You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Emmys Allowed Music Supervisors In, But Tension With the TV Academy Remains

It’s been a long road to Television Academy acceptance for music supervisors. In 2015, after years of lobbying, music supervisors gained entry to the music branch. In 2017, they got their own category at the Emmys, but weren’t allowed to vote in any other music competition. This year, music supervisors can vote in all seven music categories, thrilling some, enraging others.

In fact, you could say no one was happy. For the many composers and songwriters who make up the bulk of the approximately 600 members of the Academy “peer group,” as the branch is officially called, their efforts to keep music supervision out of contention as a category worthy of recognizing, have been thwarted. At the same time, some music supervisors are upset with how the new outstanding music supervision category is being handled — essentially questioning the Academy’s ability to judge the placement of songs or other musical works into programs.

“The TV Academy allowed all this to happen without the membership of the peer group being involved at all,” says former music governor and Emmy-winning composer Mark Watters, who at the time presented the Academy president with a petition, signed by every living former music governor, opposing the addition of music supervisors. “It was completely ignored.”

Deepening the chasm, many composers believe that music supervisors are not qualified to judge the other music categories and, despite the official term, are not in fact “peers.” Also, many music supervisors are now in a position to hire composers on shows and that, contends another composer (who requested anonymity for this story), “is unfair and against the bylaws of the Academy to be judged by someone who has the power to hire you.”

For the most part, music supervisors — who are still barred from joining the Motion Picture Academy music branch — are happy to be included. “The TV Academy has validated the role of the music supervisor,” says Tracy McKnight, the sole supervisor on the Academy music peer-group executive committee. “All the peer group is trying to do is move with the times. This is part of our culture now.”

But complicating matters even more is the internal controversy over the inclusion of showrunners as “music supervisors” two years in a row. Says former supervisor P.J. Bloom, now an executive at Warner Records: “The Academy, as far as I can tell, has zero vetting process for the music supervision award. Nominations are not based on the actual role we serve or as defined by our guild. You have ‘music supervisors’ getting nominations who simply aren’t.”

It happened twice last year: When “Sean O’Meara” was nominated as “Westworld’s” music supervisor, and it turned out to be a pseudonym for producer Jonathan Nolan. The winner, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” was awarded Emmys not only for music supervisor Robin Urdang (pictured, at right) but also producers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, who claimed credit as music supervisors for Emmy purposes.

“It would be nice if the Academy’s position on nominations mirrored our true contribution to projects as well as how our community defines the role,” says Bloom. “Clearly there is a creative piece and that is always a group effort, but it’s not the whole pie.” Urdang and the Palladinos are nominated again this year for “Mrs. Maisel.”

Academy music governors are struggling with these issues, too. “If you’re a composer, you’re going to work with a music supervisor,” says Rickey Minor, nominated twice for outstanding music direction this year. “A lot of the older composers either had bad experiences with music supervisors, or the [supervisors] were doing paperwork and not so much creative. But all that’s changed now. … Many music supervisors are responsible for the overall music budget and are hired to bring the musical tone to the project. They’re not only finding songs.”

Adds Thomas Golubic, president of the Guild of Music Supervisors: “These are all steps in the right direction, because ultimately we are advocates for each other’s work. We are thoughtful and professional storytellers. The more supervisors and composers can work in harmony, with a tacit understanding of what each of them brings to the table, the better the work that results.”

Officials declined to comment on the specifics of the process. The Academy also won’t give out exact statistics, but the group is believed to have increased by 15 percent since music supervisors were permitted to join, suggesting that at least several dozen are now voting members.

“It’s not going to go away, whether you like it or don’t,” says Minor of music supervision. “It’s an important part of the process. Time has moved on, and we should look for ways to be more inclusive to all of our community.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Will Arnett Joins BBC Soccer Comedy

    Will Arnett Joins BBC Comedy ‘The First Team’ From ‘The Inbetweeners’ Producers

    Will Arnett and Chris Geere will star as the chairman and coach of an English soccer team, respectively, in “The First Team,” a new comedy for the BBC from the producers of “The Inbetweeners.” The series will follow the off-the-field misadventures of three young soccer players played by Shaquille Ali-Yebuah (“The Feed”), Jack McMullen (“The [...]

  • 'Game of Thrones' Fashion at the

    'Game of Thrones,' Fashion Slayers: HBO's Drama Winners Also Shined on the Carpet

    The cast of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” knew how to make an entrance (and an exit) on Sunday night at the Primetime Emmy Awards. Before winning the night’s final trophy, Best Drama Series, stars like Emilia Clarke and Gwendoline Christie pulled out some fantastical looks on the purple carpet, with Clarke donning the mother-of-all-earrings by [...]

  • Emmys Fashion: Best Dressed on the

    Emmys: Best Fashion on the Purple Carpet

    The biggest stars in television stepped out on the Emmy purple carpet on Sunday night in a stunning display of gowns and vivacious looks. Fashion expert Brooke Jaffe, who visited Variety’s set after the show, picked some of her favorite dresses of the night, which included Zendaya’s truly enviable Vera number and Mandy Moore in [...]

  • Emmys 2019: Biggest Winners and Losers

    Winners and Losers of the 71st Emmy Awards

    The 71st Emmy Awards was a spectacular affair for the Brits, while broadcast networks all but vanished. Watch Variety’s Elaine Low and Audrey Yap unpack TV’s biggest night of the year, which saw “Game of Thrones” and “Fleabag” take home the top prizes, winning best drama series and best comedy series, respectively. Related Emmys: Best [...]

  • Atmosphere71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Show,

    Emmy Viewers Not 'Feelin' Good' About Bizarre Music Choices

    It was known ahead of time that the Emmy Awards planned to dispense with a traditional orchestra or pit band for the walk-up and bumper music. What wasn’t anticipated was that the music choices were being outsourced to a bar mitzvah DJ in Des Moines. Or, very possibly, it was a local who had found [...]

  • Atmosphere71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Show,

    Emmys: Big 4 Broadcasters Post Lowest Combined Wins Ever

    The Big 4 broadcast networks put a cap on their worst year in Emmy history on Sunday night. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC brought home just 16 Emmy Awards — the lowest combined total in history for the four major broadcast networks. The previous low was 19 combined wins in 2016. Last year, the networks [...]

  • Karamo BrownLA LGBT Center 'Hearts of

    Karamo Brown Addresses Backlash Against Sean Spicer Comments

    Karamo Brown has doubled down on comments he made about his fellow “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Sean Spicer, in which he promoted the idea of meeting political adversaries “in the middle.” The amicable “Queer Eye” host received criticism when he said he was “most excited to meet” Spicer ahead of the show’s 28th season, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content