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Master Class: Get Placed, Get Paid

October 13, 2016

The song “Over the Rainbow” from the film The Wizard of Oz has generated over one billion dollars in royalties. Granted, this is one of the most popular films of all time, but its success demonstrates the income potential found in song licensing. And musicians have more opportunities than ever to earn new revenue streams: In a world of declining music sales, musicians are licensing their songs for films, TV shows, movie trailers, and commercials, and earning performance and synchronization royalty income in the process.

Getting your song placed starts with understanding the people who choose music for these productions: music supervisors. Their job is to find the perfect song for the story being told. It’s a job requiring equal amounts of artistry, love of music, technical skills, and knowledge of the legal world. We’ll explore the role of music supervisors and share ways to increase your chances of getting your music placed.


Music supervisors live and breathe music. They use it to elicit a particular emotion, create a mood, or build pacing within a scene. They deal with demanding clients, directors, editors, musicians, and publishers who give them vague descriptions like, “I want something that’s blue.” And they do this within tight schedules, often within a weekend, a day, or even a few hours. Once they find an ideal track, they need to negotiate a licensing deal quickly.

But anyone on the production team can veto their choice including the director, editor, producers, or even the actors. In the case of advertising, clients always have the final say. So music supervisors need to have multiple music options ready to go.

The Types of Music Supervisors and Licensing Opportunities

Music supervisors typically specialize in one of four areas: movie trailers, film, television, and commercials. Each one has unique needs to be met if you want to improve the chance of licensing and placing your music.

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