content in different international markets, it allows us the opportunity to embrace talented musical artists from everywhere. One of the things Midem does really really well is to create that smaller world for the music community – and Midem has done that for decades. I see an evolution where visual content creators are embracing that ethos of global inclusion which makes what Midem is doing all the more relevant.
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.