TIMES SQUARE, MANHATTAN: Keep your eye on the music supervisor. These men and women with encyclopedic knowledge of classical to crunk, rock to reggae, are the glue that sticks music on to film, commercials, TV shows, video games, Web media and more. We called music supervisor David Hnatiuk at his MTV mix facility because, well, that’s the best place to find him. But, also because he knows how to license the hell out of a piece of music.
Q: What does a music supervisor like you do all day?
A: I run my company, Autonatic Entertainment, where I have several different clients in different realms of media. My main expertise is music supervision and production for moving picture. Moving picture encompasses several different forms of media including TV, film and viral video.
My most regular client is MTV, where I’m currently contracted to be a music supervisor/sound designer for them. I work in the promotions department, and what we do here is create advertising for all of MTV’s content, whether it be for shows, their concerts, contests, integrated marketing, etc.
I’ve also recently done music supervision, production and sound design for the radio and TV advertising of FXDD, a FOREX trading company. For ENYCE the clothing label, I do retail and web-based music supervision & production. In their stores, they have flat screens running video, creating the vibe and environment they want. I’ve been chief sound designer and producer of these ten-minute loops, with music that is hip hop and R&B-influenced, which supports the whole urban theme of their line.
In addition, I’ve co-authored a popular textbook on music supervision, which can be found at http://www.musicsupervisioncentral.com.
Do you work on the film side as well?
Everything else I just mentioned is short-form, but long form like film is where I get to dig in and spend a nice, long period of time with it. I’m currently working on the next movie for Cheech & Chong, and the Weinstein Company and MouseRoar Inc, which is very exciting. This movie is basically a live Cheech & Chong concert film based on current their hit comedy tour, and it will also include documentary type elements, behind the scenes, interviews, etc. Currently it’s slated for DVD, cable TV, and optional theatrical release.
What’s an example of something you pulled together recently as a music supervisor?
Even if I’m not working on a production, my contacts run so deep in the music and film world that I’m constantly in touch with tastemakers, producers, directors, etc. who need music.
For this past Super Bowl featuring the Arizona Cardinals vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers, a friend of mine who’s a creative director at NBC Sports promotions gave me a call. He needed something motivational and inspirational, a real “here-we-are-at-the-climax” sports song, and quickly.
He had some ideas of what he wanted, but most of them were out of his price range to affordably obtain a synchronization license (aka a synch license which legally allows a visual media producer such as NBC to match an artist’s song to picture). He asked me for advice on songs I might know, and I came up with this song called “Nowhere to Now Here” by an Australian band called The Kin. The first time I heard this song, a year and a half ago, I thought at the time that it was the perfect song for a championship game. I got this call in January, remembered the song, and the whole deal was started, produced and completed in under two hours. It ended up being a very significant payday for the band and a decent commission for me. It felt amazing to be able to help a band on the rise, and also help a friend with a great commercial for my favorite sport. And it was all very efficient.
View the promo at:
The Kin’s Song in Superbowl XLIII
What qualities make up a good music supervisor, in your opinion?
You have to trust your intuition, and your natural sense of creativity and artistry. You also have to know how to listen, take direction and not let your personal opinions get in the way of your client’s goal. Additionally, a great music supervisor has an extremely vast wealth of knowledge of music, multiple time periods and genres. The key is to be able to regularly access that catalog of music in your head, as efficiently as possible at any time, because you never know when it will be needed in a synch licensing situation.
The other intangible is that there’s a connection that occurs between human emotion and music. You either understand it or you don’t, and a successful music supervisor has to be able to match, punctuate, and/or support whatever human emotion is happening in a TV show, film scene, commercial whatever. It has to match perfectly, or the message will be at risk. Every time I successfully make that marriage between music, motion picture and emotion happen, the payoff is priceless. Then it creates a unique experience.
Sounds like fun! Do you need any business acumen to do this here gig?
Definitely. I’m an artist first, but I made a decision long ago that I’d be just as passionate about the business side of music supervision. I’ve become a very effective negotiator. I’ve become understanding of the needs of rights holders and why they need to be paid fairly, because sometimes I’m representing an artist and trying to get their music into a film I’m not music supervising. I’ve played both sides of the deck.
Do you get approached by a lot of music artists who want to get their music into the productions you music supervise? What’s your advice to composers, bands, singer/songwriters and sound designers who want to get your attention?
I am constantly approached, and I would say that it makes sense for artists to network themselves on the WWW as effectively as they can, using resources like Broadjam, Taxi, Twitter, MySpace, etc. All this technology is there for networking and communication and self-promotion. And that’s a great way to connect to music supervisors, producers and directors involved in a production.
For anyone who would contact me directly I prefer that you don’t send me a physical package. Send me links to posted music, not MP3’s, because my inbox is constantly overflowing with MP3’s.
Reach David Hnatiuk at: