Rufus Wainwright

I became a fan of Rufus Wainwright the moment my (then) 15-year-old self heard that rich, haunting warble of “my phone’s on vibrate for you” during an episode of Nip/Tuck. Since then I’ve heard his music pop up all over the place in film and TV, from Brokeback Mountain to The OC.  I’d say that he’s the first artist I discovered through a TV show that I’ve really come to love, so who better to dedicate my first artist-based blog post to.

Now I’m not exactly alone in my admiration for Rufus. Elton John has hailed him the “greatest living songwriter”, Michael Stipe claims he “stands next to Nina Simone”, and Martin Scorsese has dubbed him a “one-man Greek chorus.” But the strange thing is that, despite these accolades, he’s never quite achieved the huge commercial success that he deserves.

Born into his profession (his parents are folk singers Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III), he started touring with his family at the tender age of 13. And as you might imagine, the 40 years he’s lived so far have been anything but ordinary. He’s survived family conflict, being raped aged 14, and an addiction to crystal meth that left him temporary blind to become an unbelievably prolific artist.

So far Wainwright has released 7 studio albums, 2 live albums, a best of, written music to accompany Shakespeare’s sonnets, composed music for multiple films, toured extensively, performed Judy Garland’s famous Carnegie Hall concert several times, AND is in the process of writing his second opera. Yes, opera. I’m exhausted just writing about it.

But how to describe his music? Well that’s a tricky one, as he acknowledges in a recent interview with The Independent:

“I’ve always been a very peculiar artist; nobody can quite figure out where to put me.”

His music is more likely to make you cry than jump for joy, his deeply confessional lyrics lamenting over lost or unrequited love. But he’s also articulate and witty (a self-described “tragi-comedian”), and has been blessed with a voice that sounds like melted chocolate.

The song he composed for Brokeback Mountain, titled The Maker Makes, is not only my favourite Wainwright song, but also one of the most achingly beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard (just read the lyrics). Other highlights of his compositions featured in film/TV include Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk, Vibrate, and a stunning cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Speaking of Cohen, Wainwright recently fathered a baby with his daughter Lorca Cohen. Viva, now 3, is raised by Wainwright, his husband (the German art curator Jörn Weisbrodt), and her mother. With this upbringing I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we see her name on an album cover twenty years down the line..

Not one to shy away from the crowd, Wainwright describes his recent 40th birthday celebration as a “Rufus-avaganza”. Stupidly talented, unashamedly outspoken, and definitely a little bit bonkers, there probably isn’t a better word to describe his life.

Emma’s Rufus Wainwright Sync-tastic Playlist

1) Vibrate (Nip/Tuck)

2) The Maker Makes (Brokeback Mountain)

3) Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk (Last Kiss)

4) Hallelujah (Shrek)

5) Chelsea Hotel No. 2 (Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man)

6) Leaving for Paris (The OC)

7) He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother (Zoolander)

8) This Love Affair (Elle s’en va)

9) Complainte De La Butte (Moulin Rouge!)

10) Across The Universe (I Am Sam)

E x

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AIM’s Sync Conference 2014 – Part 2: The illustrious panel


Synchronisation Licensing Panel

Following on from Part 1 of AIM’s Sync Licensing event (found here) I bring you Part 2 – the Synchronisation Licensing panel discussion. Because it’s Monday and we’re all struggling to stay awake / read / remember our own names, I’ve narrowed my thoughts down to a manageable list.

But first of all, who are these beautiful and important people?

  • Andrea Madden – Music Supervisor for Made in Chelsea
  • Duncan Smith – Senior Music Supervisor at Sony Computers, London (Little Big Planet, Gran Turismo, Singstar)
  • Ed Bailie – Music Supervisor at Leland Music (John Lewis, O2, Hovis, Nike)
  • Simon Raymonde – owner of indie label Bella Union (Chair)
  • Matt Biffa – Music Supervisor at Cutting Edge Group (Harry Potter, Fresh Meat, Snatch)
  • Tara Austin – Senior Brand Planner at Ogilvy & Mather
  • Theo Seffusatti – Chief Executive of Warp Music Publishing
  • Thomas Golubić – Music Supervisor at Super Music Vision (Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Six Feet Under)


What Emma heard (and learnt):

1) Sync is a “weird process of seduction” 

As Matt explains, producers often only want well-known artists like The Who and Led Zeppelin, which can be tough on budgets and creativity. Thomas describes it as a “weird process of seduction” persuading them to use lesser-known tracks.

2) Artists have the right to say no (and quite rightly)

There’s always a risk that an artist won’t let you use their music. Tara once offered Brandon Flowers her bone marrow to use The Killers’ “Human” for a Dove advert and he still refused. Advertisers once tried to use Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” to promote haemorrhoid-relief products. Surprisingly this was turned down…

3) Publishers and labels should be respectful of time and budget constraints

Often a track has to be cleared in half a day. If labels/publishers respond and clear licenses quickly, music supervisors will always go back to them. They should also be transparent about the cost from day one. Time is everything – a quick no is always better than a drawn out maybe.

4) Music supervisors are very open to receiving music, just don’t be aggressive

As Thomas says, “if it’s thoughtful, contains metadata, effort and not presumptuous or aggressive it’s ok.” Offer streaming links as well as sending mp3s and Ed suggests adding useful tips like “try tracks 2, 5, and 7 first” if sending albums.  Don’t bother with CDs (but vinyl is a bonus according to Duncan). Matt will accept bribes in the form of toys for his kids.

5) Big games have huge budgets

Duncan explains that big games such as Gran Turismo will often have higher music budgets than tv shows, films, etc. They’re also looking for a more varied selection of music, depending on the territory (bigger acts are usually wanted for the US, whereas more unknown artists are sometimes preferred for Europe).

6) Matt Biffa likes to swear. A lot.

He also has great hair and impeccable dress sense.

7) Forge relationships

Email is good but Theo explains that meaningful relationships should be developed between music supervisors and labels, publishers, etc. Thomas agrees that events like this encourage this intimacy.

8) Music supervision is challenging

As Ed describes, “so many people have opinions and music is so subjective” so it’s basically about “pleasing a lot of people in a short amount of time.” Thomas says that “ultimately there’s a hierarchy and the music supervisor (unlike the actors) is replaceable.” Always fight for quality. Or try another job.

E x

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AIM’s Sync Conference 2014 – Part 1: Interview with Thomas Golubić

Tim Ingham interviewing Thomas Golubić

Tim Ingham interviewing Thomas Golubić

On Monday evening I headed to Proud Camden for AIM’s sync music conference. In addition to the obvious attraction, there were two words that led me to this event: Breaking. Bad. Yes, Thomas Golubić, music supervisor of this monumental show (and Six Feet Under, The Walking Dead, The Killing) was going to be interviewed. A mere blogger, I felt both excitement and trepidation for this night amongst music supervisor superstars.

The event kicked off with a welcome address from Steve Lewis of Synchtank, a man with quite the CV (ex Virgin Music & Chrysalis executive and founder of Stage Three). Next up was the star of the show being interviewed by Music Week’s editor Tim Ingham.

After a show of hands of Breaking Bad fans (98% of the room), Tim began by addressing the fact that music supervision isn’t exactly a career you’re told about at school. First a journalist and then a radio DJ for 10 years, Thomas explained that he only discovered the vocation about a week before he started. A champion of interesting new music, he was advised to look into A&R but knew he would “fail miserably because ultimately cool interesting bands don’t make any money.” He then stumbled upon music supervision and realized that he really liked the idea of “storytelling through music.”

Eloquent and modest (the guy’s been nominated for a Grammy twice), Thomas described Breaking Bad as the most difficult project he’d ever worked on. He was shown the pilot and found it “the most exciting hour of TV he’d ever seen”, but felt that the music was “trying too hard”. His own spin on the music is both subtle and outlandish, helping to emphasize those jaw-on-the-floor moments the show is known for. For example, the upbeat “Catch Yer Own Train” by Silver Seas is juxtaposed with a scene showing Walt sinking further into his life of crime and deceit. Thomas is getting into the character’s head – it may look bad to us but Walt is “having the best time of his life in a horrible way.”

As with any project of its kind, the budget and rights clearance were factors that proved a “constant challenge.” With only $20,000 allocated per Breaking Bad episode for music (compared to $200,000 on Six Feet Under), he had his work cut out.  He attributes this to the show being on AMC, a smaller network than giants like HBO, also suggesting that music was “perhaps overvalued in the past”, making his job all the more difficult. On the upside, I’d argue that these financial constraints must be partly responsible for Thomas’ wide and innovative choice of music.

A huge music geek at heart, he’s obviously passionate about what he does. Whilst he recognizes that sync licensing has the potential to break an artist, he says that his job isn’t to sell records. “Most sync licensing happens out of serendipity”, he explains, and the main purpose is to “tell a story”. If it helps an artist to succeed then great, but he advises bands not to put all their energy into getting a sync deal. For a man who fell into his profession and had to “wing it”, he’s done a pretty good job. He is either the jammiest or most talented music supervisor in the business, and after the last (incredibly insightful) 45 minutes I’m definitely leaning towards the latter….

E x

Expect part 2, a summary of the sync licensing panel discussion, very soon….

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Soho Music Event At Mother London

Last Thursday music supervisors Soho Music kindly invited me to their event downstairs at Mother London. I was pretty excited about this, not just because it was the first event I’ve been asked to attend as a blogger, but also because it was going to feature an acoustic performance from Mercury nominated artist Ghostpoet (AND there was a promise of pizza).

The venue (Mother London) is the UK’s largest independent ad agency, and the creative brainpower behind campaigns for Ikea, Boots, Money Supermarket (Snoop Dogg!) and many more. Soho Music puts on showcases in agencies every few months, ranging from lunchtime sessions to fully-fledged evening productions. Carly, one of the lovely team members explained why:

“It’s a great way to interact with our clients, and get people thinking about music in a really creative way. It’s also a great way to introduce agencies to new music and artists which we think are relevant to the brands they work with… and really, who doesn’t like a party!”

I arrived on the night to sound checking and a glorious aroma, as the Soho Music team appeared having raided Pizza East. After taking time to appreciate the agency interiors, complete with a wall of portraits of employees’ mothers (!!), I had a drink and introduced myself.

The gig was set up in a small room with an elephant’s bottom in one corner (yes, you heard me). Ghostpoet and his acoustic band, including a great female vocalist, began their set with ‘Cold Win’, an emotion fuelled track from his latest album Some Say I So I Say Light. Next up is ‘Them Waters’, a song about the Thames, and ‘Plastic Bag Brain’, my favourite so far with its catchy guitar hook. The man himself, born Obaro Ejimiwe, is funny and down to earth, addressing the room as ‘mum’ and ‘mama’. After several more songs, including ‘Survive it’ (his “mantra”), the band ended with ‘Meltdown’, a reflective track about the aftermath of a relationship.

After the gig we all headed for more drinks round the corner, and I had a brilliant time getting to know everyone. Interested in the work Soho Music had done recently, I asked Carly to tell me more:

“I think some of our favourite recent syncs would have to be the Schwartz ‘Sound Of Taste’ campaign we just finished working on with Grey, where we got MJ Cole to score a beautiful piece of piano music for the film. The music was actually written first, and the film shot around it – which is quite an unusual way to work. We are also very proud of the Coke #reasonstobelieve campaign we worked on. We found the song (You Got The Love) and talent (Milly Pye) for this, as well as licensing the music and overseeing the re record. It was great to be involved in so many aspects of the creative right from the very start.”

All in all I’d like to thank Soho Music and Ghostpoet for a fantastic evening!

E x

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Free the joy

With January finally over but rainy showers still ahead, we all need an excuse to “free the joy” in our lives. Cadbury’s new ad campaign, which encourages us to do just that, really couldn’t have come at a better time.

It’s a familiar scene – the working day is almost over, people are leaving the office, the cleaner has arrived, and yet logistics manager Keith is stuck on hold. Disheartened, he reaches for a pick-me-up in the form of a Cadbury Dairy Milk bar. At this point we see subtle hints of joy in Keith’s life yet to be released; his tie, the folders on the shelves, his socks (seen later), all in that unmistakable Cadbury’s shade of purple.

But it’s not until he turns up the hold music (Baccara’s ‘Yes Sir I Can Boogie’), flashes a cheeky grin and closes his eyes, that the joy in him is finally ignited. Mouthing the words and playing an air violin (my favourite part), he swivels and traverses around his office, making it near impossible not to boogie and grin along with him.

Famous advertising creative Paul Arden once said that “music is 50% of the script”, and in this case that is an understatement. I got the chance to speak to Elliot Harris, Creative Director at Fallon London (the agency responsible for the ad), who gave me an insight into the choice of song:

“We needed a big track to re-establish Cadbury on TV. They’ve got such an iconic past of big ads using music we wanted to get them back to that type of work. It also needed to be credible hold music and something that people may not immediately recognise but once it kicked in you were re-reminded of what a great tune it was.”

The specific choice of track was down to Tom Stanford, music supervisor at Platinum Rye, and Andy Tansey, creative sync manager at Sony Music. Speaking to Music Week, Tom describes how the brief was a very open ‘we’ll know it when we hear it’ kind of job. Andy sent him ‘Yes Sir I Can Boogie’, and immediately he knew they had found the perfect tune to send to the agency.

The ad is a refreshing departure from the previous Joyville campaign, and certainly the most uplifting since the drumming gorilla. As Elliot told me, the ad is about “releasing that joy that’s in all of us, sometimes it just needs a little nudge to come out.” The simple pleasure of hearing a long-forgotten yet great song does just that.

So I shall end with a request – that all companies out there change their hold music to a boogie-inspiring song (preferably from the 70s). Then we can all enjoy a Keith moment in our day.

E x

With very special thanks to Elliot Harris from Fallon London


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Woke up this morning

Ever get one of those days when you just want to consume? Sometimes it’s food, and sometimes, for me, it’s music. Well today is one of those days, and in the spirit of January I’ve opted for the latter carb-free option.

It all started with my new Christmas box set obsession: The Sopranos. I know I know, I’m about 10 years late to the party, but WHAT A SHOW. And the use of music is superb. 

Ranging from the mainstream to the obscure, the juxtaposition of sound and visuals is both inventive and effective. In any given episode you could hear a mixture of Bruce Springsteen (who’s E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt plays a major part in the show), Frank Sinatra, Mazzy Star, Shania Twain, and Giacomo Puccini. 

So whilst this blog post is not exactly of-the-moment, for me it’s a perfect example of how music should be used in a TV series. And I’ve spent the entire day (and most of this month) listening to that music. 

Each episode starts with the down-and-dirty bluesy theme tune ‘Woke Up This Morning’ (Chosen One Mix) by English band Alabama 3. With its gravelly vocals and cathartic gospel chorus, it perfectly prepares you for the nitty-gritty drama ahead.

Series creator David Chase is largely credited with selecting the music, explaining to Vanity Fair in 2003 how the episodes were usually shot before choosing the songs, although occasionally scenes were matched especially to pre-selected tracks. Whether it’s the Kinks’ ‘Living on a Thin Line’ playing whilst a soon-to-be-murdered stripper dances, or Otis Redding singing ‘My Lover’s Prayer’ whilst Adriana sits at Christopher’s bedside, there’s a perfect song for every moment. But the best is definitely saved till last.

Nick Lowe’s poignant ‘The Beast In Me’ closes the very first episode, helping his version to become as recognised as Johnny Cash’s. And ending on a high note, the last ever song to be played on The Sopranos is Journey’s classic ‘Don’t Stop Believing’. This exposure helped the song to become the biggest-ever catalogue track on digital platforms in 2008, with sales exceeding 2 million. Not even Tony Soprano could argue with that figure. 

My top 10 Sopranos playlist:

  • ‘Woke Up This Morning’ (Chosen One Mix) – Alabama 3 
  • ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Goin’ Down Slow’ – Howlin’ Wolf
  • ‘I’m A Man’ – Bo Diddley
  • ‘Frank Sinatra’ – Cake
  • ‘Look on Down From the Bridge’ –  Mazzy Star
  • ‘The Beast In Me’ – Nick Lowe
  • ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ – The Flamingos
  • ‘It Was A Very Good Year’ – Frank Sinatra
  • ‘Core ‘ngrato’ – Dominic Chianese version

E x


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Welcome to What Emma heard. Now I imagine you’re asking yourself “well, what did Emma hear??”  

I’ve decided to dedicate this blog to music that is used alongside some sort of visual media output (TV shows, ads, films, games, etc.).  A “sync”, as the music business calls it, is short for a synchronisation license, the license granted by the owner of the copyright of a piece of music, allowing it to be used in a visual context.

Sync is big business – the IFPI’s Recording Industry in Numbers 2013 report calculated that worldwide sync revenues hit $337 million in 2012. But more importantly, the potential promotional value of a sync can be astronomical for an artist. Getting your song on an advert, for example, can mean instantaneous worldwide exposure. Think José González and those Sony Bravia bouncing balls, Feist and the iPod Nano, or that drumming Gorilla…

And thanks to a magical contraption called Shazam, gone are the days when you have to scour online forums to learn which song was playing in that scene. Simply press a button and voila! During the nail-bitingly thrilling Breaking Bad finale last year, Shazam received 43,000 tags of Welsh band Badfinger’s Baby Blue. 5,000 copies of the song were sold in only a few hours, showing just how effective a sync can be in this digital age.

There’s no doubt that the combination of music and visuals can be psychologically powerful. Carter Burwell, composer of film scores including every Coen brothers film, says “music is the subliminal connecting adhesive in film.” As a music lover and avid TV/film watcher I want to explore this audio-visual relationship, and I hope to bring you the best, the worst, and the weirdest.

Stay tuned…..

E x 


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