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5 Things Music Supervisors Are Looking For In You And Your Music

This post is one part of an ongoing, 16-part series by Josh Collum at  The series details the journey and strategies behind the next release by Josh’s band, Secrets in Stereo.  Josh also looks back at what has allowed him to quit his day job, and write, record, and perform music full time.  One of the biggest reasons is that Secrets in Stereo has had over 50 placements in TV/Film/Advertising.  The following post gives insight into this world.  If you want to read the other posts, go to


It’s fitting that I’m in LA as I write a blog on this topic. I get out here every other month, mainly to meet with Music Supervisors. A lot the information I’ll include in this blog is pulled from these conversations. Straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

I know this is an area that A LOT of songwriters and artists are interested in right now. And, there is A LOT of information I could pass along. So, with that in mind, I’m going to break this down over two weeks. This week, I’ll focus on the things you need to do before you even think about getting into this game. And then next week, I’ll get into how to actually play the game.

Also, this isn’t Licensing 101. Remember, my main motivation in this series of posts is I saw a need for an “evolution of information.” So, I’m assuming you understand the basics TV/Film Licensing. I’m also assuming your music doesn’t suck. There are plenty of books and blog posts out there that can catch you up on the basics if you need it. But, the information found here is beyond those basics.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at…



These 5 things are the components of a word I hear over and over again from Supervisors in describing the type of music and artists they are looking for… “sync-able.” Sync-able doesn’t just refer to lyrics and melodies. There is a nuts and bolts element to it as well. Before you can even think about hearing your music in Grey’s Anatomy, you need to check these off the list. Let’s jump in, shall we!

1. Master Quality Recordings

No demos allowed. (Step up onto soapbox) Do demos even exist anymore? Considering how easy and economical it is to record high quality stuff now days, why would anyone limit that recordings’ opportunities by making it a demo. (Step off of soapbox)

If you’re confused about how to define “master quality recordings,” the easiest thing to do is listen to recordings and artists that have been successful in the TV/Film world already. I recommend you go listen to a few friends of mine like Perrin Lamb and Lee Hester. Of course, you can go listen to my stuff as well. We’ve all been lucky to have some successes with placements, and it’s partly because of our high quality product.  Some other indie artists that get used a lot are Tim Myers, Katie Herzig, and Matthew Perryman Jones.

2. 100% Ownership

If you’ve got a major pub or record deal, you’re reading the wrong blog. There is a reason why Supervisors use indie artists. Because they don’t have to deal with slow, haggling publishers and record labels.

A lot of times (especially in TV) a Supervisor doesn’t have time to get 5 people to sign off on a license. And they might not have flexibility in a budget to negotiate for 200 more dollars. These are all things that are avoided when a single artist can sign off on a use.

3. General Themed Lyrics

In TV and Film, music compliments the dialogue and visual. As oppose to driving it. With that said, lyrics should be general or metaphorical enough to be interpreted in as many ways as there are viewers. The song should fit into the story that the viewer is seeing. What the viewer is seeing CAN’T be forced to fit the song they are hearing. It doesn’t work like that.

In other words, if you are detailed story teller, then you are going to have a hard time in the TV/Film world.

4. Feel Good and Break Up Style Production

Obviously, there are a million different music needs out there. But, in my experience, a good 80% of the uses fall into two musical production styles. I call them “Feel Good” and “Break Up.”

Feel Goods are uplifting, anthemic, mid-tempos. Usually with positive, universal lyrics. They do exactly what their title says… make you feel good. Think U2 and Coldplay. Here’s an example of a Feel Good. It’s my song, “Not Today,” and it’s been used in Grey’s Anatomy and The Real World.

Not Today by Secrets in Stereo

The other style, Break Ups, are broken down, acoustic or piano, relationship-themed ballads. Here’s another one of my songs as an example. It’s called “Step Outside,” and it’s been used in The Hills.

Step Outside by Secrets in Stereo

5. Instrumentals

If you don’t have instrumentals for all of your songs… get them now. Sometimes Music Editors need to work around dialogue. Or, maybe they love a track, but lyrically it doesn’t it work. You want to give them that flexibility. They will love you for it. Not to mention it will give you a ton more opportunities.


All of the things I’ve listed here will make you and your music more sync-able.  But, more importantly, it builds a foundation of something that is essential in a relationship with a Supervisor… Trust.

Next week, we’ll get into some smart and effective strategies for getting your music into the hands and ears of Music Supervisors.

See ya then!

Josh Collum


Josh Collum writes, records, and performs under the name Secrets in Stereo.  His 15 song catalog has garnered over 50 major placements in TV, Film, and Advertising on shows like Grey’s Anatomy, The Hills, Private Practice, Young and The Restless, and The Real World.  In addition to SIS, Josh is a partner in the Nashville based, progressive-minded production and promotion team of Sorted Noise.

Reader Comments (8)

Awesome. Looking forward to the follow-up.

March 23 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

Interesting read. I've thought about movie/television licensing but never really understood the mechanics behind it.

Thanks guys!

Scott, the followup (a bunch more posts) are at This is just one post from 16-part series I'm doing there. I promise, it's worth it.


March 23 | Unregistered CommenterJosh Collum

GREAT POST - cracks open a generally little known door, and offers even more SPECIFICS, from the street.

Now this, to me, is also one of the best examples of web2.0 marketing/promotion ever - best to you, Josh!

March 23 | Unregistered CommenterDg.


Thats exactly what I was thinking! Yes, thanks to Josh for the sound advice. But I think the real teachable moment here is how Josh is clearly using this space as an opportunity to network and perhaps even make a fan or two.

The real marketing tip here is Josh's presentation to us, as a well crafted calling card.

Maybe more of us armchair commenters should be doing the same.

March 24 | Unregistered CommenterJustin S.

Nice post. If the next post(s) includes info as promised about getting your music to the right people, then NICE.

Off to a great start. Nice, not so subtle self promo. It's excusable because it is appropriate within the context of the informative article.

Great advice! The only thing is that I have come across agents (he's worked with "One Tree Hill" ) who promote musicians/music to music supervisors...and he asks for demos from musicians. I do agree with just about everything you stated and found that the easier it is to license, the better.


Thanks.. Great article. Makes logical sense.

January 3 | Unregistered CommenterWayne

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