Joe Rudge is an established music supervisor based in Brooklyn, NY. An experienced licensing professional and music fanatic, he works with film, TV, commercial, and multimedia directors to enhance the moving image with sound.
Joe started as production assistant at MTV & VH1, but soon found himself music supervising for The Disney Channel. 2006 was a breakthrough year for Joe, when he music-supervised the cult hit Brick, directed by Rian Johnson, for Focus Features.
Recent music supervision highlights include Blue Valentine (directed by Derek Cianfrance), Terri (directed by Aza Jacobs), Margin Call (directed by J.C Chandor), and the Martin Scorsese documentaries Public Speaking and George Harrison: Living In The Material World.
Upcoming is the much buzzed about Sundance award winner Beasts of the Southern Wild (directed by Benh Zeitlin), released by Fox Searchlight.
R&G: How did you get your start in the music supervision business?
JR: When I graduated college, I was lucky enough to land a job as a production assistant at MTV. This is back in the late ‘90s: a really great time for MTV. As production assistant, you’re creating content right out of the gate. You’re editing, shooting, and writing scripts as a production assistant, which is great, because it lets you see how content is made and how a show is made. It also lets you figure out what you’re good at. Are you good at editing? Are you good at writing? Are you good at shooting? It became pretty apparent quickly that I was good at creating music edits. A couple of the producers I worked with were like, “You should be a music supervisor.” At the time, I had no idea what that was, but both of these producers I worked with were like, “You’re really good at music, and there’s this job called ‘music supervision’. I think you should do it. We’ll help you find one of those jobs.” Sure enough, one of the producers I worked with recommended me for a music supervisor job at the Disney Channel, and I made the transition. I literally went from production assistant to music supervisor.
R&G: What does your day-to-day job entail? Can you discuss both your film and television responsibilities?
JR: If I’m working on a film or a TV show or an ad, my day usually is two-fold. In the mornings I’m usually at my sharpest and I like to get all the paperwork done. That’s usually when I like to handle requests – the tedious part of the job, which is securing and licensing music. I’ll try to bang that out in the morning to get it off my plate. Then, depending on what the creative needs are, my job is to then dive in: work with scenes, try to find music. The creative component is obviously what’s sometimes most important, and is why you’re hired, and I want to spend as much time as I can dedicated to the trade of it. Sometimes I find it easier to just concentrate on creative for an entire day, and then the next day I concentrate on taking care of license requests. Some days I’ll take the whole day to create a music cue sheet. It depends on all sorts of factors, so there is no real set schedule; I just have to take each day as it is.
R&G: What resources do you use to discover new music?
JR: There are so many music licensing companies, record labels, and music publishers who push me music. It’s great if the ones I trust send me music. I always know to go there. It’s important establishing working relationships and knowing that if they’re pitching me music, then, okay, this is 100% signed off on; I can go ahead and pitch it. I check maybe 10 music blogs per day. I also still listen to radio. NYU and Fordham’s radio station and Columbia’s radio station are excellent; they’re such amazing resources to listen to new music. I also, believe it or not, read music magazines. It’s a collage: all of these resources help me understand what kinds of music people are listening to.
R&G: What’s the best way for an independent or unsigned artist to get on your radar?
JR: Honestly, it’s not easy. Cold pitches don’t help; I’ll just delete them because I’m inundated with music. The problem with a lot of unsigned artists is that they need to identify what makes the band special. Why should I listen to your band? I think it’s just identifying what your strength is as a band. How can you rise above the singer/songwriter and indie rock bands that I’m inundated with all the time?
R&G: What’s your best advice for somebody trying to get into the music supervision business without previous experience?
JR: This is purely subjective and perhaps just relevant for film: I’ve found a lot of people who try to get into music supervision are extremely passionate music fans, but don’t know what is critical to success as a music supervisor. One: you have to understand licensing. Before you even dip your toes into this whole world, you have to understand what a Synchronization request means, what a Master request means, and how to license music the right way. That is so important. Believe it or not, and you hear this all the time, it’s much more than just making a mix-tape. It’s understanding the complexities of licensing; you understand really the value, why a major publisher quotes so much on one song and why an indie rock band from Indiana will quote something else. It helps you quantify the product, really. It helps you understand the cards dealt. I think, and this is something I feel strongly about: you have to understand film. I think my experience at MTV was, again, so helpful in this respect. I was there for about two years. Between MTV and VH1, I understood how to make a show: what’s involved with treating a script, what’s involved in post-production, how you piece together a film or a TV show. Just to understand the rhythm of what goes on to make these shows, you understand how music plays into that. You understand that as a music supervisor you’re part of a whole team. You understand the importance of working closely with the director and producer; as a music supervisor, it’s not like this is your exclusive domain. Understanding the medium is huge, and that’s the problem with a lot of people who try to enter music supervision, not understanding the full responsibilities it takes to be a competent music supervisor.
R&G: Something that’s interesting to me is that you’re a New York based music supervisor. What is it like working in New York when the majority of film and television projects are based in Los Angeles?
JR: The thing about New York is that there is an indie filmmaking community almost exclusively. I’ve worked on some Hollywood films out of New York, but I’ve had to physically take a flight and live in Los Angeles for two or three months when I worked on anything with a Hollywood production, so, in New York, it’s just indie films. When working on indie film, you’re looking at projects with slight budgets and much more modest reach. It’s that much harder to make a living. I think as a New York supervisor, you can’t just make a living off of music supervision; you have to figure out supplementary income. There’s tons of advertising and branding work in New York City. New York City is the home of Wall Street and the home of corporate America, really. There are so many corporations here in New York and marketing and branding and the advertising industry that helps promote it. So for me or any supervisor I know, we all end up getting involved somehow with advertising. Also, there’s a lot of television in New York. It’s not necessarily network TV, but MTV and Viacom are anchored right there at 1515 Broadway, so there is a lot of TV here. As long as you can juggle a couple of different mediums, there’s actually quite a bit of work here.
R&G: Where do you see the music supervision business going in the next five to ten years?
JR: I think the biggest problem in music supervision and maybe film in general, and I think it’s been a problem since day one, is that nobody wants to pay for music. Music is always an afterthought and the last thing any producer wants to address when they’re making a film. What I’ve seen in the last five years is that music budgets and music supervisor needs have decreased, and that’s a problem. Moving forward, I think music supervisors are going to have to offer something extra. I think they’re going to have to bring a catalogue to the table. It’s not good enough to go ahead and find great music; I think you also have to somehow bring content as part of a package deal. Everybody’s looking to cut corners. Maybe you come and work in tandem with a composer and you offer your services as a one-two punch. I think that down the road music is no longer looked at as, “Okay, this is music licensing, this is music composition, etc.”
Joe also runs a cool music video Tumblr, Touch Sensitive.
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