Music Supervisor Profile is a recurring feature on Rollo & Grady where we interview the top supervisors in the business to learn their secrets and get valuable advice on how to break into world of music supervision. Some of our previous interviews have been with such heavyweights as Thomas Golubic, Andrea Von Foerster, Liza Richardson, Scott Vener, and Gary Calamar.
We recently interviewed the extremely talented Michelle Kuznetsky. Over the past fifteen years, Michelle has handled music supervision responsibilities for both television and film. She was the supervisor for Prison Break, and is currently working on JJ Abrams’ new sci-fi thriller, Alcatraz, and co-supervises the critically acclaimed FX series Sons of Anarchy with Bob Thiele Jr. Her feature film credits include The Station Agent, Happy Gilmore, Cop Land, Clay Pigeons, Kill Bill:Vol. 1, to name a few.
R&G: How did you get your start in the music supervision business?
Michelle: I was working at a talent agency as an intern in the music department while I was going to law school. I ended up interning for producer Happy Walters and eventually Danny Bramson. One of the girls I worked with, Jennifer Pyken, asked me to music supervise her brother’s first interactive video game, which was shot like a movie, and put a soundtrack to it. Jennifer and I went off on our own and sold the soundtrack to Rhino. The video game was called “Fox Hunt,” and it was really the first video game shot to look like a film at the time. Sublime was on the album, which was huge, especially considering we licensed their music for about $500. After that, things just kind of came together. A friend of Jennifer’s, Mary Ramos, who was also a music supervisor, was starting up a company and asked Jennifer if she wanted to be her partner. Jennifer said, “I have a partner.” The three of us started up a company called Tri-Tone Music. Jennifer eventually went to work with Sony, so Tri-Tone became just Mary and I. We were partners for about nine years and during that time we did the music for Kill Bill, Jackie Brown, Forces of Nature, Never Been Kissed, and many other features, plus we were involved in many TV projects.
R&G: What does your day to day job entail as a supervisor?
Michelle: I generally start off reading the scripts and doing the budget for how much an episode will cost. Then I begin my search for music, which has to meet the parameters of the script. Licensing the songs that the creators are interested in can be very challenging.
R&G: What is the most difficult part of your job as a music supervisor?
Michelle: Replacing a song that a director or producer has fallen in love with. Then I need to find a song that’s within our budget. Let’s say somebody falls in love with U2, but their music costs a lot of money and instead we have a very little amount of money. I have to find something that creatively works for the scene and is in our price range, but also that everyone loves and hasn’t heard before.
R&G: What resources do you use to discover new music?
Michelle: There are so many new ways that artists can get out their music now. Of course they can put up a song on iTunes, but I also get sent packages every day, and receive emails probably once every 20 minutes, each from a new band, with a new link to new music. I look through everything to try to find music that sounds good.
R&G: What’s your best advice for someone trying to get into the music supervision business without previous experience?
Michelle: The best way is to work for a music supervisor, whether it’s as an intern or as an assistant, or to work on the TV and film side of a studio or a record label or a publishing company.
R&G: Where do you see the music supervision business going in the next 5-10 years?
Michelle: I see it going in all different directions. The internet has changed the business and music is more accessible than ever. Before, a lot of my job was spent burning CDs, going to sessions, and making up lists of songs. Now you can do this anywhere because of new technologies. Because music is so easily accessible, the job becomes something that a supervisor can do from anywhere in the world. You can have a music supervisor in Canada who easily does a show in Los Angeles, France, or England. I can do something in England and still be here; I can easily watch the show, Skype, and use iDisk. There are more possibilities for more people to become involved in the industry.
R&G: What are some of your favorite bands right now that you are listening to?
Michelle: Portugal. The Man, Band of Horses, and I am a huge fan of Keaton Simons.
Portugal. The Man
Music Supervisor Profile :: Thomas Golubic (click here)
Music Supervisor Profile :: Gary Calamar (click here)
Music Supervisor Profile :: Scott Vener (click here)
Music Supervisor Profile :: Liza Richardson (click here)
Music Supervisor Profile :: Andrea von Foerster (click here)
Rollo & Grady Music Productions (click here)