Q&A: Getting Music Placed in Film and TV

Songtrust Staff
Songtrust Staff on May 10, 2012


Don Draper Mad Men's Don Draper listens to The Beatles 'Tomorrow Never Knows'. The license cost $250,000.

Having recently posted about getting music placed in video games and advertising, it's high time to discuss the same process for film/TV. The latter of which can be especially fruitful for songwriters, who can earn meaningful performance royalties from the use of their songs on TV.

To find out more, we spoke with Jumee Park from premium licensing agency Downtown Music Services.

What is the process for placement of music in film/TV?

Once a music supervisor or music department at Film and TV studio decides what they need, they will being the search by sending out music search briefs to labels, publishers and music placement reps. As a publisher /music licensing rep, if I have music that's appropriate for the search, I'll email a playlist of music.

From there, the supervisor and other decision makers pull what might work, and then test it in a rough cut of the scene. If it works, then then we’ll get a request for more information on the song, a quote and approval.

Which genres/ types of music get placed in film/TV most often?

The great thing about music licensing is that it isn’t specific to any genre or style. The music is there to help tell the story, so the type of music that gets licensed depends on the production and the creative direction of that production. A film about present day teenagers living in rural Missouri will likely have music that is different from a film set in 1970s England.

Having said that, current trends in film/TV licensing are: hip indie rock, hip-hop, dub-step, upbeat pop-electronic hybrids, and singer-songwriter/acoustic. For trailers and promos, well-known artists and songs tend to have the advantage.

How can an unpublished songwriter get considered alongside the big boys for placement?

Do your homework. Know what kind of music is getting licensed for different TV shows. Find out who supervises those shows and their submission policies. For example, some supervisors don’t accept unsolicited material, so you might need to find a licensing rep to pitch on your behalf.

But overall, continue to put yourself and your music out there - keep playing shows and keep your websites/networking pages updated with media. Good music will always find its way to supervisors.

How much can film/TV placements pay upfront?

Fees can depend on a number of factors: how the song is used, how prominently the song plays in the scene, the popularity of the song, the artist, and the budget of the project. I’ve seen fees that can range from $500 - $35,000 for TV and from $1,000 - $150,000 for film (this is all-in, meaning for both master and publishing).

Which directors / TV channels / shows are your favorites for music supervision?

Mad Men and Treme are great as historical/regional snapshots. The shows on CW and MTV are fun to watch since they tend to use what’s current, so it’s a good way to find out about new music. In the film world, I love how the directors Paul Thomas Anderson and Martin Scorsese use music in unexpected ways.

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