Photo Credit: Jay Farbman for The Guild of Music Supervisors

This past weekend was the very first Guild of Music Supervisors State of Music in Media Conference. Many of the most influential players in the media music community shared their knowledge and experience with students, aspiring music supervisors and peers across 24 panels, presentations and sessions. Topics ranged from an overview of the job, to getting hired, to creative strategy and communication, an in depth look at music clearance, metadata practices, marketing the music and more.

We involved in the the planning could not have been happier with the turnout – both the number of and the enthusiasm and support from the attendees. I had many discussions with panelists and presenters about how unusually intelligent the questions were.

Still though, there were a few…frustrating situations that arose. As with any conference where music supervisors are present, regardless of the content or goals, there was a faction who just viewed the event as an opportunity to put music in the hands of those with power.

I was lucky enough to have music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas on one of the panels I produced, and the crowd that swarmed immediately afterwards was in fact, terrifying. I had to run in and act as bodyguard. Me (I’m 5’2”). One gentleman was so persistent, that after I dragged her away from the mob, he clearly ran around the side of the conference room and was waiting at the exit, business card in hand.

An approach that aggressive indicates desperation, and if you’re desperate we are going to assume it’s because people aren’t listening (or responding) to your music, and then we are going to wonder why that might be. We understand you are following your dreams and want to get your music heard, but the only thing a stunt like that will accomplish is a bad taste in someone’s mouth, or worse – spreading it to another colleague. “Oh my god, did that crazy guy from Made Up Name Music accost you too?!”

Thankfully these folks were in the minority. Most were genuinely eager to learn about our craft, and approached myself and the other music supervisors with respect. With the above in mind though, here are seven things an artist should keep in mind when trying to connect with music supervisors at a conference:

1. When in a panel or group setting, do not start a question with your elevator pitch. It’s perfectly fine to say, “Hi, I am an artist” or “I represent a catalog” or “I work at Party Time label.” It’s not fine to say “Hi I am blank, I’m the president of My Music Is Awesome and I have a catalog of independent artists of a wide variety of genres that are all pre-cleared for your needs” or “I manage producers and writers who have worked with people like Britney Spears, Rihanna and Maroon 5”. We know what you’re doing, and that’s wasting everyone’s time.

2. Get to the question. Everyone loves flattery and gratitude, but the clock is ticking. You want those on stage to have plenty of time to answer, and others are hoping to have their inquiries heard as well. Keep your introduction brief, then ask the question. But also…

3. Be appreciative! Don’t antagonize the person on stage. Maybe they didn’t give the answer you were hoping. Perhaps you disagree. Still, they are the professional with years of experience, sharing their time and knowledge when most likely they either have more important work to do or would rather be home with their family.

4. Do not ask questions specific only to you. In fact, as a general rule, try to use “I” as little as possible. You’re in a room with a large group of people, who are all paying to be there just like you. Take a minute and consider if others in your position may also have that same question. In the panel I moderated, someone asked how a studio music executive decides whether a project will be handled in-house or a supervisor hired. That is a really good question, with an answer valuable to anyone who wants to be a music supervisor. I wish I had asked it.

Photo Credit: Jay Farbman for The Guild of Music Supervisors

5. Stick to the topic being discussed. If the panel is on how to write music for ads, don’t seek advice on whether or not you should sign an exclusive or non-exclusive publishing deal. If the presentation is about how to strategically approach network television as a music supervisor, it’s not the time to ask what is the presenter’s preferred format for music submissions.

6. Don’t monopolize those answering. Maybe they didn’t elaborate on a point you feel needed more explanation. Maybe you have a follow up question. Remember, you are not in a private conversation with that person. Try to sidebar with them later if possible, but be warned…

7. Plan your attack – I mean, encounter – wisely. Here are some times when you should not try to approach someone you wish to connect with:

  • Immediately after they get off stage. If you are concerned this is truly the only time you will be in the same room, the best maneuver is to try and get in a quick handshake or thank you, then bounce. Skip details about you and/or your music. Chances are there is another panel about to start moments later and the staff (or volunteers) are trying to hustle people out.
  • When they are surrounded by a large group. If more than two people are chatting with someone, back away. Certainly don’t join a crowd more than four.
  • When they are engaged in a private conversation
  • If they are clearly working, or in the middle of a task
  • Walking quickly en route to somewhere

Many events (such as the Guild of Music Supervisors Conference) have scheduled times for mingling. A few months ago, I offered some advice for interacting socially with music supervisors at such occasions, so I’ll keep it brief here: get in and get out.

This is the best time for the quick elevator pitch, the business card and/or music handoff, and a heartfelt thank you for their time. Bonus points if you can, in a natural, non-creepy way, indicate you are familiar with their work and have considered it when putting together the CD or flashdrive you are handing them. For example, “I saw you may be working on Scream Queens, so this sampler shows the darker side of my catalog,” or “I’m in a heavy metal rock band and it looks like you mostly do family fare, but I wanted to give you my album [or business card] just in case you ever need.” Believe me when I say the personal touch goes a long way, with one caveat: don’t presume to know exactly what the needs are. Showing you’ve done your research is great, but we don’t expect you to get it exactly right, and you shouldn’t expect you can.