For the second instalment of our Women in Sync series, in association with global Women in Music network shesaid.so, we chat to the all-female sync team at our client Music Sales!
Hi ladies! Can you talk us through the Music Sales creative team?
Lucy: Susan Tilly is Sync Licensing Manager and deals with sync requests, from initial quoting and negotiating all the way through to licensing and invoicing. Robyn Kennedy is Creative Manager for Advertising, pitching our catalogue and composers to brands, ad agencies and music supervisors in response to briefs as well as finding new opportunities within this area. Louisa Rainbird is Creative Manager for Television, pitching our catalogue for use in television productions of all genres from sports to drama and everything in between, as well as seeking commissions for our composers to write new scores. I head the department and work creatively placing our songs and composers in film.
Music Sales represents such an extensive catalogue – can you talk us through some of the highlights?
Robyn: We’re really lucky at Music Sales to have such a wide range of music through various catalogues and direct writer deals, and we’re always expanding which is exciting. We’re known for having some of the top names in contemporary classical music, such as Ludovico Einaudi, Philip Glass, Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka, but we have a brilliant back catalogue of evergreen hits like “Try a Little Tenderness”, “Tainted Love”, “D.I.S.C.O.”, “Que Sera Sera” etc. My personal favourites though are the hidden gems scattered through the 1920s-present day. Need something quirky? We’ve got amazing songs about chickens, socks, cheesecake, love bugs… the list is endless! Every month the team put together a playlist of our favourite musical finds on the website which includes new releases, vintage classics and songs we’ve stumbled across while pitching. Check it out here.
“My personal catalogue favourites are the hidden gems scattered through the 1920s-present day. Need something quirky? We’ve got amazing songs about chickens, socks, cheesecake, love bugs… the list is endless!”
– Robyn Kennedy
How would you describe your approach to licensing at Music Sales?
Susan: I like to think we are approachable, efficient and fast. We are used to working to tight deadlines and always happy to ‘help’! Music clearance can be a minefield, even for the most experienced, and we try and make the journey as smooth as possible. Ultimately, we want syncs to happen and we like to work closely with both clients and composers to get the best possible deal for everyone in order to achieve that.
How do you go about working with the Music Sales team on an international scale?
Lucy: We have Music Sales offices with dedicated sync teams in France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, United States (both in New York and Los Angeles) and Australia, plus joint ventures in Japan and the Netherlands and sub-publishers elsewhere. We are in constant communication with our international sync teams, sharing news about placements and sync-friendly songs we have found in the catalogue along with issues which may affect other territories. We have an annual international sync conference which has previously been held in Hamburg and Berlin, and this year we met in Cannes during Lions – it is so important to have time together in person, so much comes out in conversation which would never happen in email. Plus how else would you find out that Joe Giammalvo in the New York office would win in a dance off??
“We have an annual international sync conference – it is so important to have time together in person, so much comes out in conversation which would never happen in email.”
– Lucy Bright
Susan: In licensing terms I deal with all the international offices on a daily basis, handling clearances and approvals for all the UK owned repertoire in any other territory. Having a great international team makes a huge difference.
Can you talk us through some recent exciting sync placements?
Susan: We recently worked with The Most Radicalist Black Sheep Music on a Virgin Media ad. They had a very last minute request for “Misirlou”, and we were able to turn it round quickly and efficiently to the benefit of all. It’s a great ad and perfectly embodies the craziness and speediness of the music clearance process!
Lucy: What I really love about film is the breadth of projects we get to work on, from small budget independent productions to huge blockbusters. So at the two ends of that spectrum recent highlights would be God’s Own Country, featuring music by A Winged Victory for the Sullen, which went on to win at Edinburgh International Film Festival, and “Sous les Ponts de Paris” in the awesome, chart-topping Wonder Woman.
Louisa: We’ve had some great placements in TV this year – everything from Guerrilla and Broken to The Trip to Spain and The Halycon – and there are some really exciting projects coming up in Autumn for both catalogue placements and commissioned music.
What’s the A&R process like at Music Sales?
Louisa: We have a couple of different approaches. We have an A&R person, Anthony Cavanagh, who is actively seeking new commercial talent for the company, and we advise him case-by-case on sync possibilities for potential signings. However, as a sync team we are actively sourcing and signing media composers who we believe can bring something new to our catalogue, and whom we feel we can make a valuable contribution to in terms of bringing new opportunities. We have a great sized roster for active collaboration and at Music Sales we are able to provide a broad spectrum of services – not just via sync, but also through our print music/retail offering and our classical promotions team.
“As a sync team we are actively sourcing and signing media composers who we believe can bring something new to our catalogue, and whom we feel we can make a valuable contribution to in terms of bringing new opportunities.”
– Louisa Rainbird
Lucy: Yes, that has led to some brilliant new paths for our writers – Joel Cadbury, for example, we signed as a singer/songwriter based on his history with the bands South and UNKLE, but through the expertise and connections across the company he has ended up scoring films and writing music for ballets with top choreographer Wayne McGregor.
The industry appears to have become better at addressing the challenges facing women in music, as well as diversity and mental health issues. What do you think has triggered this increased awareness?
Susan: There is definitely a lot more awareness than there was when I started in the industry 15 years ago. I think a lot of that awareness comes from the current influx of strong, intelligent and highly capable women in the industry. 15 years ago there were few women in the top level jobs; that is changing, slowly but surely!
Robyn: I think social media platforms have opened up the discussion because women are beginning to realise they’re not alone in the struggles they face. It’s much easier to share an article you relate to on Facebook than bring up the topic of sexism in face-to-face conversation, and when other women see it and think “me too” it’s like a ripple effect.
“I think social media platforms have opened up the discussion because women are beginning to realise they’re not alone in the struggles they face.”
– Robyn Kennedy
There is, however, still a long way to go. What practical measures can each of us take to combat sexism in the industry?
Susan: The gender pay gap has been a hot topic in our office! I think transparency is the way forward. Sexism does exist, and the recent news reflects that, but awareness is key. The more aware and open we are the more we can strive to achieve an equal status.
Robyn: I think supporting and empowering women you know and/or work with is definitely the way forward. Not being afraid to offer and ask for advice is so helpful as often people around you have had to deal with similar situations. It also raises awareness that there are still things that need to change.
Louisa: I agree – women working in the industry now are the key to paving the way for future generations. Identifying development and training opportunities for women at all stages of their careers is paramount, with great work already in this area from the likes of AIM and PRS For Music. And I am really excited about the mentoring scheme that shesaid.so will be launching in September.
Lucy: There are some interesting movements in the film industry that the music business could learn from like the Geena Davis Institute, which partners with leading studios and production companies to expose and educate on gender bias. For example, if young girls grow up watching film and television where boardrooms are shown to be a male-dominated place, it makes it harder for them to believe they could and should be there. By encouraging scriptwriters and producers to specify a balance of genders in those scenes, it normalises that image to the world through a very powerful medium. I think there are organisations, trade bodies and societies within the music business, as well as publishers and record companies themselves, that could lead the way by looking at their boards and seeing the benefit of having a strong presence of talented women on them.
“I think there are organisations, trade bodies and societies within the music business, as well as publishers and record companies themselves, that could lead the way by looking at their boards and seeing the benefit of having a strong presence of talented women on them.”
– Lucy Bright
How did you first become involved in the shesaid.so community? Why is it so important that communities like shesaid.so exist?
Louisa: We know Harriet Moss, who heads up the London branch, very well and, as a team, we had a number of friends who had signed up and recommended joining. It’s a great community which provides support for women around the world – members are able to reach a huge number of industry professionals about a whole realm of topics and benefit on everything from practical advice to establishing new contacts. In an industry which is so male-dominated, particularly at the top level, it’s so important for women to have a strong network and as much resource as possible available to them.
What trends and emerging opportunities are you noticing in the sync world?
Robyn: In terms of musical trends I find in advertising, we often get music requests which reflect recent big blockbusters or hit TV shows. For example, after Stranger Things first aired, we seemed to get a lot of briefs looking for ’80s music, and after This Is England, 90 (coincidentally music supervised by Lucy Bright), everyone wanted a bit of Stone Roses! It’s fun to see the influence of a strong musical soundtrack affecting other medias.
Louisa: There’s increasingly blurred lines between commercial artists and media composers, and we’ve noticed that impact considerably with our roster. Often directors and producers approach our composers for bespoke work on the basis of their pre-existing commercial releases, and I think that is generating a really exciting and diverse sound world across film and TV.
In addition to the pop world, there’s clearly a lack of exposure for women in the classical/score composer world. How can we bring more women to the forefront of this sector? What do you think about ideas like orchestras holding blind auditions to eliminate gender bias?
Lucy: I agree, it’s shocking that when Mica Levi was (rightly) nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score this year for Jackie, she was only the fourth woman to have ever been nominated in the category. Having said that, two of those women (Rachel Portman for Emma and Anne Dudley for The Full Monty) have won which shows just how amazing they are. I don’t know enough about the efficacy of blind auditions to really comment, I remember hearing that certain people who tried this realised they also had to get people to remove their shoes because if the judges heard someone walking into the room in heels they could still tell (or assume!) it was a woman, which made it all seem a bit ridiculous.
But I do think that organisations like the Alliance for Women Film Composers are positive; a few years ago I met one of the co-founders of the Alliance, composer Laura Karpman, at Sundance and what I liked was their attitude that they hope to be redundant within a decade, that the gender imbalance will no longer be an issue by then. In 2016 Laura became the first woman to be elected to the music branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors, so things seem to be moving in the right direction and I’m really happy that we have such a strong and talented group of women on our roster.
Which female artists and composers are you excited about at Music Sales?
Louisa: Where to begin?! We are lucky to work with so many talented women on a wide range of projects. Hildur Guðnadóttir is having an incredible year, having scored Soldado, the follow-up to Sicario, and currently working on another high-profile feature film; Anne Nikitin has recently worked on projects for the BBC and Netflix, plus Matt Palmer’s feature debut Calibre and Damien Hirst’s concept film Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable; and Jocelyn Pook has been busy working across stage and screen, including scoring the hugely successful King Charles III adaptation on BBC2. Adding brilliant new signings such as Justine Barker and Konni Kass, alongside recent commercial releases from Melissa Parmenter and Fallulah, and you can appreciate it’s a very exciting time to be working at Music Sales.
Drawing from your own experiences, what advice would you give to women starting out in the industry?
Susan: I would have to say that one of the most important things is attitude. You don’t need to know everything straight away; a willingness to work hard and a positive attitude goes a long way in those early days.
“One of the most important things is attitude. You don’t need to know everything straight away; a willingness to work hard and a positive attitude goes a long way in those early days.”
– Susan Tilly
Robyn: I’ve very lucky to have had some amazing, strong female role models throughout my career, many of whom I now count as close friends. Not only do they serve as incredible inspiration, but the advice they’ve been able to offer is always invaluable. Find these people, surround yourself with them and don’t be afraid to ask them for guidance.
Louisa: As I mentioned earlier, I think identifying development opportunities is really important – and people should be pro-active in sourcing opportunities for themselves, whether that’s finding a mentor, contacting companies about internships, or booking onto a course in their field of interest.
Lucy: I like to take every opportunity I can to encourage women to believe that not only can they work in the industry but they can lead it. I have worked with some amazing women, both colleagues and clients, who have shown me that. There are a lot more resources for people starting in the business now than when I entered it over 20 years ago: PRS for Music, Music Publishers Association, the Guild of Music Supervisors, Music Managers Forum and many other organisations are running great courses and networking opportunities and I would encourage anyone to make the most of those.
What does the future hold for Music Sales?
Susan: Who knows what the future holds, but our department has made many changes over the last couple of years and I feel we are stronger than ever. Add that to a great catalogue and a superb roster of composers and the future looks bright!
We’d like to say a huge thanks to the Music Sales Creative team for speaking with us! Check out their Synchtank licensing site here.
Find out more about shesaid.so:
Founded in 2014, shesaid.so is a global network of women who work in the music industry. Our vision is to create an environment that supports collaboration, creativity and positive values. With over 1,400 members ranging from A&R, creatives, management, PR, music tech etc., the shesaid.so community programs monthly speaking events around the world and works closely with conferences and festivals to curate top female talent.
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