Why Music Supervisors Don’t Listen To Your Music

Mind-Blown1By music branding and marketing specialist Andy Lykens.

Get a paper and pen. Just do it, it’ll totally be worth it. I’m about to blow your mind. Quick – tell me 3 people you want to listen to your music that you think will be able to put it in a commercial, film, or TV promo! Even if you’ve already contacted them, write down a name with a little space beneath to complete this exercise.

Done? Great! Now write down 3 things you said to persuade each person to listen to your music (they can all be similar or the same if you do a lot of copy/paste).

Easy, right?

Alright, now for each person list 3 things about them that have nothing to do with their job, or music.

Hmmm…alright, take some more time and think about it…times up!

Now, as fast as you can, write down 3 things you can do for that person based on their needs or wants!

If you can come up with 1 thing for that last one, I’ll give you props. But only if it isn’t ridiculous (like “give them a million dollars” or “cut them in on license fees they secure for me” – because that’s payola, and payola is illegal…unless you’re Clear Channel).

The above exercise should prove to you that your emails suck. “Me, me, me.” That’s what you write about. “Listen to this! Check that out! I’d LOVE for you to put my song in a commercial!”


Great. I’m sure there aren’t 100,000 other people out there sending the same thing.

However, if you’re far enough along to know who to contact and actually have gotten some contact info, you’re STILL ahead of the game, as sad as it is. But you need to know something and you need to PRACTICE and GET BETTER at it as soon as you can:

The music business, and life in general, doesn’t work the way you think it does.

You cannot just sell yourself cold. It’s a waste of time. If you don’t have a good relationship with someone, it’s really tough to break through and make a connection. Especially one strong enough where they have confidence and enough trust in you and your music that they’ll give it a real shot.

How many emails have you received from someone or some entity that you didn’t know or agree to take part in? How did it make you feel? Did you read it carefully and take action doing what they ask? No?! What a surprise!

Here’s a gigantic tip:

Find a genuine connection to EVERY person you want to listen to your music before you ask them to listen to it.


That is HUGE takeaway. Huge. You should read it again, think about it, write any immediate ideas that come to mind, and then read it again.

Is it coming full circle yet? Do you get it?

Music supervisors are inundated with requests from people they don’t know and therefore don’t care about every day. They are flooded with emails like the ones you’ll find here. What makes you different?

Do you think changing your wording or coming up with a better email subject line makes you better? Wrong.

What most music supervisors will tell you is that they want a ‘filter,’ someone or some entity that they know well who they can reach out to for their music needs. What you need is to either discover one of those filters and partner up with them, or look for pre-existing relationships that act as that filter for you.

Whatever you do, don’t write another crappy email. No one cares about the 8-word catch-phrase that sums up your music perfectly. Your album art is NOT good enough to get someone’s attention. Your 15MB attachment consisting of your amateur band photo, 1 sheet, and latest ‘single’ from 2 years ago? You guessed it. It couldn’t penetrate chocolate pudding.

Don’t get mad or frustrated – get smart. CHANGE your approach. Make yourself relevant to the person you’re contacting. Emphasize key elements that will filter you out from the crowds of morons or partner up with someone who can. The intelligent independent musician can find ways to make themselves valuable IMMEDIATELY. Sure, it takes work. Yes, you have to do more than copy and paste the same form email to 200 people. You’re better of sending 10 effective emails in an hour than 200 bogus ones.

Shape up. Get relevant, get genuine, and start focusing on the right things. You’ll find it goes a lot further than the lame attempts made by most everyone trying to get their music licensed.


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  1. This is a great post…and I loved the bit about saying it’s not Payola if it’s ClearChannel indulging in “pay for play” (totally digging the sarcasm!). I think it is important to build relationships with those filtering entities that music supervisors get in touch with. That way, the music supervisors are at least confident of the objectivity component of the music recommendation. As an artist, when you pitch your own music, no one is really going to think of you as being objective or unbiased.

  2. Great, great, GREAT points… just fantastic.
    If I have to read just ONE MORE lame email from some fourth-tier reggae label about how they’re a perfect fit for my company… ugh.
    I’m sending anyone who emails us their “I can produce anything you need” pitch a link to this article. Seriously. Keep it up, and thanks for spreading the truth.

  3. Never a truer word has been written, and it’s probably true in all sectors of the music business, not just licensing. Thanks.

  4. Hi Andy, great article. For some reason I am having trouble with the links contained in the article you refer to (on your blog). The links do not seem to be clickable (or the comment form). I don’t have this problem with the Home page or About page on your blog. I was trying to click on the picture of the second email to make it larger, because I couldn’t read the text. Thanks for the article though. Time to creative about relationships also, not just the music.

  5. i think a bit of blame should go out to the handful of music licensing experts going to the big seminars with organizations like ASCAP, and BMI that do theses keynotes and panels and tell all 300-600 artists there to go home and contact music supervisors.

  6. I sent a demo tape that included a vocal-bass of me doing Renaissance’s “A Song For All Seasons” to composer Michael Dunford in 1992. I’ve been promoting his music through my organization Song For All Seasons (www.groups.yahoo.com/group/songforallseasons) well before I even called it “Song For All Seasons”. It’s a shame he didn’t pay more attention, because now he’s dead :(.

  7. I also sent a copy of that tape to Keith Emerson. And to the young woman who would get me up to NYC (back in 1995 when it mattered)…and marry me :)!

  8. I respect what you’re sayin’ about sendin’ “crappy e-mails. But when I send an e-mail, I want a reply, crappy or not!!!! I figure, it costs me money, even more than U.S. postal service. My internet bill shows it!!!! I don’t care if you’re the President. When you get e-mails, they should be answered. E-mails are serious, business-related messages that deserve an answer. My time is as valuable as theirs is!!!! NO one is better than next person.

  9. Great article Andy. Richard Patterson, are you serious? Get over yourself. No one that’s really working in this industry has time to answer every email. You wouldn’t get anything else done!

  10. If you expect EVERY person you send an email to to reply, especially if it’s to a Music Supervisor, think again. These people, especially the better known higher placed ones, simply do not have the time to reply to the massive amounts of emails they get on a daily basis, mostly from musicians trying to break in. I couldn’t do it, I doubt you could either. I agree with what Andy is saying here. I’ve got my original music placed and still try to reach out to as many MS as I can to continue growing my base… and yes, I’ve been doing exactly what Andy is also suggesting here.
    You have to think of your music as your product and you are the salesman. The first rule of sales (having been sales manager and owner of my own companies) is when you get a meeting, you talk about “common ground” for the first five minutes. This is called the “Warm Up”. If they don’t warm up to you, they won’t trust you. If they don’t trust you they sure as hell won’t buy a thing from you… including your music and your pitch.
    So take the time. Send fewer emails that are sent after researching for a few minutes about who your target recipient(s) is and find some common ground so you can do the warm up in your first email. I’d put money on it that you’ll get more replies… nice ones as well, maybe even a few asking where they can hear your music.
    Best of luck.

  11. Yeah thanks a lot!! Even if it hurts a bit our ego, it’s necessary to hear that kind of stuff sometimes and give us new ideas to move forward with another approach!

  12. Excuse me ?? How many unsolicited emails, spam, junk mail, cold calls have you replied to ? Please disappear until you have reached the age of 10.

  13. Excuse me ?? How many unsolicited emails, spam, junk mail, cold calls have you replied to ? Please disappear until you have reached the age of 10.

  14. Great post, sir! As many folks have stated in comments, this applies in all aspects of the music industry, not just in licensing. In fact, this applies in all aspects of pretty much every relationship in life in general. No one wants to be around a “me, me, me” person, do they?

  15. Spot on! And same goes for artists who say they are so wonderful but don’t take the time to research the types of musicians I work with. For example we don’t rep Heavy Metal, yet those bands still approach us. All it takes is a glance at our roster first. Thanks for a great article.

  16. Honestly, sending out emails to companies does work.
    The problem with most emails is that they are written poorly. Reading a poorly constructed message makes the sender look less intelligent. Talent doesn’t matter of a person is perceived as having low intelligence.
    Also, most emails come off as begging for a deal. Senders never really tell a story with their messages. They just beg for the recipient to listen to music and contact them back. Recipients do not like begging, sob stories, or desperation.
    I have successfully used email campaigns for years to get new deals. Have I generated millions of dollars and partied with celebrities? No. But I have been able to find work and increase my music licensing income.
    What senders need to do is to ask about more information about the company and permission to submit music. Recipients do not mind giving a brief overview and letting senders know if music is accepted or not. Getting a rejection letter is actually a good thing. That means that someone has read your message and it has resonated with that person. The worst response is no response.
    Develop your message carefully. Tell a story. If you are bad at writing, pay someone to write a message for you. Never beg or complain. And always ask for permission to send material. These simple steps will at least help to get your messages read. If you have the talent, you may even get a deal or two.

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