Mary Ramos: How To Get Attention Of Music Supervisors #SAtN

HHere’s the first Stand Above The Noise episode from Sync Summit Paris 2014 – an insightful interview with Mary Ramos, a music supervisor for Quentin Tarantino movies and numerous Hollywood blockbusters.

In this conversation, Mary shares specifics of working in the sync licensing industry these days, and provides practical advices on getting noticed by music supervisors.

00:00:16 – Introduction
00:00:59 – Being a music supervisor now vs. 20 years ago
00:01:46 – Catching music supervisors’ attention with covers
00:02:51 – Have a “swagger” song in your music arsenal
00:03:54 – Importance of having instrumental versions for your songs
00:04:45 – Your bootleg remix can be picked and cleared for a movie
00:06:02 – Places to look for licensing opportunities

Watch an intro to the Sync Summit Paris series at this location.

Full transcription of the Mary Ramos interview:

  • Introduction

My name’s Mary Ramos. I’m a music supervisor for films, television and ads. I have worked as a music supervisor for over 20 years. I got my start working with Quentin Tarantino. I was friends with him and with Tim Roth and then started working with Quentin, and have worked over the past 20 years on over 100 films with various directors. I handle all musical aspects of a film, from helping directors to choose music, songs, choose bands, choose composers. That’s what I do.

  • How different is being a music supervisor now from when you started?

The amount of music, the access to indie bands is fantastic. It’s so much more fun now because there’s music I would have not normally had access to that’s available. I can find it via YouTube. I can find it via the blogs. There’s any number of ways I can get access to music. Just the fact that digital links can be sent to me or I can check out websites… Back when I started we didn’t have a lot of internet access. Now, bands can send me a link to their website which has music on it and their contact. It’s great.

  • How an indie artist can get better chances of being noticed by a music supervisor?

One way that music supervisors can become aware of a new band or an indie band that doesn’t necessarily have representation is by doing a cover version of a familiar song. And doing a good one, and doing a video for it and putting it up on YouTube. That is one great way to catch a supervisor’s attention, because oftentimes we’re looking for covers. It’s a great way to introduce your band and get your band’s music… get them hooked into hearing more from the band. Original songs are wonderful, but having a cover to grab their attention is really helpful, I think. I just used a cover of Black Hole Sun in a cool thriller, and it wouldn’t have happened, this band would not normally have been used in this film had they not done a really cool dreamy cover with a female singer of that song.

If you’re looking specifically to have your music synced for film, television and ads – because that is where the most audience is going to see your music and that’s where it’s beneficial – it would behoove you to have a song that is a swagger song. Male and female vocal, both a male vocal and another one with a female vocal. You know the kind I’m talking about. It’s … I’m going to sing to you know … it’s that song, How You Like Me Now by The Heavy, you know that song? That’s got the drum beat and it’s got the swagger. You can use it over someone who’s walking in slow motion towards the camera or whatever, or you can use it over a ridiculous person who thinks they’re cool. A song with a swagger to it is always great to have in a band’s arsenal because that’s the kind of thing we’re looking for, for all kinds of things… television, ads, TV.

  • Will creating several versions of the same song (e.g. in different mood) help?

If you have the ability to do that, if you have the resources and the ability to create different versions of the same song, amazing, yes! We can always use that. Always good to create an instrumental version. A lot of times when I’m suggesting songs or getting songs for film and television, if I can also provide the instrumental of the particular song, it’s extremely helpful because they like to be able to carve in and out of dialogue, weave it in and out of dialog. Sometimes, they’ll take the lyrics out in one specific section and put it back down. That’s actually very helpful too. When you’re creating your master recordings, always make sure that you keep the instrumental version separate as well.

  • Do you ever pick bootleg remixes, helping clear the samples?

Guess what? I did that for Last Vegas, two bootleg remixes. One was the September remix, James Egbert remix. Not cleared. I called the record label. I got the version sent to Earth, Wind and Fire’s manager. They approved it. Sony approved it. I wanted to use it so I ended up getting it cleared. The Fun song, We Are Young, there was a remix that was not an official remix. I got the record label and the band and the manager to hear it and approve it. It’s not ever a wasted effort if it’s a good… If it’s really good and if it’s up there and people can see it, it’s not a wasted effort. It’s great. If people want to use it and the band is going to like it… Another thing, that Black Hole Sun cover that I mentioned, in order for that to be able to be used, Chris Cornell had to hear it and approve it. That was another thing. The cover was done and got it to the band. They approved it, so it’s never a wasted effort if it’s good.

  • Where to look for licensing opportunities?

It is usually a good idea to be connected with a representative company, a company that has a presence in the film and music syncing world. They represent many bands and many publishers and they do what’s called a one-stop shop, which is where the publishing and the master are both represented by the same company. They know all the music supervisors, they get all the pitches, and they send over. There are a list of them, so if you’re a band who would like to get connected in that world in the United States, you can look them up and send your music.