Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
Music is the language of the soul. So, how do you get the music you created out there for different audiences to hear? Outside of record, gig, stream, share, like, what else is there?
Let me share two scenarios that happened recently that might shed some light on the subject.
The first is when a former bandmate of mine, Gary Mallaber, reached out recently to share that he composed and recorded a large catalog of songs during the pandemic at his home studio and wanted to send me CDs. This is old-school and still viable, but I was not sure where he was going with the project. I listened, and the songs were smart and really different — some were bluesy with a rock underbelly and others were totally geared toward films or TV. I asked what his goals were for the songs, and he conveyed that he had 60 pieces of diverse music that would be suitable for film/TV placement, specifically if a music supervisor needed particular music to move the visual cadences of a scene.
This told me he was ready, willing and able to make deals, and he had a catalog of new choices for a streaming environment hungry to have a sound synonymous with its new content. It was brilliant timing. Approaching a music supervisor was the way to go in this instance. My list of such supervisors is culled from years of being in the business, but you can easily do your own research to find them.
But how can artists determine if a music supervisor is a good fit for getting their music to new audiences?
When you search for supervisors and get the list of what they’ve supervised, look closely. What types of projects have they actually supervised? Let’s use Gary again as an example. I know he co-produced Abracadabra with the Steve Miller Band. If you search that and read a few search results, the credit is there. It will likely be the same for other music supervisors.
You may need to decide the particular genre you want your music in based on your general preferences. When considering music supervisors, ask yourself if the music supervisor’s projects are similar to where you want your music placed. They may be heavy into placing music in different movie genres like holiday, horror, religious, action and so on.
So, how can you effectively collaborate with a music supervisor? How can you and this person get along? Do they listen? Do you listen? Are you on the same page?
I’m sharing suggestions for the path of growth, not of quick money. This business is based on relationships — period. Think about that. Is this the person, or company, that is right for you and your music? How can this help in getting new audiences to hear your music?
Music supervisors are one way for you to find someone who is an advocate for your songs and has the relationships and experience to place it somewhere for you to monetize. In addition, you can be proactive.
My advice is to take that copywritten song you created and make sure you have an instrumental, vocals, voice separate tracks and the lyrics on a PDF. Name the files based on the song titles (include your name as well) so people can find you easily in a search of their files. Consider getting business cards with your name and what your music purpose is (e.g., music for licensing, gig player percussion, composer for hire, session player, etc.). Also, provide a link to a clean website to back up this info with your phone number, other contact information and any pertinent affiliations (e.g., ASCAP, BMI, BMI Publishing, Grammy nominee, MTV’s top bands, etc.). Above all, make sure to read your contracts before signing, and don’t sign any if you don’t feel comfortable with the arrangements.
The second story is about discovery. My dad taught me to just press play when exploring new music, and let the content speak for itself — not the cover art, bio and so on.
So, when a music video was submitted for consideration to the festival I direct, I just pressed play and listened. I didn’t watch the video at that juncture, since music and video are two different elements. I stopped and listened in awe. There was a texture in his voice that spoke volumes and a rhythm of delivery that felt like an old friend. I emailed the artist and asked if we could put this in the pilot category, only to find out it was Chip Taylor, an inductee into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, who wrote hits like “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning.”
Cut to the awards ceremony and guess who won best pilot? Yes, it was Chip Taylor. Afterward, we discussed him sending me the rest of the videos for me to string together and distribute, and possibly put them up for Emmy consideration. He agreed, but the funny part was, he emailed me the next morning to say he thought I was kidding, but I wasn’t. It was a genuine bona fide discovery — kismet.
The lesson here is, your music speaks for itself. You know your art the best and are therefore well-positioned to advocate for your music and put it out there for people to discover.
Look for unique opportunities to showcase your work — you may be surprised by the reactions you get. You made music, your way, which is fantastic. Now you need to get it out in the world or expand where it already is.