The Sixth Annual Guild of Music Supervisors awards show took place last Thursday, January 21st, at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, with presenters including Joe Walsh, Perry Farrell and Junkie XL, and performances by Meghan Trainor, Andra Day and BØRNS (repped by our client Hitcher Music).
With the role of music supervisor gaining more and more recognition (last year the TV Academy expanded its membership to include music sups), the awards celebrated outstanding music supervisors in 15 categories, representing movies, television, games, and trailers.
We run through the winners of each category, with insight into the key players and creative processes involved:
1. BEST MUSIC SUPERVISION – FILM OVER 25 MILLION
Straight Outta Compton – Music Supervisor: Jojo Villanueva
It might have been snubbed at the Oscars, but N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton’s music supervisor Jojo Villanueva scooped up the award for Best Music Supervision in a film over $25 million. Despite taking 10 years to even get made, the movie outperformed box office expectations, eventually becoming the highest-grossing music biopic of all time.
In the brilliant hour-long interview with fellow music sup and Guild secretary Jonathan McHugh below, Villanueva describes working with the producers who, in this case, were the subject of the film: “That’s a little different – you just have to know Dre’s music, Cube’s music – luckily I grew up with it so it wasn’t a chore to research”. He goes on to discuss his preparations for the role, including, of course, the huge challenge that samples bring when clearing hip-hop music.
He might have worked in the business for over 15 years, but working alongside the hip-hop legends was pretty surreal for Villanueva, a life-long fan of the genre:
“We were on set, and it was me, Ice Cube, Dre and F. Gary Gray, and we were talking about how to edit one of the performances. It was just so surreal having Dre and Cube and Gary saying, “You know what? Why don’t we just cut this verse and go to this part of the chorus because that’s how we did it on the road”. I was just like “oh my god this is amazing!””
2. BEST MUSIC SUPERVISION – FILM UNDER 25 MILLION
Carol – Music Supervisor: Randall Poster
For his stunning tale of hidden romance in 1950s New York, Todd Haynes enlisted the help of Wes Anderson’s music supervisor of choice, Randall Poster. Along with composer Carter Burwell, Haynes and Poster set the musical tone of the film with swoony tunes of the era including Billie Holiday’s “Easy Living”, and Helen Foster & The Rovers’ “You Belong To Me”.
In his notes from the project, Burwell describes the role that music plays in the film:
“There is no widely accepted explanation for the importance of music to humans, but one possibility is its ability to express and relieve emotional tensions that can’t be put into words. In Carol two women are romantically attracted to each other but the culture of 1950’s America hasn’t provided them with a language for this. Expressing these inexpressible feelings is one of the roles of the score in this film.”
3. BEST MUSIC SUPERVISION – FILM UNDER 5 MILLION
The Diary Of A Teenage Girl — Music Supervisor: Howard Paar
Written and directed by Marielle Heller, this indie movie debuted at the Sundance Film Festival a year ago and has slowly picked up admirers through its modest theatrical run. According to the Guardian, it’s “fast, funny and more of a landmark than you might guess: a brave, vivid articulation of adolescent female sexuality.”
Renowned for his work on critically acclaimed indie films including Monster, Bully, and Mysterious Skin, Grammy-nominated music supervisor Howard Paar helped to craft the film’s 70s-heavy soundtrack, which features choice cuts including The Stooges’ “Down On The Street”, Television’s “See No Evil”, and T. Rex’s “Precious Star” (repped by our client Spirit Music Group.) Paar also worked on Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, one of 2015’s most critically acclaimed documentaries.
The film’s composer Nate Heller and singer Reni Lane performed “Dream Song” at the awards, a song featured in the film.
4. BEST MUSIC SUPERVISION – DOCUMENTARY
The Wrecking Crew – Music Supervisors – Julie Houlihan, Micki Stern, Suzanne Coffman
The Wrecking Crew is a documentary about a group of studio musicians in Los Angeles in the 1960s who played on hits for the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, Jan & Dean, The Monkees, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Mamas and Papas, Tijuana Brass, Ricky Nelson, Johnny Rivers and were Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound. Collectively, their roster of hit songs is unmatched in the record business, yet few outside the industry could name a single member.
The documentary, directed by Wrecking Crew member Tommy Tedesco’s son, Denny Tedesco, has received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. Naturally it has a killer soundtrack, which subsequently brought about many clearance challenges for the music sups involved. Celebrating the trio’s win, the documentary posted on its Facebook page:
“With 110 songs in the movie and another 15 songs on the DVD, this was no easy task. Every song that was licensed includes a Wrecking Crew musician somewhere. Not one song was denied.
I dedicate this award to the folks that work at the labels and the publishers. Without your help and support, we would never be where we are today.”
5. BEST SONG/RECORDING CREATED FOR A FILM
“See You Again” from Furious 7 (DJ Frank E, Charlie Puth, Wiz Khalifa and Andrew Cedar; Performed by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth) UNIVERSAL PICTURES
The award for best song from a feature film went to “See You Again” from “Furious 7,” a song that was surprisingly not nominated by the Academy’s Music Branch (you can watch Khalifa talking about the snub here.)
The track was commissioned for the Furious 7 soundtrack as a tribute to the late Paul Walker and was a global commercial success, becoming both Khalifa’s and Puth’s biggest hit to date. The song also holds the record for the most-streamed track in a single day on Spotify in the United States, and the record for most streams in a single week worldwide.
6. BEST MUSIC SUPERVISION – TELEVISION DRAMA
Narcos — Season 1 – Music Supervisor: Liza Richardson
Netflix boasts around 75m paying subscribers (three times that of Spotify), and it’s not hard to see why. It’s currently at the forefront of original programming, with Narcos proving to be one of 2015’s best series.
Esteemed music supervisor Liza Richardson helped the show runners add Colombian flavour to the show with its use of music, including Colombian salsa band Fruko y sus Tesos’ song “El Preso”. Throughout the project, Richardson worked closely with Jamar Chess, president of Sunflower Entertainment, a publishing and licensing house focused on Latin music since 2002.
To learn more about the music on the show, you can check out an interview with its score composer Pedro Bromfman here, courtesy of Lakeshore Records.
7. BEST MUSIC SUPERVISION – TELEVISION MUSICAL OR COMEDY
Empire — Season 1 – Music Supervisor: Jen Ross & Dave Jordan
Fox’s series Empire is a huge hit, thanks in no small part to the incredible music on the show. Music supervisors Jen Ross & Dave Jordon work in collaboration with the show’s executive music producer Timbaland, whose protégé Jim Beanz wrote and produced most of the now-iconic tracks from season 1, including Hakeem’s instant classic “Drip Drop.”
In the same week that the first season of Fox TV’s musical drama Empire ended, its soundtrack debuted at No. 1 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, making it the first TV series soundtrack to crown the 50-year-old list. On curating the music for the series, Timbaland has said:
“There’s no form or method to how it works. Sometimes things are written to beats, or we go over the script. I’ve got a great relationship with (Empire producer) Brian Grazer, and Lee is letting me be free—letting me interpret the words into music and emotion. Also, I have a team of great people.” (Source – Vanity Fair)
8. BEST MUSIC SUPERVISION – DOCUSERIES OR REALITY TELEVISION
The Voice — Season 8 – Music Supervision: Clyde Lieberman & Jill Meyers
Clyde Lieberman & Jill Meyers took home the award for Best Music Supervision in Docuseries or Reality Television for their work on “The Voice” for the second year running. Whilst Jill Meyers is in charge of clearance, Clyde Lieberman serves as Senior Music Producer on the show. After winning the award last year, Liberman, who previously served as VP of A&R for MCA Records/Universal Music Group, and VP of Creative Services at BMG, spoke to Jonathan McHugh.
9. BEST MUSIC SUPERVISION – TELEVISION LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Bessie — Music Supervisors: Evyen Klean & Jennifer Reeve
Bessie is an HBO TV film about legendary American blues singer Bessie Smith, who rose to fame during the 1920s and ’30s. Starring Queen Latifah as Bessie, the film focuses on the singer’s transformation as a struggling young singer into “The Empress of the Blues”. Music producer and music supervisor Evyen Klean won a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Sound Mixing for his work on the movie. “The first conversation I had with Queen Latifah was about it being authentic, being the blues, and about it being real”, he says, on starting work on the project. For more insight into the music in the film, check out HBO’s feature below:
10. BEST ORIGINAL SONG/RECORDING CREATED FOR TELEVISION
“You’re So Beautiful” by Jussie Smollet by Empire (FOX) – Music Supervisors: Jen Ross & Dave Jordan
Co-written by Jussie Smollet, who plays Jamal in the series, and Jim Beanz, “You’re So Beautiful” is a bouncy, party-starting song, and one of the most popular in the show. It represents a pivotal moment in the series, as Jamal decides to come out of the closet by singing the lyrics, “this the kind of song that makes a man love a man.”
11. BEST MUSIC SUPERVISION – TRAILERS
Steve Jobs (Trailer #2) – Maura Duvall Griffin, Ali Pistoresi – Motive
Finding the perfect track for a trailer really is a skill of its own, as we discovered when we spoke to trailer music supervisor Vanessa Jorge Perry last year. With its gradual build and electronic composition, SOHN’s “Lessons” provides the perfect backdrop for this Steve Jobs trailer.
Suicide Squad (Comic Con First Look Trailer) – Bobby Gumm – Trailer Park
There’s no denying that coupled with the eery visuals, Becky Hanson’s cover of The Bee Gees’ “I Started a Joke” is chilling as hell and the perfect fit for this dark and twisted film. It’s also the ideal track for our first glimpse of Jared Leto’s take on the joker, which doesn’t disappoint. Though we’re not quite sure why there are two winners in this category, we can’t deny that they’re both pretty great.
12. BEST MUSIC SUPERVISION IN A VIDEO GAME
Star Wars Battlefront (Steve Schnur – EA)
Worldwide Executive of EA Music Group Steve Schnur was responsible for overseeing the music in this hugely anticipated video game series, based on the Star Wars franchise. Composer Gordy Haab was given the daunting task of composing all-new music for the game, which was recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios, and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. You can check out an interview with Haab here, as well as a fascinating Q&A with the DICE sound team here.
13. GUILD OF MUSIC SUPERVISORS LEGACY AWARD
Chris Montan, President of Walt Disney Music
Since joining Synchtank client Disney Music in 1984, Chris Montan has brought us unforgettable soundtracks for films like Toy Story, James and the Giant Peach, Beauty and The Beast, Mulan, Enchanted, Tangled, Brave, and Frozen, as well as Broadway music for shows like The Lion King, Mary Poppins, and The Originals—just to name a few.
He recieved the Guild’s first Legacy Award this year, stating, “to get an award from people who actually do what you do means a lot to me.” You can read a fantastic interview with Montan here.
14. BEST USE OF MUSIC, BRAND
From Jet to Feist, Apple has pioneered the use of upcoming indie artists in advertising. We might be slightly biased, but we’re rather fond of the brand’s use of Chet Faker’s “Gold” (repped by our client Imagem), in the reveal spot for its new gold MacBook. You can also check out some more examples of Apple’s song choices in UpVenue’s Top 10 List Of Apple Commercial Songs By Emerging Bands.
15. BEST USE OF MUSIC, MUSIC HOUSE/AGENCY
New York-based Able Baker, who recently merged with Portland & Los Angeles-based Walker to form We Are Walker, took home the award for Best Use Of Music by a Music House/Agency. They offer original composition, supervision, licensing, music strategy, sound design and library services, and their impressive body of work includes spots for Samsung, Google, and Nike. Check them out here.