It's the Music, Stupid, Part IV: Music Supervisor

Recently the iTunes Weekly Rewind podcast (Ep. 47) featured a short tribute to John Hughes. Unlike all the other obits, this podcast didn't talk about him so much as a filmmaker as they did a music supervisor. In fact, they called him the Godfather of Music Supervision.

And it occurs to me that this is a role the best creative teams put themselves in as well.

Hughes didn't just stick music in to fill space. Or because it sounded cool. He used music to set a scene, develop characters, and tell a story. Sure, the scripts were hilarious, and the stories were good, and Mollie Ringwald always looked cute. But Hughes used the music to bring everything together.

No one had ever heard of Yello's "Oh Yeah" before they saw Ferris Buehller's Day Off. Just like no one had ever really heard "Da Da Da" by Trio before VW adopted it. (And both are over a decade old, and they're still valid examples.)

When you're putting together a spot, it's easy to want to use the latest, cool band. Or something goofy and nostalgic. And sometimes that works. But remember Hughes used everything from then-hot bands like Oingo Boingo, to then-obscure bands like Simple Minds, and then-forgotten artists like Ottis Redding.

So try writing a spot that needs a Japanese wedding melody. Or a really obscure Dave Brubeck track. Or something from Tommy Emmanuel. Or Slayer. You can't tell me you're not itching to write a script with some Slayer in it.

You might even get the right sound, and end up hiring the actual artist to write an original piece like Dunkin' Donuts did with They Might Be Giants and Coke did with Jack White.

Become a music supervisor. You might even end up with a spot that wins you some awards and resurrects Mickey Dolenz's career.