Seven music supervisors from hit shows, including “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, “Greenleaf”, and “Entertainment Tonight”, shared their industry knowledge during a live panel at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza on Thursday, Oct. 5. The event was geared towards educating current and aspiring music supervisors in their quest to better understand the job and the varied paths to getting there.
“We are essentially storytellers,” shared Thomas Golubic, the music supervisor of “Better Call Saul”, “Love, Grace and Frankie”, and “Halt and Catch Fire”. “It is our job to find ways to use music as a storytelling device,” added Golubic, who moderated the panel.
The panel included music supervisors and directors: Angela Jollivette, Yvette Metoyer, Rickey Minor, Morgan Rhodes, Carolyn Richardson and Madonna Wade-Reid.
Metoyer shared that she first realized her knack for music appropriation in high school.
“When I was growing up, I would tend to tell stories by making these mixtapes,” said Metoyer. She detailed how she would spend countless hours admiring her older brother who was a DJ. “I used to spend hours sitting in his bedroom watching him spin.”
It was then that Metoyer began making mixtapes for her friends. After spending her early career in scripted and reality television, Metoyer decided that she was still longing for a way to combine television and music. She elected to take a music supervision class at UCLA and is now working on shows like “Sneaky Pete”, “Shut Eye”, and “Dangerous Book for Boys”.
“The positive thing is that doors may not open right away and it may take you going through adversity to get to where you want to go, but you have to keep being persistent and keep trying,” Metoyer told the audience. “As long as you’re making the attempt to keep opening those doors, there’s hope.”
Rickey Minor, the musical director of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno”, “American Idol”, and The Grammys, had a similar story. His love of music also developed in high school playing the base.
“I think like a lot of us, I loved the way music made me feel,” Minor, Governor of the Television Academy, stated passionately. “I didn’t know that there was an actual job where you could get paid to do it.”
Minor, a product of the Jordan Downs projects — a public housing complex in Watts plagued by gang violence and severe poverty — stayed focused on his education. His hard work in school earned him a full scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for math, where he continued to fuel his passion for music on the weekends by playing in a band.
“By my junior year, I decided that I wanted to play [music] because it was all that I could think about and still didn’t know that there was really a way you could make money doing that, just thought, I can just stay in my backhouse have a good time and be happy,” Minor remembered.
Find your passion and a way to incorporate the thing that you love most in your everyday life was his message to audience members.
Morgan Rhodes stumbled upon her passion for music supervision. As a former radio host and DJ, what she thought to be a failed radio show audition, led to her start into music supervision. A new introduction to the music industry that Rhodes did not account for was social media. Film director, Ava Duvernay, tweeted Rhodes after hearing her audition and asked if she would like to sign on to Duvernay’s second short film project. Without hesitation, she accepted.
“I asked my homegirl, ‘do you know any music supervisors’ because I just said yes to a job that I have no idea what it entails,” Rhodes said laughingly. She has now worked on projects like “Dear White People”, “Queen Sugar”, and “Selma”.
Meanwhile Carolyn Richardson, music supervisor of “Entertainment Tonight”, “The Insider” and “Funny Married Stuff”, detailed the importance of being adaptable to the ever-changing industry of music.
“I would encourage people to always think about the different sides of the money,” said Richardson. She began her career working in ticket distribution at Sony music. As music labels started to scale back on their staff, Richardson became one of the casualties of the changing industry. From that experience, she quickly learned how to, “Stay agile and think about not only businesses that you can work with, but artists you can work with, churches; there’s music everywhere, so however you can keep your hand in it, it will help you when things change because this industry is cyclical.”
Both Richardson and music supervisor for “Reign”, “American Crime” and “Smallville”, Madonna Wade-Reid, were forced to shift career paths due to changes in the music industry.
“I was forced into retirement,” said Wade-Reid who was working with music video directors when MTV decided to no longer broadcast videos. She leaned on her mentors, one of which just so happened to be a music supervisor.
“When she explained to me what she did, I thought wait a minute, this is just the reverse order of what I’m doing,” said Wade-Reid. “I got lucky, someone took me under their wing and taught me.”
Now, with years of experience under her belt, Wade-Reid acknowledges that the glitz and glamour associated with working in television has proven to have its challenges as well.
“I challenge you to take 10, five-year-olds with the same birthday and each one wants a different kind of cake, but they can only choose one, and get them to come to a unified decision,” is how Wade-Reid described her job. It has taken her years to find strategies to combat the challenges she faces in meetings with directors and producers.
“I read the room until I know who’s in charge and who I need to laser focus on,” said Wade-Reid.
“There’s this misconception that music supervision is all about what we want [as music supervisors], but we have producers and directors who have their own agendas,” added Richardson.
As music authorities, Jollivette says the key is to choose which battles to fight and which ones to let go. After years of sharing her expertise in gospel music working with The Grammy’s, Jollivette nowadays is busying her time convincing Oprah that there is a place for new age gospel sounds on the church-based show “Greenleaf”.
“I was determined paint a picture of how important music was to engage the gospel audience,” said Jollivette. “To have a unique platform like this that does not exist in mainstream television, a place for today’s gospel artists to have some visibility and to be a part of this show was the biggest thing that I wanted to accomplish this season.”
Though each have secured jobs that are nuanced-based on the respective projects, the Guild’s mission to promote the role of music supervision in film, television, games, advertising, trailers and emerging media was accomplished. This event was also part of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw’s mission to engage its community as it celebrates its 70th year in South L.A.