Welcome back to bye-bye burnout!
There are a number of new subscribers tuning in after reading my latest post, The Real Life of a Music Supervisor. Thank you all for choosing to be here, it means a lot! I received some really lovely messages and emails from people saying how eye opening and relatable the piece was, even for folks who work in other areas of the industry. It’s a big reason as to why I started this newsletter in the first place.. I wanted everyone to feel a little less alone.
If you haven’t read last week’s newsletter about what the day-to-day is like for a music supervisor, I highly recommend going back for a quick read before continuing. You can read it HERE.
When I was actively music supervising, I really struggled with the ability to get through my daily tasks, as well as manage the mass amount of submissions that came in. I was inundated with emails.
Listening to music and discovering new artists is supposed to be one of the more exciting aspects of the job. But it can also be a contributor to the overall burnout.
When I first started, I swore I was going to attempt to get back to everyone who reached out to me with music, even if it was a quick thank you. It was manageable for a short period of time of course, but eventually it wasn’t feasible and I was forced to make a shift.
It’s a bummer that someone can get so overwhelmed with work, that even those who have a deep love of music can develop this sense of resentment like, “oh god, another person is pitching me music”. I never wanted to have negative associations about someone sharing their art with me, because art deserves to be shared.
People could pitch a lovely email to me and have wonderful music, but I would be so overtaxed, that taking the time to respond, felt like some form of kryptonite. That, or one person would be super disrespectful, feel like they were owed a response, follow up relentlessly and ruin it for everyone else.
Listening to submissions and music for work, eventually started to feel extremely transactional.
I found more and more people were wanting to create music specifically for sync, rather than just making art for the sake of making it. People were trying to cater to supervisors' needs or whatever happened to be “trendy” that month, simply because it MIGHT make them money. And sure, that can work out alright for trailers, promos and ads, and clearly the need is being met to some degree, but it always broke my heart a little bit. I felt it sort of took away some of the artistic integrity. For TV/Film I was always looking for things that felt more authentic and natural, rather than something that felt forced or made to fit a mould.
It doesn’t just end with people sending in submissions via email either. Music supervisors are constantly bombarded on social media. Most use it for personal reasons, so to have what's supposed to be a fun outlet, immediately feel like you’re entering another workspace… Well, that’s exhausting.
Even meeting someone new at an event or a party felt overwhelming. I used to get so anxious about telling people what I did for a living, for fear that they would want something from me, and it tore me up. The fact that I would rather hide my occupation, than give my email out to another person completely shook me. It shouldn’t be like that!
Every music supervisor is different too. Some of them write briefs for each episode and/or scene, while others prefer to do internal searches on their own. Both of them take up a significant amount of time, if not the majority of the day. How they go about organizing those searches is a whole other task. Most have certain people they reach out to based on the style and genre, while others don’t take unsolicited material at all. Nothing would sting more, then when a stranger would reach out about said brief because someone else forwarded it to them. Again, art deserves to be shared, supes want to hear music and help, but when they’re bombarded with submissions, it doesn’t allow them to actually get anything done. It also doesn’t respect their process at all. If every indie artist, licensor, label, publisher, etc had access to those briefs - the supervisor wouldn’t be able to do their job effectively. It would take multiple full-time positions to write the briefs, send them and then collect the music. They’re only one person. It’s why they keep their briefs and/or needs close to their chests.
There’s a tremendous amount that goes into being a music supervisor. It’s a bizarre middle ground where they are working closely with directors, producers and showrunners, but they’re also working very closely with everyone in the music business. The bread and butter comes from the client, but without the music, there isn’t much of a leg to stand on. Working in two different industries can be a lot. It’s difficult to work in one, let alone both. Things are constantly shifting within each industry too, which requires knowledgeable up-keep in the news. Sometimes certain catalogues get bought, or there’s new rules and regulations around unions, etc. Every supervisor has to be updated and in the know about these things.
Finding new projects to get hired on also takes precedence. Setting the space aside to do that, while managing all of the other expected tasks is staggering. Not every music supervisor has access to a wonderful agent either. The world of freelance is a total grind.
Despite the chaos, I do find that most of the music supervisors I’ve met over the years are extremely kind. They love music so much! They love the community that they’re a part of, the people they get to work with: It’s a gratifying job! But it does take a lot of energy to put on a smiling face, especially when it feels as though there aren't enough hours in the day. It’s impossible to feel like anything is ever crossed off the to-do-list or has been fully accomplished, simply because supervisors are expected to be in a million places at once.
Now, it might sound a little cheesy, but I do feel as though music supervisors are real life superheroes. They save the day on countless occasions, they problem solve left and right and they’re strong as hell. The only thing missing is a cool costume or dope catch phrase, but hey.. Not all superheroes wear capes!
I’m always going to have a love for this field. The art of putting music to picture is a pretty magical thing, but I’ve realized it comes at a significant cost. The burnout for me, unfortunately outweighed all of the goose-bumpy moments. That doesn’t mean I didn’t learn a lot, or treasure the fact that I had a helping hand in paying off a few artist's record debts. I also got to work with a lot of talented and wonderful humans, some of which became my dearest friends. I don’t take any of it for granted. I am, however, allowing myself the space and time to heal and take a breather. I think a lot of people deserve that.
With all of that in mind, I’m going to end this week’s newsletter with a quote from Juliana Finch — “You’re burned out because this culture has messed up our priorities, not because there’s something wrong with you.”
So proud of you for expressing from your heart and sharing this for everyone to read and benefit from.