How To Be A Music Supervisor For Movies & Film: #Aspiring2ActWriteDirect Guides

‘Rock of Ages’ music supervisor Matt Sullivan working with Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx

Do you love music? Do you love movies? Have you been searching for a way to combine the two into a successful career? Have you heard about one of the most coveted roles in the entertainment business? If not, it’s time for you found out about becoming a music supervisor and the team is here to fill you in on all the details of this key behind-the-scenes role with the new Aspiring Movie Music Supervisor Guide.

The latest edition in our ongoing series joins our previous guides for the aspiring actor, costume designer, director and filmmaker, film editor, grip, producer, makeup artist, screenwriter, stuntman and visual effects artist.

The team conducts extensive research to provide practical information for an array of entertainment industry professions. Like all of our Aspiring2ActWriteDirect Guides, we offer numerous resources to help you launch your career, including an extensive glossary of common terms used in the field, books written by leading experts, educational and training programs, useful apps and detailed job descriptions.


Of the many people involved in setting the tone of a film, music supervisors play a unique role by bridging the gap between the motion picture and music industries. Movies are created in stages, from pre-production to the actual filming to the final edits (post-production), so it is no surprise that there are many stages to bring music into a movie.

In an ideal world, a music supervisor is involved from the earliest stages of a film production but in reality, a music supervisor is usually hired during the post-production stage. By reading through the script, collaborating with the director and determining the budget limitations with the producer, a music supervisor will be able to determine what kind of music will be needed for the project and then work toward securing the necessary licenses. Some movies require on-camera music, where an actor or a band performs a song, while other films need a powerful original score written by a film composer. For every epic John Williams Star Wars score and chart-busting Top Gun soundtrack, there are thousands of pieces of music playing on car radios, entertaining the audience during the opening title sequence or providing an emotional undercurrent to montages within a film or television show. The music supervisor helps bring those musical elements to life.

The Guide for Aspiring Movie Music Supervisors includes:

If you are currently working as a professional music supervisor in the entertainment industry, the team would love to hear your advice, recommendations and suggestions for additional resources. We always appreciate feedback. We encourage aspiring and professional music supervisors to share your stories on the official Tom Cruise social media communities, including Twitter, Facebook, WhoSay, Orkut, Gree, Sina Weibo, Google+, Tumblr and Tencent Weibo. Please remember to use the hashtag #aspiring2actwritedirect in all your social media responses about any of the Aspiring Guides.

Music supervisor Bethany Cosentino discusses her work on MTV’s ‘Awkward.’

Music Supervisors prepare and manage the music budget on a project, collaborate with production staff and composers, schedule spotting sessions and negotiate music licensing agreements. In addition to suggesting and securing the rights to existing songs and music, a music supervisor may work with a composer to create original cues and scores. If recording sessions are needed to create new music for a project, the music supervisor may also book the studio as well as consult with a sound engineer and a music contractor to hire and pay any necessary musicians or singers.

After researching the licenses for any music that may be used in a production, a music supervisor will highlight any potential concerns before forwarding them onto the production company. Acting as the liaison between the production company, the music publishers and the record companies, music supervisors produce the final version of music cue sheet and submit copies to all of the appropriate professional rights organizations (PRO’s) to document that the music and the duration of each piece that was used in the final version of the production conforms to the terms of the negotiated contract so that the artists, composers and music publishers will be paid the appropriate royalties.

To maintain a successful career, a music supervisor must be able work with a variety of personalities, have well developed negotiation skills and have the legal knowledge to oversee licensing agreements.

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The primary responsibility of a music supervisor in the entertainment business is to collaborate with the studios and entertainment industry production companies to select the desired music for a project and then secure the rights for that music to be used in a film, television program, video game and/or advertisement. Because there are often tight timelines and strict budgets, the nature of the work can be stressful.

Key skills include:

  • Legal knowledge of music copyrights and licensing agreements
  • Well developed negotiation tactics
  • Ability to work with a variety of corporate and artistic personalities, including studio, record label and labor union executives as well as directors, producers and composers
  • Extensive knowledge of musical works
  • Research skills
  • Ability to breakdown a script
  • Budget preparation and management

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A day in the life of a music supervisor may involve meeting with a producer in the morning to go over a project budget, trying to track down the artists and record labels of a new piece of music that a director “must have” in his new movie and then securing the licensing agreement for that “essential” piece of music. In order to communicate efficiently, music supervisors must be able to track down information quickly and effectively use music, film production and licensing terms. Of course, each field has their own verbal short-hand and colloquialisms but we have researched and complied a list of commonly used terms and phrases. The team would especially like to thank and for their help in defining many of the terms used in this extensive glossary.

All In – An industry standard that refers to a song or score that is presented to the producer in final format for a flat fee, including the master use and synchronization licensing fees. Artists are paid a single fee for a synchronization and master use license agreement, which is necessary to synchronize a song to any type of visual media as well as use and air the song as part of the project.

American Federation of Musicians  (AF of M | Musicians Union) – A national musicians’ union in the United States, the AF of M negotiates contract agreements for recording sessions performed by their members, including musicians, orchestrators and copyists. In addition to working with motion picture and television production companies, the Musicians Union also covers contracts for members hired for live performances, album recordings, demo recordings and commercials.

Assumption Agreement – An agreement between an entertainment industry production company and the American Federation of Musicians to engage the services of union members on a film or television music recording session, including potential payments to the musicians for any new usage of the music as well as any bonus payments based on the commercial success of the film.

Background Instrumental (BI) – A term noted on a cue sheet to indicate the use of an underscore or unseen (off-camera) source of music. However, recurring musical themes, such as the “dah dum, dah dum” background instrumental used in Jaws, may be incorporated as part of the plot to signal upcoming action to the audience and move the story along. The cues are frequently pre-recorded works from a music library or may be written specifically for a film or television show, such as the “doink, doink” sound heard in every episode of Law & Order. Used to set the mood of a scene, background instrumentals do not generally become the focus of the audience’s attention.

Background Vocal (BV) – Like a background instrumental, a background vocal is a type of background performance and a notation is made during cue sheet preparation to indicate the use of a vocal or non-visual vocal source. The BV cues accompanying an action contain audible lyrics, such as a song playing on a radio.

For examples of iconic background performances, check out Time’s 2010 review of Top 10 Unforgettable TV Sounds.

Breakdown Notes (Timing Notes) – Generally prepared by the music editor and supplied to the composer, the document provides details of specific events, a time code location of each event and a brief description of the event as well as all of the camera moves, key action and dialogue points within a scene.

Bumper – A short piece of music that is played either before or after a commercial, at the beginning or the end of a segment in a program or to emphasize a key element during a game show, such as the iconic Jeopardy! music that is used while a competitor is writing down an answer.

Buy-out – A deal or contract agreement specifying that the person hired will not receive future royalties or income from their work on a project. Buy-outs are frequently used when a musician is hired for a non-union recording session. 

Click (Click Track) – An audible metronome signal played through headphones for musicians and a conductor to help the artists perform the music at exactly the correct tempo during recording. Composers may have a constant or varying click speed for each piece of music that is written to synchronize with a scene or action. A digital metronome signal played for musicians prior to the start of the cue to establish the tempo of the cue are known as free clicks. A click bleed occurs when microphones accidentally pick up the headphones metronome sound during the recording session.

Closing Theme – A notation in a cue sheet indicating the use of the end title or closing theme music. It is a musical feature used during the credit roll at the end of a film or television production.

Cues (Cue Breakdowns) – Usually developed by a music editor, a script is recreated from a musical point of view to help a composer determine the tempo and create the musical score. Separate from any individual songs that may or may not be original to the film, a score is comprised of the instrumental music written specifically for a film.

Cue Sheet – With information provided by the music editor and composer, the music supervisor, coordinator or administrator prepares a document that details all of the music used in the project, such as who owns what percentage, the composer and publisher of each piece of music as well as their affiliated performing rights organizations (PRO)’s and exactly how long and in what fashion the music was used. To establish rights and royalties due, a production company or network is responsible for filing a cue sheet with all the appropriate PROs whenever a film or television show has wrapped, such as submitting the cue sheet to the Performing Rights Society and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). No performance royalties are paid until the final cue sheet is filed with the appropriate PRO’s. Therefore, it is extremely important for a composer or musician to request and keep a copy of the cue sheet for any project that has used their music.

Ephemeral Use – Refers to music played without music licenses during certain types of live broadcasts, such as news programs, sporting events and awards shows. These types of live television programs may not be required to attain music licenses because the program is not intended to be broadcast again in the future and in the days before digital media, the program may not even have been recorded. However, any additional broadcasts of a program (reruns) would require the appropriate music license. Like any television or film production, cue sheets are created for all ephemeral uses and must be filed with the appropriate PRO’s.

Featured Vocal – A cue sheet term describing the use of music in which the vocals of the song may be the primary focus of a scene or visual montage.

GhostwriterAn individual who is hired for a flat fee to write music but does not receive any recognition, while another composer is credited on the cue sheet and production. Generally considered to be unethical, a ghostwriter is often a composer trying to break into the business but he may not be allowed to reveal or discuss his work on a project to anyone. A ghostwriter is completely anonymous, as opposed to someone who is contracted to assist a busy composer and is credited on the cue sheet, even if not on-screen.

In Context Use – A music licensing phrase that refers to music that can only used in the specific scene for which it is being licensed and cannot be used for any other purpose, such as in a trailer or advertisement for the film.

In Perpetuity – Forever. In music publishing, whoever has the song rights retains ownership of it for the duration of the copyright, which may extend beyond the life of the composer. In music licensing, whomever, or whatever entity (production company, television network), owns the rights to the project is also given contractual rights to have a song or composition and/or the specific recording of the song or composition embedded into the project forever, even if the publishing company, record label, production company or film studio is sold to another corporation or company.

Linear Use – Licensed music is used without any changes or manipulation, such as changing the order of verses or removing a section. Linear use is frequently used in film and television productions.

Master/Sync License – The permission to use a song as well as the permission to use a recording of the song, allow the license holder to use a pre-existing version of a song in a commercial, film or television production. A music publisher issues a synchronization license to grant permission to use a song or composition, while whomever holds the rights to a specific recording of the song or composition issues a master use license.

Master Use License – The individual or company who is given the permission for a specific recording of a song to be used in a media project, such as a film or television program.

Most Favored Nations (MFN) – Originally used by the United Nations, the phrase refers to the policy of treating every nation equally and without preference. The term is frequently included as part of the negotiation process of master use or sync licenses when more than one company or publisher is involved with a project. It means a price and the terms of a music license are set, unless a better deal is given to another company of similar status. If the production company licenses other music of similar status at a higher rate, the production company would then be obligated to revise any applicable MFN agreements to be equal to the better rate and terms.

Multimedia License – The right to use a song or a specific piece of music through expanded uses, including interactive videos or games where the user may be able to extract or manipulate portions of the music.

Legendary music arranger Quincy Jones

Music Arranger – An individual who adapts an existing musical composition to create a customized version by altering the voices, the instruments and/or the performance styles. For example, an arranger could create a dance mix from a piece of classical music or arrange the music of a pop song to create a version for a large orchestra. An arranger should not be confused with a composer who creates original music.

Music Breakdown – An initial review of the screenplay or rough cut of the film by the music supervisor to give the director a general idea of how and where music could be incorporated into the film. While a music breakdown does not replace a spotting session, it might include a suggested budget, how many source cues might be needed, along with notations for the appropriate scenes with the type of music, how the music would be used in each scene and possibly suggestions of song titles and artists.

Music Clearance – Permission given, or “cleared,” by a music publisher and/or master rights holder to use a specific piece of music and/or a recording of the piece in any type of commercial use, including in a film (foreign or domestic), television production, commercial or festival. A master/sync license would generally cover both clearance and licensing issues.

Music Contractor (Contractor, Vocal Contractor, Fixer) – An individual who works with a film or television composer, hires musicians for recording sessions and serves as a liaison with the music coordinator to set up studio time as well as with the musicians’ unions to ensure all the appropriate paperwork is completed and filed for any union recording sessions. Frequently hired by the composer, a contractor should be able to work within a budget and have the contacts to hire professional musicians quickly who also work well together.

Music Copyist (Copier, Music Preparer or Music Prep) – The individual who prepares the printed music parts or lead sheets the musicians play during a recording session. Extracted from a composer’s overall music score, each musician receives only the part they will play.

Performing Rights Organization (PRO) – Associations and labor unions around the world that represent professional songwriters, composers and music publishers, including BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, SOCAN, PRS and GEMA (insert jump link to Labor Unions & Professional Associations Section). In addition to providing benefits, networking opportunities and a collective bargaining unit, PROs calculate and collect performance royalties for the public performance of the music of their members.

Performing Rights Royalties – A fee that should be paid to the songwriter, composer and music publisher for the public performance of their music, including in television programs, bars and restaurants and foreign theaters. The fees are collected by performing rights organizations, such as ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, and are paid to the appropriate members of these organizations. The royalties may be based on several factors, such as the frequency that the music is played and the number of minutes of music used in a production.

Pre-Record – Music that is recorded prior to an event. In a movie or television production, some music is recorded in advance of shooting so that the actors in that scene can synchronize their performance to the music that will be used in the scene, such as in a dance scene or scenes featuring an actor singing or playing an instrument.

Scott Joplin’s music is now public domain

Public Domain (PD) – A song or composition that has never been or is no longer owned by a publishing company, as well as when a certain amount of time has passed since the composer’s death, may be re-recorded without requiring a negotiation of rights or payment to a publisher. However, existing recordings of public domain music may require permission or a licensing agreement with the owner of the recording, such as a master use license, unless the recording has also passed into PD. Examples of PD music include compositions by Beethoven and Mozart. Different countries have different music licensing definitions, and it is extremely important to verify a song is in the public domain worldwide before using it in a project.

Non Linear – When the user may manipulate the music, such as shifting verses. An option that is most frequently requested in a multimedia license, including for use in video games and Karaoke.

Opening Theme – Music used during the title scenes in a production. Noted in cue sheet preparation, the term is often considered to be a featured use, since it is frequently the primary focus of the scene.

Out of Context Use – A music licensing term to note that in addition to using the music during a specific scene, it may also be used in a film trailer and/or advertisement, even if the trailer or advertisement does not use the scene for which the music was originally licensed.

Score (Score Music) – Music that is not heard by the performers in a scene but the audience does hear. A composer often creates this type of music to subtly cue the audience that some type of action is about to occur, such as an unseen monster lurking nearby, or to highlight an unspoken emotional element of a scene, such as the death of a beloved character. Frequently created under a work for hire contract, a film or television production company would own the rights to the score music rather than the composer.

Score Development – A music editor develops a temporary score for a movie that is in production and partially filmed. Comprised of “placeholder” music, the temporary score can be used as a template for a music editor to help establish the tempo and pace of a film before the final score is completed.

Scource Music (Scource) – Merging the terms “score” and “source” to refer to music that is used as a score on screen but is licensed as source music. Composers often create music for a production that does not make it into the final cut but they still own that music and may license it out. An example of scource music would be when an independent filmmaker does not have the budget to hire their own score composer but can afford to license several music cues from a composer who has existing music that was created for, but not used, in another project.

Sidelining – When musicians appear on-screen in a film or television production, often with their musical instruments, but do not necessarily play the instruments. If the musicians do appear to be playing their instruments, it is most often to a pre-recorded track.

Signatory – A company or an individual who is authorized by the American Federation of Musicians (AF of M) to act as an employer of musicians and may be held legally responsible for potential future payments (royalties) to the musicians.

SMPTE (The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers | Time Code) – The acronym for The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers commonly refers to the standardized time code the organization developed, including drop frame and non-drop time codes. The time code is recorded as an audio signal that is shown in a window on the screen as a reference to a specific location in a video or audio production. For example, 1:01:16:14 refers to a time code location of “one hour, one minute, sixteen seconds and 14 frames.”

Sound Designer – A person who creates non-musical sounds for a project, which may include overlays to music as well as sound effects.

Sound Recording (Master) – All of the musical elements involved in recording a song, including the instruments playing a specific arrangement and the singer(s), if there is one. There can be many versions, or recordings, of a song that have been licensed through the music publisher who owns the copyright to the words and music to that song or composition. A copyright of a sound recording may be owned by a record label or independent artists may own the copyright themselves.

Source Music (Source Cue) – Music an on-screen performer can hear, such as music coming from a radio or band.

Spotting Session – Generally occurring after filming has wrapped and the editing phase of a production has been completed or is well under way, key film staff meet together to note, or “spot,” all the musical cues that will be used in the production. During the session, the director, composer, music editor and producer collaborate on what types of music will be used in the production and use the time code locations to note exactly where each specific music cue will occur. The music coordinator, music editor or music supervisor keeps track of all the spotting notes and provides copies to the appropriate staff. In addition, the music composer will be able to use the spotting notes to develop a score and the music supervisor will receive instructions regarding necessary copyright clearances and the budget allocated for the music.

Synchronization License (Sync License) – Issued by the individual or company who owns the publishing rights to a song, it grants permission to record or use music in sync with a picture in a television program or film.

Synchronization Rights (Sync Rights) – Generally negotiated with the music publisher, it is the permission to use an existing piece of music, frequently a source cue, in sync with the picture in a film or television production.

Temp Track (Temp Music) – Music added to a film or television production prior to the composition of the “official” music and/or source cues are selected, such as for a screening of the film for test audiences and film production executives. The composer and music supervisor may want to be involved in this process and provide appropriate temp music to try to prevent the director or producer from using, and then wanting, pieces of music that are very expensive or difficult to license.

Timing Notes (Breakdown Notes) – A document created by the music editor for the composer that details the time codes for key action or dialogue, camera moves and edits for the scenes requiring music. The composer will use the notes to reference time code and duration of the scenes to determine how many seconds or minutes of music are needed.

A screen shot from a popular track mixing software

Track Mixing – A music editor and a music mixer create several different versions, or mixes, of a music track, so that if there is a problem when one track is inserted into a scene an alternative music mix can be used.

Visual Dance – A notation made during cue sheet preparation that there will be an on-camera dance sequence. It is generally considered to be a featured use, particularly if the dance is the primary focus of a scene.

Visual Instrumental – A notation made during cue sheet preparation that there will be an on-camera instrumental performance. If the musical performance is the primary focus of the scene, it would be considered a featured use.

Visual Vocal – A notation made during cue sheet preparation that there will be an on-camera vocal performance. If it is the primary focus of the scene, it would be considered a featured use.

Work for Hire (Work Made for Hire) – Whoever hired a composer to write specific pieces of music for a production owns the publishing rights to that music, such as a score written for a film. However, a composer may opt to accept a smaller up-front fee, compose on spec or even for no up-front fee in exchange for retaining a portion or all of the publishing rights to their music.

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A music supervisor must be able to work with a wide variety of personalities, have an extensive knowledge of the music and entertainment industries as well as be able to secure music clearances and licensing agreements. As early as possible in a project, a music supervisor would meet with a film or television production team to discuss the music requirements and budget. A director or producer may already have specific tracks in mind or they may be open to suggestions. In either case, the music supervisor begins the process of finding the desired songs and/or compositions and begins the negotiation process to license the music, which may involve several licenses per song. Because there are so many responsibilities associated with the music supervisor role, most people begin their career  as a music administrator or coordinator. However, musicians, music executives, music publishers or entertainment lawyers may also make a smooth transition into a career as a music supervisor.

Music Administrator – As an assistant to a music supervisor, this person is usually responsible for creating any necessary contracts and paperwork as well as managing schedules and logistics.

Music Coordinator – Depending upon whether an individual works independently with specific music supervisors or is on staff with a television network or music company, the responsibilities of this role can range from creating and filing cue sheets for a project to being involved with every aspect of a project. Generally, the main duties of a coordinator are to keep track of all of the music supervisor’s suggestions for specific cues and then properly catalogue and deliver the notes to the director, film editor and music editor, as well as maintain records of all of the songwriters, artists and record labels credit information. In addition, this individual is responsible for the compiling all the necessary information for cue sheet preparation.

Top Hollywood music editor Fernand Bos

Music Editor – An individual who collaborates with the music supervisor and composer to edit all of the music used in a production, such as the score, live vocals, songs and source music. The music editor generally works on the project from the early phases of a production, during the recording sessions to document each cue as it is recorded, at the dubbing sessions where the recorded music is inserted into the film at the correct time code locations and through to the final edit. Along with the composer, music supervisor and coordinator, the music editor organizes, documents and times all the music cues, often making suggestions as to the best start/stop points and placement of music that has been discussed during spotting sessions. In addition, this individual notes the SMPTE time codes for the cue’s in/out placement and provides that information to the music supervisor so that the official cue sheets can be accurately prepared for filing with the appropriate performance rights organizations.

Music Publisher – The individual or company who owns the rights to a song or composition and works with music supervisors, film and television producers and record labels executives to market the music in their collection. In addition to issuing music licenses for their collection of works, a music publisher collects the license fees and distributes any royalties due to the songwriter or composer for the use of their work.

Music Supervisor (Musical Director, Musical Direction, Music Director, Music Direction) – The individual who researches, manages the licensing of and supplies the music for an entertainment project, usually a film or television production. Collaborating with the composer, the music editor, sound mixers, director and producer, the music supervisor suggests and secures the rights to use all appropriate music, including source cues and songs. Additional responsibilities may involve hiring score composers and overseeing all of the creative and business aspects of the music for a project, such as managing the music budget, coordinating the soundtrack recording and spotting sessions. A music supervisor should be able to suggest and secure the rights to budget-friendly music from a variety of sources, including independent artists and music libraries, that will enhance the on-screen mood or action.

Scoring Mixer (Recording Engineer) – The person who oversees all of the technical elements of a recording session, including microphone placement and recording equipment as well as adjusts sound levels, effects and tone.

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Like the industry itself, the responsibilities of a music supervisor are constantly evolving. While he/she may suggest, select and negotiate music license agreements, secure the use of existing music in a film or television production, work with composers, music editors and directors, develop new music cues and scores and manage the music budget and production, a music supervisor’s salary is generally dependent upon the budget of the production.

Salary rates can also range widely depending upon the amount of music that needs to be licensed, the time required to work on the production and whether the music supervisor is employed as an individual or is part of a company that has additional staff involved in the project. Music supervisors usually receive a package fee for their services.  But if the music supervisor is involved with producing a soundtrack album for a production, he may be paid an additional fee as well as negotiate for points (a percentage of the profits) or royalties from the soundtrack album sales.

According to the Film Music Magazine 2011-2012 Film & TV Salary and Rate Survey, a music supervisor working on a television series can typically receive between $2,000 and $5,000 per episode but if a music supervisor is hired for a big budget feature film, he can expect to be paid between $150,000 and $500,000. Of course, most supervisors probably fall somewhere in between those salaries, receiving between $10,000 and $45,000 for working on a low budget feature film and between $30,000 and $150,000 for a medium budget feature film. For those trying to break into the competitive business, be prepared to work on independent films for credit only until you start to establish a name for yourself and eventually you could work up to a rate of $15,000 for similar productions.

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As one of the more cerebral professions in the entertainment industry, music supervisors keep a lot of information in their heads. Mostly requiring a phone to negotiate deals, an address book full of music and entertainment industry contacts, a computer to document the details, an MP3 or CD player to listen to music and transportation to travel to production sites, recording studios and music venues, a music supervisor does not really need much in the way of equipment or tools. However, with the constant development of new apps, the always on-the-go music supervisor may just find some handy mobile tools to help discover new artists, share tracks and research music and movies of interest. To that end, the team has created a list of the most useful apps currently available.


One of the key factors to becoming a successful music supervisor is developing an extensive music library covering a wide variety of genres and then knowing which song would be perfect for which project. To keep up with the latest trends in music and discover emerging artists as well as quickly identify an unrecognized tune, the team has compiled a list of helpful apps for music supervisors to stay on top of their game. If you are a music supervisor, we welcome your suggestions for additional apps that we should include in our next update. Please send us a link to any apps in the comments section below or in a social media post along with the hashtag #aspiring2actwritedirect.

Google Play Music by Google Play – An alternative to iTunes, the free music app by Google stores your music library online, up to 20,000 songs, so there is no need to worry about storage space. Any Google Play music purchases automatically appear in the app and users can share a free play of their purchase with their Google + friends. Your favorites can also be saved and played offline.

IMDb by Internet Movie Database – iTunes | Google Play – Everyone who is anyone in the entertainment industry maintains their professional profile, credits and awards history on the Internet Movie Database. You will also be able to access current industry news, trailers and detailed information about current, past and upcoming film and television productions with this free app. by Ltd. iTunes | Google Play – An extension of the website, the free app allows you to share your musical tastes with the scrobbler and sync your friends with your contacts. Explore new releases, discover new music and find out about concert events near you as well as create personalized stations and receive music recommendations based on your profile. You will also be able to search the music catalog for detailed information about artists, albums, tracks and tags.

The Music Law Podcast by Mark Quail iTunes – The free podcasts offer an overview of several key music industry legal and business affairs issues, such as the deal points of a music artist management contract and music publishing basics.

Music Marketing Manifesto – Music Business, Marketing and Band Promotion by John Oszajca iTunes – Presented by a former recording artist, the free podcasts are an informative resource for aspiring musicians and music industry professionals. The topics include how to use Kickstarter and fan funding as a musician, how to use digital marketing techniques to promote your music and an interview with music supervisor, Joe Paganelli.

Pandora iTunes | Google Play – A free personalized radio service streams music on your smartphone or tablet. Create up to 100 stations by entering the name of an artist, song or composer and the app will create a custom station with similar tracks.

Shazam Encore by Shazam Entertainment Limited iTunes | Google Play – Discover, explore and share music, television shows and brands with the unlimited tagging option available in the premium version of this app. With no banner ads and links to Spotify and Pandora, you can play tagged and recommended songs in Spotify as well as buy tracks in iTunes. In addition, you will be able to find out when an artist is on tour, watch music videos and concerts on YouTube, receive streaming lyrics in time to the music and share your favorites on Facebook, Twitter and email.

Spotify by Spotify Ltd. iTunes | Google Play – Looking for instant access to millions of songs? Look no further! The free version allows U.S. users to listen to radio, save music and have access to unlimited songs. Upgrade to the premium version for unlimited streaming from the Spotify library or sync your favorite playlists to your smartphone and listen offline. Called a “celestial jukebox” by Time, the paid version of the app also allows you to share music with your friends and send music directly to and Facebook.

Sound Hound by SoundHound, Inc. iTunes | Google Play – A music search and discovery tool, this app can identify a tune in a little as four seconds. You can also find and see the lyrics in time with the song for more than one million tracks and instantly link to artist information. If you upgrade to the premium version, additional features include no banner ads, recommended songs and real-time social media updates from the artist you select. Named the Best Music Engagement App by Billboard, users also have geotagging options, Facebook and Twitter sharing and optional auto-sharing as well as iTunes and Pandora links. Want to know more about an artist? Check out previews, full length YouTube videos and access the top songs, bios and Wikipedia pages of your favorite artists.

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Whether you are currently working in the field or are considering launching a new career, the team at has complied a list of key guides and resources for music supervisors of all levels. Written by respected industry experts, these books offer detailed overviews and insider glimpses into the complex and evolving worlds of the music and entertainment industries.

All You Need to Know About the Music Business: Seventh Edition by Donald S. Passman –  A Los Angeles-based entertainment attorney, Donald Passman has specialized in the music business intensively for more than thirty years, including striking major deals for Janet Jackson and R.E.M. With hands-on experience working with music publishers, record companies, managers, producers and major artists, Passman brings a wealth of knowledge to this comprehensive guide of the professional music industry. Aspiring and experienced executives and artists will learn about the 360 model of record deals, recent decisions made by the Copyright Royalty Board regarding online transmissions, information about film music, recording and publishing deals as well as new technologies, including streaming on-demand, ringtones, and digital downloads. In addition, the author offers valuable insight into navigating songwriting, music publishing and copyrights deals as well as how to structure and maximize the commissions, percentages and fees for your own team of personal and business managers, agents and attorneys.

Hey, that’s my music!: Music Supervision, Licensing and Content Acquisition by Brooke Wentz – With 25 years in the industry, music executive Brooke Wentz created an educational reference guide for musicians, filmmakers and music supervisors to learn how to place music into movies, television, video games and commercial productions. The comprehensive compendium is comprised of numerous examples of actual licensing and music placement agreements as well as definitions of music licensing and rights terminology, detailed descriptions of the clearance process and insider information about how to acquire content and secure music copyrights.

Legal Aspects of the Music Industry: An Insider’s View of the Legal and Practical Aspects of the Music Business by Richard Schulenberg – As a director of business affairs for CBS Records and general counsel of the music division of Paramount Pictures, Richard Schulenberg offers both in-depth knowledge about the legal issues of the music industry and more than 300 examples of contract provisions in this detailed reference guide. The author’s anecdotes personalize and provide valuable insight into key music industry contracts, artists’ rebellion against record company contracts, litigation by high-profile artists and songwriters against record labels as well as the downward slide of record sales. The updated edition also includes overviews of the issues surrounding group agreements, live performances, free music on the Internet, the Millennium Copyright Act, ancillary rights and  independent record labels. A valuable resource for musicians, attorneys, educational music programs and libraries.

Music Business Handbook and Career Guide by David Baskerville – A featured speaker at national conventions of the Music Educators National Conference, College Music Society, National Association of Jazz Educators and the National Association of Schools of Music, author David Baskerville received a Ph.D. in music from UCLA. With an extensive background in the music industry, including working as a staff composer-conductor for NBC-Hollywood, an arranger for Nelson Riddle, Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox, a conductor at Radio City Music Hall and President of Sherwood Recording Studios, Dr. Baskerville also created and directed the music management program at the University of Colorado at Denver. The combination of the author’s academic and professional experience has resulted in a comprehensive guide to the music industry, including emerging digital technology, new marketing and distribution channels, evolving business models, the ever-changing role of producers and insight into developing a career in the music business.

Music Supervision: The Complete Guide to Selecting Music for Movies, TV, Games and New Media by Ramsay Adams, David Hnatiuk and David Weiss – A detailed guide for those who aspire to a career in music supervision, the authors breakdown real-world scenarios and legal quagmires, feature profiles of industry leaders along with personal interviews and offer project form templates that even experienced music supervisors would find helpful. Music students, musicians, industry executives and composers will find insider tips for connecting with music supervisors. If you are an aspiring music supervisor, this book will provide valuable information to help you break into the field.

This Business of Music, 10th Edition by M. William Krasilovsky, Sidney Shemel, John M Gross and Jonathan Feinstein – Written by music industry executives and legal experts, this enduring guide has been updated to include the latest technologies and developments in the ever-evolving music business. In addition to revising each chapter, a brand new chapter focuses on the opportunities and challenges of music used in new media. Whether you are working in the field or are an aspiring agent, manager, musician, publisher or music supervisor, you will find the reviews of recent legislation, the practical summary of copyright laws and the updated lists of music organizations and key websites an essential resource in your professional library.

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The music and entertainment worlds are highly competive industries where who you know can be just as important as what you know. One of the best ways to break into the business and establish a good network of connections is to stay aprised of the hottest topics, industry news and the current movers and shakers. To help you keep up with the latest music trends, film and television productions and job opportunities, the team at has put together a list of some of the leading industry trades and influential blogs.


Film Music Magazine – The self-described “professional voice of music for film & television,” the online publication features an array of special sections, such as anonymous news tips, composer spotlight, film and television music jobs and a support knowledge base. The FMPRO list features an ongoing email discussion distributed to subscribers of the Film Music Pro list. It is free to subscribe to the list and is open to anyone interested in professional conversations about topics related to film and television music professionals.

Hype Machine – A comprehensive resource for anyone interested in the world of music, the site aggregates and indexes more than 875 music blogs. The blogs are manually selected, tagged and presented to encourage discovery. Open a free user account to create a customizable dashboard with your favorite searches, tracks and music blogs. Discover what other users are interested in by clicking on the hearts that are sprinkled around the site. – Dedicated to the people who find music for films, television programs, videos and advertisement, the site offers extensive resources and encourages community engagement for music supervisors or anyone interested in the field. Topics of special interest include tracking trends and current events in the music supervision world, interviews with leading music supervisors and tricks of the trade. The site also provides examples of some of the best musical moments out there as well as the opportunity to post music supervision or licensing questions to be answered by an expert in the field.

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PUBLICATIONS – An 24/7 extension of Billboard magazine, the 24/7 website focuses on the business side of the music industry with information, breaking news and analysis of current issues facing the music and entertainment industries today. Billboard magazine has been covering the music and entertainment industries since 1894.

Rolling Stone – One of the most famous publications in the music industry, Rolling Stone spotlights the music, television programs, movies and political issues that drive youth culture. Available online and print editions are published every two weeks.

Spin – Focusing on the stories behind the trends, scenes and artists, the magazine features profiles of iconic musicians and in-depth articles on the music industry. Available online.

Vibe – Originally founded by Quincy Jones, Vibe has been one of the most influential music magazines in the country. Available in print and online, the publication provides coverage of urban music and fashion, music industry news and electronic gadgets.

Variety – A must-read for anyone in the entertainment industry. Since 1905, the entertainment industry trade has been providing the latest news and insider information, including overviews of projects in development, casting news and industry events. Available online or in print, the publication also features coverage of award ceremonies, in-depth articles, profiles of key personalities, movie reviews and a job board.

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Although there is no specific degree or certification required to become a music supervisor, most of these business management professionals have an extensive knowledge of music, music licensing regulations and a bachelor degree. Music supervisors collaborate with directors and composers to help set the tone of a film or television project, so you will need to be familiar with a variety of musical genres and basic filmmaking techniques. Classes or degree programs offering a broad background in music and film production would be most helpful and because music supervisors must also obtain rights to use music in a production, learning about the business of the music and film industries is essential. Degree programs in film production, music technology, music business, music composition, entertainment law and filmmaking would be the most applicable for aspiring music supervisors.

If your college does not offer degrees in the aforementioned areas or if you already have a bachelor degree, consider enrolling in elective courses or additional training classes to learn how to score a movie, manage business contracts and negotiate licensing agreements. Other helpful classes include film production, history of film, directing, cinematography and introduction to music and film editing.

In addition to education, you should try to secure hand-ons training as soon as possible. Internships at recording or movie studios, record labels or production companies can provide essential experience as well as offer valuable networking opportunities.

To help you begin your educational path toward a music supervisor career, the team has compiled a list of degree programs, certification training and classes available across the U.S.

Ferris State University – Located in Big Rapids, Michigan, the university offers a bachelor degree program in Music Industry Management, which includes two internship opportunities. The focus of the program is on the business of music but musical studies are incorporated into the curriculum. To help understand the role of music artists, students who already have experience playing a musical instrument will take classes to continue their studies and practice, while students without any musical experience can enroll in courses designed for beginners. Students are also invited to take advantage of complimentary admission to two renowned industry trade shows sponsored by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). The events provide music industry management students an opportunity to learn about the latest music making products, watch musical performances and attend special sessions and seminars designed for students.

Georgia State University Department of Music – Located in Atlanta, the university offers several Bachelor of Music degree programs, including in Music Performance, Music Education, Composition and Jazz Studies. There are also degree programs that focus specifically on the business and technology of the music industry. The Bachelor of Science, Music Management program prepares students for management-related careers in the music industry. The curriculum features basic music knowledge and performing experiences as well as business and music management courses. Applicants should have a strong background in music reading and performance because an audition is required for admission. All students have the opportunity to complete at least one internship with a commercial music firm or non-profit agency and graduates often find employment at a record label, artist management company or in music publishing. A Bachelor of Music, Music Technology (Recording/Music Production) offers practical and aesthetic training for a career in music and music-related media industries, including working as an audio engineer or music technologist. Classes and an internship balance the development of artistic and creative skills. An audition is required for admission to this program as well, so applicants should have a strong background in music reading and performance.

Northeastern University College of Arts, Media and Design – The Boston, Massachusetts university offers a Bachelor of Science in Music with Concentration in Music Industry degree program through their Music Department. To prepare students for a variety of career opportunities in the music industry, the curriculum includes music industry survey courses, business classes in the College of Business Administration, music theory and music history. Music industry electives cover topics such as artist management, the music products industry, recording and copyright law. In addition, all music industry majors are required to participate in one of the Music Department’s music ensembles for two semesters and participate in a co-op opportunity, working with an array of music industry business, including record labels, music publishing companies, radio stations, music product companies and tour promoters. Northeastern University is an institutional member of MEIEA (Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Assoc.) and NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants).

NYU Steinhardt – The New York University Music Business Program offers both undergraduate (BM) and graduate degrees (MA) in music business. Based in New York City, students have the resources of a major university as well as access to global music entities. The curriculum features structured classes, interactive classroom experience, internships and the opportunity to be involved with the NYU-owned record company, Village Records.  Students are welcome to participate in extracurricular activities that also provide valuable hands-on experience, including the radio station WNYU and the NYU MEISA (Music & Entertainment Industry Student Association). Electives may be taken from the other Music Department programs of study, such as Music Performance (Jazz, Music Theatre and Classical), Music Technology, Music Composition (Jazz, Traditional, Music Theatre and Film Scoring) and Music Education.

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Berklee College of Music – Whether you are an aspiring music publisher, songwriter, composer, music supervisor or producer, the Music Business Certificate program will teach you valuable skills necessary for a career in the music business. Explore the many aspects of music supervision, the creative and budgetary aspects of combining music with other media and how to function on both sides of a licensing transaction. In addition to learning how to collaborate with a production team, identify resources for licensable music, negotiate with a variety of rights holders as well as generate detailed license requests, agreements and cue sheets, students will participate in exercises, discussions, and assignments with “real world” materials from feature films, television advertisements and video games. The course also features exclusive interviews with music supervisors, sound and music editors, publishers, producers, engineers and top music industry executives.

Maine Media Workshop & College: Music Supervision For Film & TV – A low-residency program offered through Maine Media College provides individuals with an opportunity for intensive, yet informal study. Among the many different programs available, one workshop class focuses on the overall responsibilities of a music supervisor. Students learn effective methods for working with directors and producers, how to identify the music needs and vision for a film or television production, the process of selecting, negotiating and licensing existing songs or scores as well as how to facilitate the creation of new music or scores. Additional topics include working within a strict budget and overseeing post-theatrical uses of a soundtrack.

Music Business Institute (MBI) – Although not an accredited educational program, MBI offers the convenience of online classes and the opportunity to learn essential business skills needed to work in the music industry. Students learn how to negotiate deals and contracts, the latest industry business practices and have access to information, sample documents and agreements frequently used in the industry. There are also special presentations by industry professionals discussing what it takes to become successful in the music business.

UCLA Extension – The Music Supervision for Film and Television course is offered through the University of California, Los Angeles Extension program. During the 12-week course, students learn about the role and responsibilities of a music supervisor as well as the magical combination of music and moving images. Principles and procedures of music supervision are discussed by guest speakers, such as composers, music supervisors, filmmakers, producers, music licensing representatives and music industry executives.

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Although there is not a labor union for music supervisors, music supervisors must work frequently with the numerous Performing Rights Organizations (PRO) (insert jump link to Glossary Section that defines PROs) that represent professional songwriters, composers and music publishers. The PROs calculate and collect the performance royalties for the public performances of the music of their members, so it is essential that a music supervisor have a working knowledge of each PRO and establish a good relationship with each one. Often an artist’s PRO is determined by the country in which he is a citizen, so a music supervisor should also be familiar with PROs around the world. To that end, the team at has created an overview of several of the most influential PROs in the entertainment industry.


The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) – The member-owned performing rights organization represents more than 435,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers. Once members have registered their songs, ASCAP oversees the licensing agreements, collects and distributes performance royalties as well as works toward protecting and strengthening copyright issues.

Broadcast Music, Inc (BMI) – Formed in 1939 as a non-profit-making performing rights organization (PRO), BMI currently represents more than 550,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers and more than 7.5 million compositions. One of the most influential PROs in the world, BMI issues licenses, processes approximately 100 billion copyright transactions per year, collects and distributes royalties to members whose works have been publicly performed. As a professional liaison between musical creators and the businesses that use their music, BMI issues music licenses to a wide range of venues, including radio stations, broadcast, cable and satellite television networks, bars and restaurants as well as websites and mobile media outlets.

German Society For Musical Performing Rights And Mechanical Reproduction Rights (GEMA) – With more than 64,000 members, the German organization represents the copyrights of composers, lyricists and music publishers. GEMA also represents more than two million copyright holders around the world.

PRS – The United Kingdom copyright collection society and performance rights organization represents more than 90,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers, issuing music licenses on behalf of its members and distributing the royalties for members’ music that has been performed or played. Part of an international network of societies, PRS oversees music copyrights for their members who write and publish songs and compositions, while Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) represents the people who perform and produce recordings. In general, both a PRS and a PPL license would be required to publicly use any recorded music created by its members.

SESAC – Originally founded in 1930 to represent European composers that were not well represented in the United States, what was once the acronym for the Society of European Stage Authors & Composers is now the sole name of the organization. With headquarters in Nashville, TN as well as offices in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami and London, the PRO “utilizes a selective process when affiliating songwriters and publishers” in a variety of music genres. Offering a high level of personal service, SESAC members are paid royalties based upon how often their songs are played as well as numerous other factors, such as state-of-the-art monitoring, computer database information and broadcast logs.

Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) – The not-for-profit organization represents the Canadian performing rights of more than 100,000 Canadian members as well as international music creators and publishers. SOCAN collects license fees from approximately 42,000 businesses throughout Canada and distributes the royalties to the appropriate members. By collaborating with peer societies, the Canadian PRO also collects license fees for the use of Canadian music used around the world.

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American Federation of Musicians (AFM) – Founded in 1896, the international union represents professional musicians of the United States and Canada. With headquarters in Toronto, Canada, AFM serves its membership by upholding or raising industry standards, negotiating agreements, protecting ownership of recorded music, offering health care and pension benefits and even lobbying legislators, when necessary.

Association of Media Composers and Lyricists (AMCL) Representing professional composers and lyricists working in film, television, video games and a variety of visual media, the organization works as a collective bargaining unit to secure health and pension benefits for its members. AMCL also strives to educate their members and the community about the artistry as well as the business of creating music for all forms of contemporary media.

Hollywood Music in Media Association (HMMA) – Created to share knowledge, provide resources and access to the latest in entertainment technology as well as develop a global membership among musicians and music professionals, the organization presents the annual Hollywood Music in Media Awards. In addition to honoring composers, songwriters and musical artists, the music awards event recognizes individuals responsible for producing and placing music, such as music supervisors, for their contributions in the entertainment industry.

National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) – Best known for sponsoring the annual Grammy Awards, the organization strives to improve the quality of life and cultural condition for musicians, producers and other recording professionals. In addition to the Recording Academy in Santa Monica, the organization offers outreach, professional development, cultural enrichment, education and human services programs.

The National Association of Record Industry Professionals (NARIP) – One of the most popular music business networking organizations in the world, NARIP offers a wealth of information and networking opportunities, including through its official YouTube, Facebook and Twitter channels. Formed in 1998 specifically for record industry professionals, the association is headquartered in Los Angeles and features chapters in New York, San Francisco, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia and London. To qualify for membership, you must be employed by a major or independent label, record distributor, record marketing company, personal management firm or an artist-owned label. Lawyers, publicists or consultants whose main client base is the record business are also invited to apply for membership. In addition to professional development opportunities, including a job bank, a mentor network and member resume databank, members have access to numerous educational programs and seminars as well as a global network of professionals, such as music attorneys, music supervisors, headhunters with a music industry specialization, record executives, independent distributors and digital distributors.

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As you can see, there is quite a bit involved in becoming a professional movie supervisor. When you are ready, there are a couple of options to help you get started, although they both involve working for little or no pay. The first one involves landing a position as an intern or a music assistant to find out what the job is really like. Internships and entry-level positions provide hands-on training while working under the guidance of a professional.

The other option is find some friends who are working on a movie or volunteer to work on a student production and learn about the process of music supervision first hand. Many music publishers and record labels have special devisions dedicated to student films and festival licenses, giving you the opportunity to go through the research process, learn how to prepare the proper paperwork and submit licensing requests for available songs.

Once you have some experience under your belt, go after a position on an independent film. As you establish valuable contacts and continue to refine your skills, you will discover you have transitioned from an aspiring music supervisor into a professional one!

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