Music supervision as a storytelling tool in film and the emergence of the Birdsong Project
In an exclusive interview with Billboard, Randall Poster, the renowned music supervisor and creative director of Premier Music, provides a detailed overview of the complex world of music supervision. As a key collaborator of acclaimed director Wes Anderson, Poster sheds light on the misconceptions surrounding his role and emphasizes the importance of directors’ involvement in selecting the right music for their films. Additionally, Poster shares insights into his daily routine, navigating the catalog sales boom, and the challenges he faces in dealing with music companies.
Poster emphasizes that he sees himself as a filmmaker rather than solely a person responsible for selecting music. His goal is to use music as a powerful tool to enhance storytelling, complement the narrative, and establish a seamless connection between the visuals and the audience. Contrary to popular belief, Poster clarifies that he doesn’t personally choose the music for films. Instead, he collaborates closely with directors, engaging in extensive conversations to ensure the music aligns with their vision. Poster asserts that leaving the audience raving about the music alone is not a true victory; the ultimate goal is for the music to seamlessly blend into the fabric of the movie.
A Day in the Life of a Music Supervisor
Poster provides an inside look into his daily responsibilities as a music supervisor. His tasks range from ensuring the necessary rights for songs, testing different songs against scenes in movies, negotiating prices with record companies and publishers, reaching out to artists and managers for potential new music, reviewing cues from composers, and curating playlists for directors. He highlights the importance of feedback from directors and editors to strike the right balance of music in a film, sometimes advocating for silence as a powerful element.
Addressing the recent surge in catalog sales, Poster discusses the challenges it poses to music supervisors. While certain catalogs offer flexibility in licensing, larger corporate acquisitions often limit the options due to their substantial investments. Despite this, Poster acknowledges that film placements can introduce new audiences to older artists, potentially redefining their perception and creating a renewed interest in their music.
Reflecting on the synch business’s enormous size, Poster reveals that he receives numerous pitches. However, he emphasizes that his priority is finding the right music for a specific project rather than doing favors for personal connections. While he carefully considers all recommendations, he remains committed to maintaining the integrity of his work and ensuring the perfect musical fit for each film.
Poster shares his diverse methods of discovering new music, ranging from social media exploration to recommendations from artists and his own daughters, who share a passion for music. He explains how the Birdsong Project, his pandemic-inspired venture, emerged as a collaborative effort with his artist friends. By creating music inspired by birdsong, Poster aimed to raise awareness about avian life and the challenges they face. The Birdsong Project resulted in the release of For the Birds, a 20-album box set featuring contributions from various artists and poets. Poster describes the project as liberating, allowing artists the freedom to create without strict editorial guidance.
Looking ahead, Poster envisions the Birdsong Project being embraced by the music community, similar to the TJ Martell Foundation. He plans to expand collaborations with other labels and curate a Birdsong concert, fostering a sense of community and shared passion for protecting birds. In concluding the interview, Poster encourages aspiring music supervisors to find their contemporaries in the film industry and actively participate in creating and telling stories through music. He emphasizes the importance of resilience and maintaining a balanced approach when faced with directorial decisions.
Randall Poster’s dedication to his craft and his passion for utilizing music as a storytelling tool continue to shape the landscape of music supervision in the film industry.