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Opinion and Insight

Uniting the Tribes of Music Supervision

Soho Music and its founder Kate Young are already feeling the benefits of the recently formed UK & European Guild of Music Supervisors, writes Alex Reeves

Uniting the Tribes of Music Supervision

No prizes for guessing what Soho Music’s building, called ‘The Gin Factory’, began its life as. While it was first used to distil gallons of ‘mother’s ruin’, nowadays it pumps out gallons of music from its 12 studios - both for general entertainment and to commercial briefs.

Five years ago, when Soho Music’s founder Kate Young discovered the looming brick building it had laid empty for years. Despite the name of her business, the possibilities of the Clerkenwell property were too attractive to turn down. “We brought it back to life,” she says. “From electricity to plumbing, water, everything - so it was a completely derelict shell.” They created a bespoke set of studios and offices - the perfect environment for the creative community Kate wanted to encourage.

“It’s a really great creative flow for what we do,” she says. “The commercial recording studios have a massive effect on how we’re able to operate.” With space for so many producers, songwriters and artists to be working in the same building at once, many of whom work on commercial hits, there’s often a lot of talent concentrated in the old distillery.

A peek inside Soho Music's studios

Kate feels one of their biggest strengths is the calibre of Oscar / Grammy / Brit / Mercury and Ivor Novello award winning record producers and songwriters who permanently reside in the studio complex – one writer in particular even won an Oscar for the James Bond theme song he wrote in 2016. “When you’ve got that level of talent under our roof, where else in the world would you want to be as a music supervision company? It’s a very privileged position for us to be set among.”

2017 was a massive year for Soho Music. But one of the most momentous events of the year for Kate was the opening in April of the UK & European Guild of Music Supervisors - a body dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of the role of the music supervisor within the entertainment and media industries. 

“The inception of the European Guild - a chapter of the one that previously existed in the USA  - means there is now a central body that can help validate supervisors in our profession and offer guidelines on certain topics, whilst being able to effectively channel important information amongst everyone in the industry,” she says. “The learning and education aspects are something the guild is passionate about, offering masterclasses covering in-depth topics within supervision.” 

Music supervisor Iain Cooke, now president of the Guild, asked Kate to join the advisory board and she accepted without hesitation.

The Guild is already helping to inspire better working relationships with rights holders, supervisors, agencies, film houses etc, she feels. “There seems to be an increased sense of community and collaboration and bringing dialogue and better relationships to what has previously been quite an insular world. Realising that a lot of the issues you are facing are universal and common amongst the other supervisors and supervision agencies.”

The Guild supports the supervisor community to have a united voice and brings clarity to recent changes in legislation, especially relating to the AFM-modified Sound Recording Labor Agreement as well as SAG-AFTRA and other industry issues that sound boring but are vital to get your head around if they affect your business.

These issues need expertise and community, and Kate is grateful to finally have these resources in the form of the Guild, she says. “When everyone comes together it’s such a great opportunity to try to make a change and make a difference.”

The Guild has several aims in both the long a short term. “We want music supervision to be a career over here that is taken note of,” says Kate of the long-term goals. “In the US they’re starting to get traction. The Emmys now has a separate category for music supervisor. Susan Jacobs won the music supervision award for the TV series for ‘Big Little Lies’. It was brilliant - an amazingly well-curated piece of work. That’s what we want to try and build here.”

Education is also a key mission. The Guild is working to create masterclasses this year, with all the advisory members involved in teaching or curating the courses.

It’s something Kate’s really keen to get involved with because Soho Music runs masterclasses already with some of the key music colleges in the UK (Royal College of Music and previously the Royal Academy). “We give students a piece of work, give them a brief, pretend as though it’s a real-time project,” says Kate. “It’s the opportunity for people who want to go into scoring, whether it’s TV or film, to have more of a real-life experience with it. So they submit work and we discuss their creative. We also provide general masterclasses on the pitfalls and highlights of working in our industry. Which I think people find helpful.”

One of Soho Music's recent pieces of work

Kate feels strongly about the kind of skills music supervisors of the future need. “Music supervision has to be a 360 role,” she says. “You have to be able to work not just creatively (sourcing the right music to work with a selected piece of film / game or TV commercial), but understand budget restrictions, how production is run, how to licence a piece of music, how rights holders work as well as key negotiation skills. All those things make a supervisor. One of the things we wanted to do on the masterclass particularly was to start having one dedicated to music licensing. Because it’s one of those things that if it goes wrong, it can be devastating to all parties involved. It puts everyone at risk and we’re trying to minimise this and get the best safeguarding in place for both clients and supervisors. The ability to share knowledge and help train people to give them a skill set that they can use from the ground up is invaluable as there isn’t currently a formal way of entering this profession.

“The masterclasses will be a very important part of the Guild. The main things are to help with education, improving professional standards and helping promote best practice.”

Almost a year on, Kate is beginning to feel the effects of the organisation on her business. “We definitely feel much more part of a community now, rather than isolated and purely competitive,” she says. The guild contains the key heads of the British music supervision community, whether they specialise in film, TV or commercials. “It’s really nice to feel supported within a competitive environment.”

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Genre: Music & Sound Design , Music performance