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Alicen Schneider: A Day in the Life of an in-house Music Supervisor

NBC Universal's Schneider returns to midemblog for a rare look behind the sync scenes...

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Alicen Schneider

I thought it might be nice to share a typical day in the life of a music supervisor, however, all of our lives are completely different.

There are so many different scenarios in our field: the in-house studio and network creatives like myself that have to manage the process from all sides; the independents that also have their own staff and with that have the added stress of keeping everyone employed and busy; or the ‘sups’ that are part of a collective (a group of music supervisors who have teamed and formed their own company for added security and support). This latter case is a very brilliant move in this current climate and the solo sups who prefer to tackle it alone. I have personally always preferred job security and support, which is why I’m in-house. I’ll leave that for my therapist though.

One misconception about being an in-house music supervisor is that we automatically get the gigs handed to us. Once in a while that happens, but actually we have to interview for the jobs just like everyone else. In some cases, we even have to convince a number of people that we’re just as good as the sups outside and that they can trust us to not share confidential show information with our studio and network executives before they’re ready to tell them a storyline or show them a cut. Fortunately, we all have so many productions under our belt now that producers and executives know they can trust us to be discreet.

Our days are usually unpredictable, stressful and somewhat chaotic. We truly fly by the seats of our pants in TV production because we generally have less than a week to spot the music in a show.

By “spotting“, I mean when you sit down with producers, a picture editor, composer, music editor and sometimes the writer and decide where both the score and songs will go, plus the tempo and so on.

Then you have to suggest songs, have them approved by the powers that be, obtain all copyright and master approvals and have them ready to go for the final mix. That’s when the sound department fine tunes all of the various elements of the show for the final output of the show for broadcast.

On any given day, there is a constant upheaval to what we thought we would be tackling when we arrive. This comes in the form of the occasional spotting session being fitted in at the last minute to accommodate a busy producer; emergency clearances; urgent song pitches… and then the multitude of meetings, as well as fires that have to be put out. Added to this we have showcases to attend, music to review and at least a dozen invitations weekly to check out great artists who are in town in either a show setting or by some incredibly innovative way  that their marketing teams have thought up to get folks out at night.

It’s a surreal job, but we’re a sturdy bunch and just recently one of my co-workers commented that you can’t do what we do and be overly sensitive or faint of heart.  We have such a passion for music that we’re OK having to pop the Advil like candy and visit the massage therapist much more frequently than we can afford (big shout out to Kim and Nathalie!) all so we can keep doing a job that we love.

Alicen Schneider is VP of music creative services for NBC Universal.

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