Music Supervisor Dominique Preyer
We recently sat down with Dominique Preyer, also known as “The Music Supervisor”, who has selected and/or cleared rights to music for over 25 movies. Dominique enlightens us on the processes and changes in the world of music supervision, how he finds his music and what we can expect from him in the future.
How did you become involved in selecting music for movies?
Music Supervisor Dominique Preyer: I’ve always been involved in music as a child, wanting to write, play and perform music. Later, I moved to Nashville where I worked for Acuff-Rose Publishing (now owned by Sony) and Mercury Records.
Eventually, I moved back to Texas where I met my wife, Jamie Preyer, who at the time was an aspiring screenwriter. We decided to produce her first script – “The Spin Cycle” – and in so doing Chris Ohlson, the producer of the movie, asked me to clear the rights to the song, “It Must Be Love” by Don Williams.
Since I had some music background as a music publisher, I took it upon myself to figure out how the process works from the Licensee side of music licensing. I started looking for other films to work on in the Austin area and even worked for no fee to get the experience. As time progressed, filmmakers just started calling me to be the music supervisor on their films.
How do you keep in touch with the film community?
Music Supervisor Dominique Preyer: I am very active on message boards and different forums out there. Whenever I see a message that deals with music clearances, music licensing or pretty much anything involving music and film, I respond.
By lending a helping hand and by offering my advice, I receive a lot of great responses and that interaction with the film community has brought people to me or made them familiar with what I do. I also try to network with other filmmakers at various networking events in the Austin area.
You are located in Texas, is that a disadvantage because a lot of the movies are done in Hollywood?
Music Supervisor Dominique Preyer: Actually it’s not a disadvantage at all. The job of a music supervisor is probably one of the most mobile jobs you could have. I’ve worked on films pretty much across the US – from LA to New York.
Technology (Internet and cell phones) allows me to communicate with the directors, the producers instantly. I can send music electronically via e-mail, links or ftp. Or oftentimes, I actually cut the music to the film and send the actual clips to the director for his or her approval. I do so even when I am away from my office – such as a Starbucks or anywhere where I can get an Internet connection. So location really is not an issue.
I can remember only once when my location was a problem. This particular director required a one-on-one relationship with the music supervisor and thus needed to choose a local person in LA instead. But that was the only time and has not occurred since.
What does your job entail as a music supervisor?
Music Supervisor Dominique Preyer: It really depends on at what point of the production I’m hired.
Sometimes ,when I’m brought on board post-production, the director has already picked all the songs, the editor placed all the songs in the film and they want me to make sure that the song selection is fitting and that they can actually use the songs (from a licensing perspective).
If I am brought in pre-production, then that’s when I get the full gamut of what a music supervisor can do.
In that early stage, I usually request a copy of the script, read it and while reading I will spot the script for music cues. When I finish reading, I then have my list that I will send to the director for review. The director sometimes already has an idea where he or she wants to place music and it becomes a comparing of notes, if you will.
At that point the director will start telling me what song he or she wants cleared for the film. Sometimes I am also allowed free reign in the sense that I pick and present the music I believe to be best. Once all the music is selected and approved by the director, I go back to the right holders and I will present them how much I can pay for their music and we negotiate until we come to a point of agreement.
Sometimes we can’t find an agreement and so have to find another song and then start the process of negotiating over. But once everything is agreed, I have to complete all the legal aspects of licensing the music which includes drafting the licensing agreements, create the cue sheet, compiling the music credits that will be placed within the end credits of the film.
That’s just a quick rundown from beginning to end.
And how long does it take to select and finalize the music selection for any given movie?
Music Supervisor Dominique Preyer: As far as my part goes, it can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months. From my experience, the biggest determining factor is the music budget.
When I send a licensing request to the publisher or the record label and announce that I have x-amount of dollars available to license a particular song and if it’s too small they tend to take longer to process. Part of the reason is that license requests with music budgets of only a few hundred to a few thousand dollars are put aside in favor of the big budget Hollywood movies with music budgets in the ten thousand and up range per song. Naturally, they will put their attention to those songs first before looking at some of the smaller budget, indie films.
So that is one aspect that prolongs the process, especially on smaller indie films. But oftentimes, in those cases, I try to find good alternatives via MySpace, local bands and up-and-coming bands from across the country. Working with independent artists allows me to complete the selection progress in a few days to a couple of weeks.
It has happened that it took much longer than normal to complete a film – for example, I’ve been working on one film since January 2006 and the biggest hold back is money on the production side.
What challenging aspects as a music supervisor seem to crop up time and again?
Music Supervisor Dominique Preyer: As just alluded to, I think the number one challenge that I encounter is when a director wants to use a song that I know is way beyond the music budget.
For example, for one of the films I worked on, the director wanted to use an Elton John song. I was only given ten thousand dollars for the entire music budget. The song itself was going to cost a hundred thousand dollars per side, that’s a hundred thousand for the synchronization rights, a hundred thousand for the master rights.
Unfortunately, that happens a lot, where I get a request for songs that are way out of the range of the music budget but the production will still go through with trying to clear a song with a very small music budget that they have given me to work with.
How you go about sourcing music? Do you actively seek out music by attending showcases of up-and-coming bands, or do you send out cue sheets or do you just go on MySpace or wait for people to send you music?
Music Supervisor Dominique Preyer: It’s actually a combination of everything you mentioned. For one, I receive music in the mail almost every day. I usually get about 10 to 15 CDs a week which can average about 50 to 100 songs per week.
Oftentimes, when I close a licensing deal with an artist’s manager, they will tell me about five or six other bands that he or she represents and she will come back to me with CD’s for those artists. I am quite open to that.
I also utilize MySpace a lot – there is a lot of great bands out there, independent unsigned bands that are looking to get their songs placed in films.
I also get emails all the time from publishers, music and production libraries, soliciting their services to me. I also have my website – via the site I receive mail asking permission from songwriters to submit material to me.
Sourcing music goes back to the music budget as previously mentioned and so based on that I will conduct my research.
The more money I have, the more places that I could go to. The less music I have, I tend to go towards the unsigned mySpace bands or the independent people that send me emails.
I’ll go back to my email history and look for some of the emails saying I’m an independent songwriter, I write lots of music, etc. And if I am looking, for example, a great Rock song, I’ll go to that person and say hey, I only have a hundred dollars to offer you, but that might be a great opportunity for you and you will be on the cue sheet.
So money determines which direction I go when it comes to looking for music music.
I also proactively generate special song lists that I forward to people I have established relationships with, which typically include music publishers, music libraries, record labels or even songwriters.
In my special song list, I will specify scenes – for example, the first cue will be a scene where the actors get into a car and drive away. Then the second scene will be something else and so forth. I’ll give an example of what genre of song with tempo and most times a similar popular song to use as a reference. With those descriptions I send out an email to ask “Hey do you guys have anything that will fit these scenes here?” and I’ll either get back an email with MP3’s attached or links to their catalogue where I can click and listen online or they’ll send me a CD which they’ll tailor to the exact request that I have and then I’ll go through those.
The good thing about that is when I submit my list; I give them all of the information – for example, if it’s the worldwide rights and all media, compensation per song, what distribution we have in place, who the director and actors are, so they know exactly what they’re up against before they ever even send their music. This is important because a lot of times they will not be interested if the compensation is too low.
So, we’ll do some pre-negotiating before they even send me a link or any music and then we’ll negotiate before any of that happens so nobody’s wasting their time with passing things back and forth and we couldn’t agree on anything yet.
I also like some services that have creative departments that can match their music with the details of my lists. It really helps when I’m extremely busy.
You’ve touched upon it before, how do you see technology or the Internet influence your job as a music supervisor?
Music Supervisor Dominique Preyer: Technology has definitely been a plus in expediting the process of clearing music. Just to be able to receive MP3s via links, especially when I’m in a crunch – those are times where I have less than twenty four hours to get a certain number of songs cleared, approved and to the editors to put them in the film.
Publishers, record labels and songwriter email me or place it on their website where I can download music within minutes, allowing us to start the negotiation process.
Is there a specific etiquette as to how someone should approach you?
Music Supervisor Dominique Preyer: I’m pretty open about everything, except I have a little problem when somebody calls me and tries to sing me their music over the phone. I don’t like it. I also don’t like it when someone tries to give me their history about when they were 3 years old and this and that happened.
Instead I prefer if the person just introduces themselves by name and asks if they may send me some music. Keeping it simple, so to speak.
I am pretty much an open-door-type of person and I really enjoy getting music from people – it’s pretty exciting to see what people are doing out there, so I’m open to just about anything.
How do you organize your stack of music at home given that you receive new shipments every week? Do you listen to them all?
Music Supervisor Dominique Preyer: There’s definitely a lot of music and sometimes I can’t go through all the CDs and MP3’s. Nevertheless, when I get them I try to keep them categorized. That is, I separate by genre – Rock CDs, Country, Hip-Hop, etc.
That way if I suddenly need something or I am watching a film where I need to place music, I go back to the stack of Hip Hop CDs for example and somewhere there’s a hidden gem. And sometimes I say, “Oh I remember that song on that CD.” Let me pop it in and try it and see if it works, if not then I’ve got another one.
There are times when I’m just doing paperwork for one film and I’m listening to music that could work in another film, so I’ll just have CDs playing while I’m doing my paperwork.
Many times if I heading out I’ll bring a few CD so I can listen in my truck. I make a mental note of anything that’s sounds good.
Are there any general trends that you see in the music supervision world?
Music Supervisor Dominique Preyer: There are a few things that I have seen over the last couple of years. One of the things is – and this is worldwide – is that the small independent songwriter bands are seeing more and more opportunities to get their music played on TV shows.
It’s become a very trendy thing to get the indie bands in films or shows like “One Tree Hill,” “The OC,” “Gossip Girl” and other shows and films. So the “small” guy is getting his or her opportunity right now. Because of that, major studios or major record labels and publishers are getting quite less money.
This trend is causing the majors to lower their licensing fees to be a little bit more competitive. It’s sort of a plus for filmmakers with a smaller budget.
What kind of music supervision can we expect from you in the future?
Music Supervisor Dominique Preyer: I’ve been seeking out television opportunities, and am currently working on a film that is slated for a Lifetime Network release. I’d also like to get into music supervising a weekly series or one of the HBO series. The process is a little bit different in television because TV works on a much faster pace with a short turnaround time and deadline.
Aside from that I would like to pursue perhaps some advertising opportunities and I would also like to do more documentaries. I love documentaries and I get intrigued by the story of a documentary. It feels very dynamic to me and has a real quality of some human life story that seems very fascinating.
About Dominique Preyer
Dominique Preyer has been a music supervisor on over 25 films in the US.
He offers music supervisor consulting services covering various aspects, including music clearance & licensing and music budgeting issues as well as contract/license agreement reviews, music conceptualization, composer selection, advice on hiring original music production teams, and music cue sheet generation.
Aside from that, Dominique is working on an in-depth workshop for filmmakers, composers, songwriters & musicians where he covers ‘Music Clearance & Licensing issues. For more information, please visit his company website at www.hearitclearit.com or http://www.spincyclefilms.com/dp/home.htm. Also check out his IMDB, LinkedIn profile or his film industry blog.