When executed properly, the job of a music supervisor sounds great, but doesn’t call too much attention to itself. But on Thursday night, the professionals who tune-up the movies, TV shows and advertising of the past year will take center stage at the 8th Annual Guild of Music Supervisors Awards, being held at Los Angeles’ Ace Hotel.
Four out of five of this year’s Oscar-nominated best songs will vie for GMSA trophies, but it won’t be the songwriters or even the performers who take the spotlight to claim the honor, it will be the person who served as matchmaker between the track and the project – the music supervisor.
From Robin Urdang wrangling two original songs from Sufjan Stevens to compliment the mix of ‘80s pop and classical in “Call Me By Your Name” to Kier Lehman corralling soul artist SZA to contribute an original tune, “Quicksand,” to the TV show “Insecure,” the list of 2018 GMS Awards nominees has its share of surprises. Chart-toppers Nick Jonas and Mary J. Blige make an appearance – he for the uptempo “Home” from the film “Ferdinand,” and she with the bluesy “Mighty River” from “Mudbound.” Miguel and Julia Michaels also make their GMSA debut.
This year the GMSA’s adds a new marketing category, best music supervision in a television promo, with “Stranger Things Season Two” (Trailer Park’s Bobby Gumm and Michael Paquette), “Big Little Lies” (Mark Woolen’s Chase Casanova) and “Narcos Season Three” (Jordan Silverberg, Transit) in the inaugural spots.
Placements in advertising also gain a new section: best single ad, which joins best advertising by a brand in which Apple (Peyman Maskan), Nike (JT Griffith), Samsung (Chances with Wolves), Sonos (Jonathan Wellbelove) and Windex (Daniel Kuypers) are duking it out. For the brand advertising race, Apple, GoPro, Nike, Orbit and Samsung lead the pack. “Advertising has become a very dynamic and compelling showcase as brands step-up their game with music,” GMS president Thomas Golubić says.
In the regular TV series categories, don’t look for “Halt and Catch Fire” or season two of “Stranger Things”: they didn’t fall within the window of eligibility (which for television is Sept. 1, 2016 to Aug. 31 2017. Advertising runs Nov. 2, 2016, to Dec. 1, 2017, all other categories run on a calendar year).
“Music is fun, but looking at the list of nominees it really is an enormous amount of work,” said GMS president Thomas Golubić. “We’ve had some very music-intensive film and TV shows this year, and ones with more subtle use. Each approach is challenging. It’s a balance – the work that gets wide recognition as superlative and the and the work that it takes a group like the music supervisors be able to dig a little deeper to find and draw attention to.” Golubić ― a two-time GMS winner for “Breaking Bad” ― shared his views on the contenders and why “Baby Driver” didn’t get a nomination.
This is the eighth year for the GMS Awards. What sets this year’s crop of GMS nominees apart?
I’m proud of the fact that among the shows, we have so many first-time nominees. There’s a lot of deep digging across many categories. For example, in the category I got nominated in for “Better Call Saul,” all the others nominees except mine are first season shows – Calamar for “Good Girls Revolt,” Gabe Hilfer for “Good Behavior,” Season Kent for “13 Reasons Why” and Jennifer Pyken with “This Is Us.” That’s a good sign. It shows people are paying attention and checking out new shows and looking for work that’s new and innovative. It’s a lot of work, because unlike the Emmys, we don’t tie it to an episode. We’re not big enough yet to get [the program services] to send episodes for our members. That means voters are watching 10, 12, sometimes 22, episodes of television to be able to gauge whether the work of the music supervisor is exemplary.
Trailer Park’s Bobby Gumm got a nomination for the “Baby Driver.” Why do you think the film itself didn’t get a soundtrack nomination?
It was ineligible because the music supervisor on that project, Kirsten Lane, wasn’t credited as being creative but specifically for doing clearances. The feeling of the film committee members was it wouldn’t be appropriate to award a nomination to a music supervisor doing strictly clearance for an awards show that’s about creativity. It’s something we might have to re-examine next year, because a film like “Baby Driver” is so music intensive and such a centerpiece for what we do, it’s important to figure out how to recognize the work. Maybe that’s recognizing the writer-director, Edgar Wright, and the music supervisor as a team. As an awards show, we’re evolving.
Any other surprises?
It’s kind of tricky, because there are some films that alternate between music supervision and score. For instance, one of my favorites that didn’t get nominated for supervision was Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread.” It’s an extraordinary movie I appreciate is how seamless the interpretations of classical music and Jonny Greenwood’s score is. It’s a film that almost literally has music wall-to-wall, and it pulls it together really well. It’s a good example of music being used very thoughtfully, and very cleverly and very powerfully. But I don’t know if it was necessarily a film it was appropriate to be nominated for a Guild of Music Supervisors award. It may be great work, but is it a great example of our particular profession? We’re still kind of drawing those lines.
What do people need to know about the art and craft of music supervision?
Music effectively used can be quite memorable, but the work we do is subtle and nuanced. It’s very hard to take a show into its third season and keep it fresh, and that concept holds true even for a movie. The complexity of doing “Pitch Perfect 3” cannot be overestimated. The number of clearances, the combination of the performances and the actors – it’s a real high-wire act. We hope to imbue these nominations and awards with an understanding of the background process too. That’s the goal.