The Guild of Music Supervisors, Canada (GMSC), in partnership with the organisers of Canadian Music Week, have announced the first ever Canadian Sync Awards on 12th May. Canadian Music Week, now in its 37th year, is currently in full swing (7-13 May), and takes place across 7 nights, showcasing over 800 bands in 40 live venues in Toronto. The GMSC is a not for profit organisation whose mission is to promote the craft of music supervision for the mutual benefit of all media stakeholders in film, television, games, advertising, trailers, and emerging media.
We get more detail directly from Canada, thanks to GMSC President and music supe, Michael Perlmutter, and UK-based Canadian Sync Awards nominee, Janesta Boudreau, music supe and co-founder of both Coversion Music and Rocking Horse Road Productions Ltd…
Michael, great to hear that Canada’s celebrating sync with its first ever Sync Awards. Is this an indication that the sync industry is thriving in Canada?
MP: When I started as a music supervisor in 1997, there were a handful of Supervisors in the country – doing ads, TV Series and Films. Currently, there are approx. 25 Supervisors in Canada working on various filmed media projects. The extraordinary rise in the influx of U.S. productions shooting in Canada, and, of course, our own Canadian productions, has directly impacted the exponential increase in work for the Sync community – which also includes all of the Sync departments at labels and publishers and various pitch agents. Music has become an extremely important storytelling artform when matched with moving pictures of any kind.
What are the main opportunities for artists to sync their material in Canada?
MP: TV Series and Commercials in Canada seem to offer the most opportunities for artists. Video games also license dozens of songs and the supervisors usually work in-house. There are some brand activations that also take place in Canada that combine a brand with an artist and ‘sync’ is definitely a part of that plan.
And do Canadian music supes mainly work with Canadian artists or is the field really international?
MP: We are tasked to find the best song to fit the scene or commercial for the right fee. We are very passionate about promoting Canadian artists, but we must be objective and work to satisfy a director or producer’s vision. What’s great is seeing U.S. Supervisors using Canadian artists!
Tell us something about the awards event. What will happen on the night?
MP: Anything could happen on May 12th as it’s the 1st time we’ve had an Awards event for the Sync community. We will be celebrating the Sync community in Canada. There will be a pre-Awards cocktail event at 5pm for 20-30 minutes and then we’ll move into the main event. We have two incredibly talented artists performing – Francesco Yates and Hannah Georgas.
We have two hosts who are mega music heads, who are also smart and charming, from CBC Music, Odario Williams and Raina Douris. 11 Canadian Sync Awards will be handed out and two of the Presenters will be Nile Rodgers and Jesper Kyd and that’s a huge coup for Year 1! The show will run an hour and we’ll have some time afterwards to bask in the glow of the celebration.
It sounds like an incredible night and lineup. The event is part of Canadian Music Week, which has become huge. How important is CMW to the overall Canadian industry?
MP: CMW is the premiere B2B music conference in the country and, I am sure, one of the tops in the world. CMW started up a “Sync Roundtable” a few years back where 20-25 music supervisors come to Toronto and ‘speed dated’ with 100+ artist/publisher/labels et al in a two and a half hour block. CMW has a few panels that delve into various elements of the ‘sync’ world (brands, ads, TV and film placements, introductory presentations). CMW noticed the meteoric growth in placements of songs into filmed media and created great programs for the music industry. We have a great partnership because we each bring something unique to the table: our Sync and music supervisor communities and our filmed media clients from across Canada, and CMW, who has incredible music industry reach, worldwide. We are both looking to engage many communities and celebrate this world we live in, which is a niche industry yet has grown remarkably around the world in the past 10 years.
Will the Sync Awards become an annual event on the Canadian industry calendar?
MP: Fingers crossed. Let’s hope folks enjoy the night and feel good about being part of a growing
and significant part of the music and filmed media communities. We do hope it will grow as we certainly want to create awareness for the music supervision world, not only through an Awards ceremony/community celebration, but, also, through education seminars, mixers and value added partnerships with relevant partners. We want to spread the word about what we do, how we do it and dig in deeper to work better with our creative collaborators. Music supervisors are passionate music lovers – and we are very proud and grateful that we do this for a living!
Janesta, congratulations on your nomination in the first ever Canadian Sync Awards! You’re nominated in the Best Music Supervision – Interactive (Video Game/Mobile App/VR) category for your work on Planet Coaster & Jurassic World Evolution. We notice you’re the only female nominee in that category. Is the sector very male-dominated?
JB: I would say that the games industry in general is very, very male-dominated, but music supervision is generally quite balanced. There are some women supes in games (like Ubisoft‘s Benedicte Ouimet), but I think as the games industry continues to grow, you will see more and more women in those positions.
Do you have any tips for artists/writers interested in having their work synced in games?
JB: I would just advise artists to do some homework on the games being produced. In some cases, like with Planet Coaster, for instance, artists wouldn’t have known what that game would sound like before its release, so it’s tough to pitch for. However, the announce trailer did hold a few clues. For a game like Jurassic World Evolution – many people know what Jurassic sounds like, so if you have something that you think might fit that world it might be worth passing along.
I do get notes saying, “this song would be great for a game!”, which is nice, but if it’s not great for MY game.. it’s not really helpful.
Composers – it’s nice if you have reel prepared and ALWAYS good to know if you’ve composed for games in the past.
Very sound advice – simple and very practical. Tell us about the Jurassic World Evolution project you’re nominated for – where do you start on a job like that?
JB: I took my direction from the Head of Audio whose job is to set the vision. We then move on to find our lead composer. Once that’s in place, the rest sort of falls into place as development progresses. Luckily our lead audio designer has been instrumental in making sure we can start on music in the game while development is happening, and not simply having the team wait until the project is nearly finished. That gives us more time to play with ideas, find out what works and what doesn’t, and takes the pressure off a little bit when it comes to the rush to content complete!
There is also trailer work that happens in there which helps to publicly set the tone for what the game might sound like. Planet Coaster‘s launch trailer really set the tone for the organic instrumentation and the vibe of the music in the game. Jurassic World Evolution‘s launch trailer is much more grand and orchestral, which helps set that intention for what the game will finally sound like.
Can you tell us anything about the music you used for the game?
JB: Not too much at the moment, except there is a little surprise in there somewhere and a beautiful sonic landscape provided by a very young composer out of Salt Lake City who is destined to be a star! The in-world music will really remind you ‘where’ you are, and give you that Jurassic feeling.
Intriguing…How much did being part of a huge film franchise dictate/influence your work on the game?
JB: It influenced a lot, in that the studio and IP holders have to approve everything and the music licensing had to be processed by a separate part of the Universal company plus Universal Music Publishing. That being said – my contacts in the music departments were great and seem to be as excited as I am to get the game out there!
We used a composer that the studio signed off on, but it’s someone that we’ve worked with before. He delivered on brief all the time, took feedback amazingly well and worked extremely closely with our audio team. It was actually a dream to watch them work together. Such enthusiasm and passion. We set the direction musically and he completely knocked it out of the (Jurassic) park!
Nice! Are there any particular nuances about music supervision for gaming versus supervising other mediums, such as film and TV?
JB: When it comes to trailers, I would say it’s pretty similar to advertisements. For in-game use, you have to be able to find composers who can write for the type of dynamic worlds that we are creating. Film and TV composers are much more linear in their writing approach, whereas our game composers have to be able to write in a different way.
Because we often use our composers to create the right mood and plot points in the game, we don’t tend to use too much for licensed music in-game. However, there are always some exceptions to that rule, as you will see in JWE.
Can’t wait to hear the results – it sounds incredible. You launched Coversion, the sync-focused covers catalogue, last year. Do you use many covers in your music supe work or does it depend on the job?
JB: It depends on the job and we’ve not used any covers yet beyond Flight Of The Valkyries in Planet Coaster and something for a piece of a trailer. Every game has its own needs and nuances. Some games can handle licensed music where others are all composed. Some need a little bit of variation tonally or genre-wise, while some need to stay consistent. That being said, I do hope we can play with some covers in the future!
So, how do you juggle your music supe work with running Rocking Horse Road Productions (RHR) and Coversion?
JB: Coming from an artist management background, I am well used to juggling many things at once and wearing different hats. With RHR and Coversion – they are both sync / pitch companies and our supervision work for Frontier is really just the flip side of that. Lots of rights inquiries, fee and term negotiations, and contracting.
It’s not often that RHR can pitch for Frontier work, as the needs for the games I work on are not the same as the music or talent that I have on offer from Rocking Horse Road or Coversion, unless there is a trailer that might need some music – in which case I pitch any of my tracks blindly to the Head of Audio and other stakeholders. It they were to chose it, great. If not, I have no influence over that process. Fairness above all else.
And finally, can you tell us anything about the projects you’re working on at the moment?
JB: I wish I could! I know what’s in the pipeline but am sworn to secrecy 🙂
The first ever Canadian Sync Awards event takes place on Saturday, 12th May from 5-7pm in the Dominion Ballroom of the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel.
Jurassic World Evolution is available to pre-order and Planet Coaster is available now, both from Frontier Developments plc.
***UPDATE*** – Check out the list of winners at the 1st Annual Canadian Sync Awards. Huge congratulations to both Michael and Janesta on their awards!
About the author:
Emma Bartholomew is a PR consultant to international music businesses such as MIDEM. Her recent projects include PR representation for the London Sync Sessions and the Future Music Forum. She is also a freelance writer and broadcast journalist.