Become a Music Supervisor: Education and Career Roadmap

Music supervisors work with production teams to create tracks for TV, movies, ads, or video games. They negotiate with businesses or individuals about rights to music, and they also edit music and compositions. These professionals are familiar with both the technical aspects of music and the way it interacts with multimedia.

Should I Become a Music Supervisor?

Music supervisors deal with the business side of the industry in addition to selecting music for different mediums. They have a background in music composition, which is how they are able to figure out ways in which music interacts with television and films.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's/doctorate for career advancement in teaching
Degree Field Music business and management
Experience Prior musical experience with instruments or singing; participation in choirs, musicals, or community events.
Key Skills Aural skills, attention to detail, picking appropriate music, maintaining contacts, understanding budgets
Salary (2014) $48,180 per year (Median salary for music directors and composers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online.

Step 1: Develop Musical Abilities

Because music supervisors should be able to recognize when a composition is good or fitting with a particular form of media, they need to have some prior experience with music. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), musicians and composers begin to develop musical abilities at an early age (www.bls.gov). They learn to play instruments or sing in order to develop aural skills. They also participate in choirs, musicals, or community events in order to receive some background in the field.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring music supervisors need to receive a bachelor's degree in order to be technically competent in both the musical and business aspects of this profession. Some relevant bachelor's degree programs focus on music business and management. These programs provide business-related coursework in marketing, accounting, music publishing, music development, and ethics. They also provide core music classes in aural skills, tonal harmony, and conducting.

Step 3: Get Internship and Work Experience

Internships are beneficial for those looking to gain hands-on experience in picking appropriate music, finding contacts, clearing songs owned by companies or writers, and understanding how to stay within the budgets of a project. Because of the multimedia nature of the job, those wanting to work as music supervisors should intern for record, film, TV, radio, or video game companies.

Some conservatories are connected with these companies, and undergrad students are a part of a mentoring program with more experienced music supervisors. Music supervisors also want to work in academia, but they will have to pursue graduate-level degree programs.

In 2012, Berklee College of Music published a survey of music industry workers. The survey indicated music supervisors are paid on a per-project basis, and payments vary by type of project. For example, the survey data showed music supervisors who worked on television projects earned up to $5,000 per project, while music supervisors who worked on blockbuster feature films earned between $150,000 to $500,000 per film.

Step 4: Consider a Master's or Doctoral Degree for Career Advancement

Music supervisors interested in teaching should pursue a master's degree. Some appropriate programs are those concentrating on music business and offer coursework in business, music industry, entertainment industry, marketing, and graduate-level seminars.

According to the BLS, many universities and conservatories require professors to have a Ph.D. degree. One example of a degree program is in music technology. This program provides advanced coursework in music theory, composition, scoring, and statistics. These programs require students to complete dissertations addressing issues in music. Students also need to complete teaching requirements. In May 2014, the BLS reported that postsecondary art, drama and music teachers earned a median annual salary of $64,300.

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