Music supervision and sync can feel like a daunting field with no clear to path to break in. With their brand new online course, How to Be a Music Supervisor, or Get Heard by One, David Weiss, Ramsay Adams and David Hnatiuk (pictured) are here to break down the barriers and explain what it takes to launch a career in this area.
We recently sat down with the trio to learn more about the course and why, as the authors of the definitive textbook on the topic and with years of experience in the field, they are the perfect team to guide anyone interested in this unique profession.
How did you each get into the music business?
David Weiss: My background in music comes from being a drummer. I’ve been playing drums most of my life but my true talent is writing and that led me to start out as a publicist in the pro audio field. That’s how I met Dave Hnatiuk and Ramsay Adams who were teaching a course in music supervision at NYU several years ago. They came to me saying we’re teaching this course but there’s a problem – there’s no book. They asked me to write the book with them, and that’s the genesis of the book. I’m also the co-founder of SonicScoop, the leading online resource for music production news and information.
Ramsay Adams: I started out in a band with my brother called Banana Fish and we had a good run in New York City. I then worked with legendary music manager David Krebs of Aerosmith, AC/DC and New York Dolls fame. We managed Chumbawamba, Richie Sambora, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and then I was approached by a friend to work in the creative department at Fox. It’s there that I became best friends with David Hnatiuk who was the Music Director, and when he left to go to MTV I took over his role. From there we started the music supervisor course at NYU and then I met David Weiss. It was a perfect storm the three of us – along the way we’ve music supervised hundreds of projects from feature films to documentaries. It’s been a beautiful long and fruitful partnership and friendship. I also own a brewery in the Catskills and I work on environmental issues.
David Hnatiuk: I grew up in this business. My father Greg Hnatiuk was a lead pianist on Broadway and has a music shop in New Jersey called Scotch Plains Music Center, so I was born and raised in that environment. The first job I had in the business was at ABC Disney as a music coordinator and then music supervisor. From ABC I went to Fox and met Ramsay and started to build up their music division. Between 1998 and 2001 I sound designed, music directed and co-produced all the theme songs, background music and sound effects, including creating the one and only Fox News alert. On top of that Ramsay, David and I have music supervised projects for Merchant Ivory, Sony, New Line Cinema and many more. Right now Viacom is my main client and I also run a music composition collective specifically for visual media called Ear Shock.
What led you to create the music supervision course? What’s unique about it?
David Weiss: After partnering with Schirmer Trade Books for the first edition of Music Supervision: The Complete Guide to Selecting Music for Movies, TV, Games, & New Media, Music Sales became our publisher and subsequently put out the second edition. During that time they launched their online Digital Education Division, MusicFirst, and we saw an opportunity to go beyond the book and offer a course.
When it comes to How to Be a Music Supervisor, or Get Heard by One, there are several differentiating factors. First and foremost, this is the only course being offered by the authors of the definitive textbook on music supervision and licensing. What we’ve put together is unique in a number of ways and goes far beyond what we can offer in the book. We’re including regular live video chats so you can interact with us and ask us questions, and we’ve built a community so that people taking the course can connect with each other. It’s also pretty affordable compared to other courses out there but still appeals to people on a pro level.
Ramsay Adams: Another huge point is that the book and the course applies to artists as well as music supervisors. The real opportunity for artists to make a living from their craft is in licensing, and so the course is not only designed to show people how to be music supervisors, but also to show artists how to get their music into productions. It’s not obvious as an artist how you get your music heard by music supervisors, or how to negotiate with the key players involved.
David Weiss: It comes from a place of true empathy because we’ve also been artists and producers ourselves at points in our careers — we’ve spent our fair share of time trying to get music placed. We want to demystify the process of music supervision and sync licensing and make it more accessible. And that in turn helps music supervisors because they’re so time starved and they have to spend a lot of time educating indie artists. We hope by putting this information out there we can make the process that much easier for both sides.
David Hnatiuk: Part of our passion for the business is giving people the knowledge of how to break in – how to be a music supervisor but also how to make a living licensing music. The course is an obvious expansion of the textbook. Having started the music supervisor course at NYU, which I believe was the first official music supervision curriculum in the world, and then helping to develop course curriculums at both the Berkeley School of Music and Northeastern University, we really are the leaders in this realm of education. And the more we can expand the book and the course the better, because it’s a business that’s not going away. Media distribution is multiplying on a daily basis and it’s going to continue to expand.
How are you seeing the sync world evolve and what are the biggest challenges associated with recent developments?
David Weiss: I recently interviewed music supervisor Joe Rudge about his work on The Dirt and I think he put it really well when he said that we’re in a golden age of music supervision. So many powerful and well-financed companies like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple and Facebook are jumping into the ring to create content. They know that content is important in expanding their reach and keeping their hold on the market and within that they acknowledge the importance of great music in making their productions stand out.
This explosion of content is providing new opportunities for music supervisors and artists, and on top of that there are people creating new tools and solutions – Synchtank is a great example of that. There’s all of these opportunities opening up and with cloud services and artificial intelligence there’s a whole host of new tools to help music supervisors move forward. The challenge is that with all of this new content music budgets aren’t necessarily increasing, and so music supervisors are getting spread thin as a result.
Ramsay Adams: When it comes to artists, the PROs have been such a critical tool and advocate but they’re still trying to catch up to new technology. There’s a lot of innovation and opportunity in technology that provides an interface between the artist and the performing rights organisations. David Hnatiuk and I used to spend a third of our week filling out forms for ASCAP and BMI!
So it’s really about understand that the industry is always evolving and that’s why there will be a third edition of the book, and the course will be updated as technological innovations and new legislation occurs. It’s not simple and that’s why you need a course and you need experts to continually weigh in and explain where things are headed.
One last question. How did Mark Ruffalo end up writing the forward to the second edition of the book?
Ramsay Adams: I was working on an environmental issue called fracking and I bumped into Mark in a restaurant in a little town on the Delaware River. I recognised him and introduced myself and explained the issue I was working on and he seemed really interested in helping. Since then we’ve become great friends and colleagues and have worked on many different projects and environmental issues.
When it comes to music, Mark really comes from a place of supporting independent artists. Mark loves the book and when I showed the manuscript of the second edition he said he’d love to write the forward for it. He’s one of the nicest people in the world and a real life superhero. He really cares about supporting the independent artist.
Head here to check out the How to Be a Music Supervisor, or Get Heard by One course.
DON’T FORGET – Synchblog readers are eligible to a 30% discount off the $799.99 retail price. Simply enter the code “Synchtank” by midnight, Friday May 24th.