Indie Music on TV – The New Mainstream in Film and TV
Increasing share of indie music on TV as a supplement for visual media The job of a music supervisor is starting to weigh heavily upon the music market, as the classical means for emerging, aka indie artists to get noticed (radio and music TV networks) have become flooded with the already popular names and are being replaced with more indirect ways to spot fresh, off-the-rack, non-mainstream quality music, such as movies and TV shows. Stars are now being born due in part to a music supervisor’s soundtrack selection instead of only appearing on major TV channels such MTV.
However, a music supervisor’s loaf of bread is not earned by simply picking a tear-jerker and slipping it into the dramatic climax of the film. From the disco-dancing, fun-loving tunes of the ‘70’s to the aggressive and empowering ones in the ‘80’s, the music in movies has definitely undergone some transformations, to match the flow of ideas and concepts of each generation. The “it” thing for this particular one seems to be the word on everyone’s lips these days: indie music on TV.
Indie music is cut out to be the tune of the underground and undercover people of the modern era, produced by anonymous, otherwise anti-mainstream artists that are, however, well known by the connoisseur elite. It has also, in recent years, become a, if not THE major trend for music supervisors in terms of seeking the perfect music for movies, video games or advertising commercials.
As living proof of the increasing share of indie music as a supplement for visual media chosen by music supervisors stands the successful and widely appealing TV series, The Gilmore Girls. Fast-paced sarcasm, suggestive pop culture references and an inside view into the dynamics of a modern family and its generation gaps made the show a tremendous hit, but benefiting from a stellar line-up of innovative, young artists like The Shins, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or Modest Mouse certainly didn’t hurt either. Every girl’s favorite show was suddenly the place to go to in order to get some tips about hip new bands and their quirky-but-cute artistic outputs.
Recipe for instant stardom
Perhaps the finest example that illustrates this significant tendency by music supervisors of using fresh and rather bizarre-sounding musicians instead of big household names is the renowned hit show “The O.C.”, with its wide array of music contributors, ranging from the likes of the awe-inspiring U2 or Coldplay to less recognizable, but now immensely appreciated indie bands or singers, such as The Killers, Death Cab for Cutie, Maximo Park or Keane, to count just a few. Combining subtle and contemporary interpersonal connections with witty and far-reaching dialogue, the show that depicts the lives and dreams of Orange County’s 2000’s teens sports a soundtrack that fits its urban, but deep approach perfectly, as every major moment is amplified by a touch of indie.
The person responsible for this is none other than music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, the now Grammy nominated music supervisor who has also left her Midas mark on TV wonders “Grey’s Anatomy”(for which she has received the nomination),”Supernatural” or “The Gossip Girl”, choosing for all of these to dig up independent artists and even get them signed. The Fray’s “How to save a life”, for instance, got highly acclaimed and enjoyed lots of public attention after appearing in a “Grey’s Anatomy” cue, which practically launched the band’s career and popularity.
Throughout the years, this woman, acknowledged by many as one of the top music supervisors in the business, has put the spotlight upon types of music that the general public had never even known existed, somehow bringing the new rock and pop into the foreground; her ability as music supervisor to spot the next big thing has triggered such a frenzy, that nowadays thousands of struggling artists and even already established ones are sending her samples of their music and pleading to be included in one of her playlists, as that has become the recipe for instant stardom.
In the case of Gossip Girl, one of the top TV shows on air right now and the most recent inside peek into the lives of the rich, young and beautiful, this ever-so-creative music supervisor even got the chance to try her hand in the record label business, as she started her own company, Chop Shop Records, signing deals with The Republic Tigers, Anya Marina or The Little Ones, all of which she discovered and helped put on the map after they were featured on the show’s soundtrack.
Immense contribution of independent and unknown music not only on TV but also in Movies
Since we’re talking about music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, apart from transforming television, music supervisor Patsavas has also lent her magic touch in the world of cinema. One of the year’s most popular and long-awaited movies, the universally known adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s book ”Twilight”, partly owes its overwhelming and dramatic effect to background songs that are perfectly in sync with each scene, from Iron & Wine’s gentle ballads to Muse’s adrenaline-packed “Supermassive Black Hole”, all of them hinting at the electricity and mutual need between the two leading characters.
The movie’s soundtrack was also produced by her record label and actually debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200, thus proving, if there was still doubt, that her alternative, indie rock choices are exactly what the public craves for.
In today’s movie market, producers and directors are starting to get a taste of the immense contribution independent and unknown music can have in terms of sales and ratings. More and more critically-acclaimed movies showcase a selection made by music supervisors consisting of indie artists and a considerable part of their merits is rooted in the unity between the script and the soundtrack.
The surprising romantic comedy “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” actually makes indie rock part of the story, as Norah starts falling in love with Nick after listening to the special music compilations he made for his ex-girlfriend; the whole movie seems to revolve around the songs, instead of just using them as additions that help induce the right mood. Music supervisor’s soundtrack selections are becoming more and more diverse and experimental, while everyone is in search of the next cool song.
Indie has become the new mainstream
Why such an expanding interest in indie rock as a tool for shaping the effect of a movie? It’s quite simple, actually. Firstly, the obvious, more practical and down-to-earth reason for a music supervisor to choose compositions from rather blurry, not so popular musicians is because licensing costs are lower and this grants the producer the opportunity to have the band associated with the movie and not the other way around.
However, there is also another explanation for moviemakers’ apparent propensity towards this style: indie has, somehow, become the new mainstream. It reflects this generation’s outlook upon life: intellectual, conceptual, post-modern, even cynical and condescending at times, but still managing to maintain a sweet naïveté and innocence.
The fact is that indie music and the indie attitude have become part of modern youngsters, the most influential target audience there is, especially since the artists that come up with this kind of music are no longer compelled by the “indie” label not to be commercially competitive.
With TV shows and movies getting millions of viewers and their soundtrack albums topping the charts, it’s easy to see that these two entertainment media complement each other. Music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas couldn’t have put it better when she stated that “ten years ago, it was more important that music be extremely familiar to people. It added value because you knew it. And now it adds value because it works.”