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Q&A on music placement with LEAH STREETMAN, VP of Strategic Alliances/Film & TV at Universal Republic - Dec 22, 2011

“While some [artists] are not into music licensing at all others really focus on it and want to know how they can make their songs better for licensing”

picture By capturing an audience that might otherwise not hear the song and providing an emotional context that heightens the music’s connection with the listener, a placement in a film or TV show can have a sizeable effect in broadening an artist’s fanbase. Its impact is such that it now plays an important role in a label’s marketing campaign for their artists. But who is responsible for getting these music placements on behalf of the artist and how does it actually work?

As part of a new Q&A series on music licensing VP of Strategic Alliances/Film & TV at Universal Republic Leah Streetman explains her role in securing placements for artists including Florence + The Machine, Lil Wayne and Colbie Caillat.

Firstly, can you briefly outline what your role as VP of Strategic Alliances/Film & TV actually entails and what are some of the artists you currently represent?

Sure, I oversee creative film/TV music placement for Universal Republic-- pitching our current releases for film, TV, promos, trailers, video games, and pretty much everything in between. Some of our roster includes Florence + the Machine, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Colbie Caillat, Enrique Iglesias, Amy Winehouse, and lots of amazing new artists like Mayer Hawthorne and Gotye.

How do you set about finding out about the projects that are looking for songs? Are the “strategic alliances” of your role title a significant factor in this?

There’s really no set method. It’s through a lot of research, cold calls and meetings ... All encounters are essentially to build strategic alliances, but I like to take what's in front of me and use it as the first building block.

When I'm working on placements I always try to expand on the basic sync and see what else can be done. How can I turn that initial music license into something more? That's the key to building a successful strategic alliance and gaining the maximum exposure.

How does the process work – do you have certain artists that you are looking to place songs for and then you seek out suitable projects, or do you get the project first from your partners and then try to identify the artist and the song that would be the best fit?

It really goes both ways. I love listening to the lyrics and trying to visualize it. Sometimes I hear a song or meet an artist and just know that they are right for a specific project or type of project and then I work to find a good place for them.

Other times the music supervisor will be looking for something very specific –lyrics, genre, tone, etc. – and I'll work to find the best possible option that could be a match for the spot they are looking to fill.

How much do you think beyond the musical suitability of a song to a project and into factors such as whether an artist matches the audience of a particular TV show or whether its use is appropriate for their image?

It's great when the artist fits in well with the vibe of a show, where I know that it will have a huge impact on their core audience. Though, it's somewhat more exciting when I can find an amazing placement that is unexpected, where the audience and the artist actually get to experience something new. But, I always want to stay true to the artist, and ultimately will only move forward if it’s a good look for them and their music.

Can you tell us some recent examples of where you were particularly happy with the placement of a song in terms of it being a great fit and having a positive effect on the artist’s career?

There was a trailer for the recent film The Big Year that featured the single ‘The Feeding Line’ from the Australian band, Boy & Bear. The timing for it was absolutely perfect! We were launching the single and the band was touring in the US. It doesn’t always work out like that, but when it does it’s magic.

I’m working on a big tie-in now for USA’s Covert Affairs with Florence + The Machine and Shazam. The timing is great and the process has been ideal. That one’s launching next week so I can tell you more about those results later.

But, when it’s something that happens easily, it usually has the best, most positive results because it was meant to be. I’ve spent a lot of torturous hours trying to make complicated projects work — the artist wants to do it, the label is into it, the network is thrilled, but for whatever reason the pieces just don’t quite fit together right. Those are generally the ones that don’t work out as well.

Is there always a strategy in terms of which of your artists you’re looking to place at a particular time?

Oh yes. Since I don’t specifically focus on our older catalogue music, my pitching is predominately timed during the launch and span of the current releases to help gain maximum exposure in tandem with the marketing department. So, if you are hearing something on the radio, reading press, or watching a TV show where the same music is featured, you will – or hopefully will – start connecting the dots.

On the occasions when I do have an older song that’s perfect for a pitch, I certainly won’t hold back on pitching it instead.

Given that TV and film licensing has become a very significant revenue stream for artists, have you found there is increasing awareness amongst your artists in considering how “licensable” their music is?

There is definitely a greater awareness now, but it varies from artist to artist. While some are not into licensing at all others really focus on it and want to know how they can make their songs better for licensing.

How can you make a song better for licensing?

My response is usually the same. Firstly, make the song easy to clear — ie. with no samples or multiple writers – and then make sure it has a positive message with a universal appeal. Good examples would be Kevin Rudolf’s ’Let It Rock’, Graham Colton’s ‘Best Days’ Colbie Caillat’s ‘Brighter Than The Sun’ or Florence + The Machine’s ‘Dog Days Are Over’. Those are all pretty right on!

interviewed by Barry Wheels

Read On ...

* The PRiMER looks at TV and film licensing
* MTV music super Greg Debonne on the money to be made from licensing
* Sony A&R Alex Hackford on video game licensing
* Music supervisor Peymon Maskan on curating the music for award-winning new film