In this guest blog, we are featuring Ian Neil, a music supervisor for the film industry, and a member of the advisory board for the UK & European Guild of Music Supervisors. Neil has supervised for projects such as Free Fire, High Rise, and Kingsman: The Secret Service. He explains this area of the industry, what it entails and who might be suitable to excel at it.
The Guild was initially created to raise awareness and understanding the role of the music supervisor across all entertainment industries. The responsibilities of this role include collaborating with the creative team, working with the composer from scoring to mixing and negotiating and securing all legal rights of the music. Following the success of the US Guild of Music Supervisors, the organisation has decided to launch a UK chapter of GMS.
Neil explains that “up to the 1960s, the role was mostly administrative, with the prime function to support a film composer or director, ensuring their music creations were legally acceptable,” but ” by the 1980s, the the post modernist world of film saw the benefits of using commercial music in their projects and the role of the modern day music supervisor was officially born.” Films like Easy Rider (1969), Mean Streets (1973), and American Graffiti (1973) were at the forefront of this Cultural Revolution, but Quadrophenia was particularly influential for Ian Neil. “I saw the film five times at the cinema, bought the soundtrack and discovered music that had never entered my psyche as a young teenager.”
He goes on to explain that music supervisors have always come from a passion and love of film and music and experience gained from working in music publishing, a record label or working as a music supervisor in TV, computer games or advertising. “Knowledge is gained from experience and vice-versa.”
An ideal candidate for a music supervisor will have some music industry experience. “You need skills in negotiating, diplomacy, accountancy, and legal, A&R and to be a smart problem solver,” says Neil. He adds that a good music supervisor needs to expect the unexpected, because no two films are exactly alike.
For a music supervisor, the budget is crucial. “Budget is everything as music companies and their artists and writers expect to get paid according to the films overall budget.” claims Neil.
The creative process is also largely important. “Do your music research and use your contacts. Don’t make suggestions you can’t deliver on – but don’t restrict your choices and always aim high.” Neil urges emerging music supervisors to understand the needs of both film company and music companies. “Think long term and treat every project differently, as every one will be,” he adds.
Neil gives some insight as to what a music supervisor’s job was before the 1980s. “I recently discovered the role of a film music supervisor is unofficially celebrating its 100th year anniversary,” though their jobs mainly consisted of checking for any copyrighted music and clearing it for projects. Often times, music supervisors played the role of what is now a music editor’s job.
This year, the UK & European Guild of Music Supervisors was officially launched . The Guild will represent music supervisors’ interests in film, TV, advertising, games, interactive media and theatre. Neil will sit on their advisor board. Neil is a member of their advisory board.
Neil adds that he has had the pleasure of working with Ben Wheatley on two projects, High Rise and Free Fire. He shares that while on the job, he persuaded Wheatley to use an experimental electronic library track from a 1970s album he found on De Wolfe over a 1940s classic standard song. Neil ends, “The world of a music supervisor is surprising if nothing else!”