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March 16, 2013

From SUNY Oneonta to CBS Sports

The Daily Star

---- — Some people say the music business is failing, but I don’t agree with that point of view. Neither does Joseph Miller.

Who is Joseph Miller?

Two years ago, Joseph was a student in my Legal Issues of the Music Industry class at the State University College at Oneonta. Today, he is the CBS Sports music coordinator, acting as an intermediary between producers and projects. He fields producers’ needs, getting music they need for their film and video projects. Joseph works with music libraries with whom he has professional relationships, and he “clears” other music needed by producers.

Joseph is a music supervisor for film and television. If you or one of your friends is considering a career in music, you’d probably like to know more about the job of a music supervisor?

A music supervisor helps the producer find music for the film or TV project under production and oversees creative placement of music for a picture. Joseph loves his work, and in case readers of this article would like to consider preparing for a career in music supervision, Joseph shared information that will be helpful.

Preparation for a Career in Music Supervision

Joseph chose a school that offered a program in music industry and learned about the business in his classes and after class, in conversation with many of his teachers. He served several internships that allowed him to make contacts within the music business and learn about the importance of a good office routine.

In college, Joseph learned about the music industry, but he also studied traditional music subjects such as music theory and performance.

He said, “I know music theory and I can play guitar. This training has helped me. When I’m in recording studios, I know what composers are talking about when they ask questions. I can tell them how the music should sound, and what music styles they should represent.”

“Some film people don’t know music theory ‘lingo,’ so they need to ask me to translate what they’re trying to say. This helps them to write a good description of what they need to send to various composers.”

Joseph also works in the CBS live broadcasting center. He reads scripts and picks music for a show that will air within a couple of hours. He processes cue sheets and sends them to CBS Operations, who send the cue sheets to the appropriate performance rights organizations, such as ASCAP and BMI, who will pay the owners of the music for the broadcast of that music.

Working as a Music Supervisor

To understand Joseph’s job, let’s take a moment to review some of the basic facts he learned in his Music Business program at school. When the producer of a film or television show wants to use music in his movie or TV show, the producer needs to get the right to use that music from the copyright owner of the music. The right to use the music for this purpose is called the “synchronization right,” or more often, the “synch right” for music that is synchronized with something visual like a film or video. If you are the composer of music that a film producer wants to use in his film, he must “clear” the right to use the music by getting your permission to “synchronize” your music with his film.   

Joseph Miller clears music for producers, but he offers additional service, as well. When Joseph learns that a film is in production, he will read the script, decide what music might be useful, and call the film producer to “pitch” certain pieces of music that Joseph feels would be good for the film. This saves time for the producer, since Joseph helps to choose AND to clear the music.

Joseph learns the budget a film producer has for music in the film and he provides music within that producer’s budget. One way to stay within the budget limits is not to use “covers,” that is, not to make new recordings of well-known songs. Instead, Joseph will use his relationships with music libraries to find music that reminds the listener of certain songs, but does not use the expensive popular songs. He finds music “in the style of” a famous songwriter. Joseph prefers to be involved from the beginning of a project by reading the script to understand what sort of music might be needed. He “spots” the rough cut with the director, meaning he looks at the initial version of the film and talks with the film director about how the music might help the film tell its story. He talks about where music might be used in the movie and what music to use to show what the characters are feeling. Joseph will suggest three or four songs for a scene in a movie and “audition” them with the director. He tailors the search for music by observing how the director reacts to each song. When a director decides what song he wants to use in a scene, Joseph “clears” the song by negotiating with the music publisher or copyright owner so the song can be used. 

Joseph works for CBS Sports, but his skills are also being used by Audiomine, a music licensing and custom music source for film, TV, advertising and other media outlets. He is also represented by an agent in Los Angeles, and he intends to start his own music supervision company soon.

He said it can be difficult to find new projects at the beginning stage of a career in music supervision. It’s important to gain credibility, to stand out from large numbers of other people who want to do the same job. “It takes long hours,” he said, “and very few people get rich being a music supervisor. It’s a long way to the top, and it’s important to know that up front to put things in perspective. “

Although working in music supervision can be very demanding, Joseph is happy to have chosen this profession. “It’s what I wanted to do for many years. It’s very rewarding to introduce a new song to a director who falls in love with it and acknowledges and appreciates your work even though you feel like it’s not a job. I like the hustle, the constant activity. I like meeting people, being very creative, figuring how to advance my career while I’m helping others.”

Dr. Janet Nepkie is a member of the music industry faculty in the music department of the State University College at Oneonta. Her columns can be found at



12 Music Industry Tips from Joseph Miller Always be sure to thank everyone who helped you get where you are today. Appreciate people. Always make sure the money you bring in makes more money for you. Invest it in other companies, other things that bring you more income. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know." Always find a way to have yourself stand out. Brand yourself as unique and original. Provide something of value, especially when you're cold pitching. Establish your network. Follow up and maintain a relationship. Don't call out of the blue and look for a handout. Speak your mind politely but firmly. Always be thinking outside of the box. If you see trends in different businesses, tie those in to your own business model. Get to know names of people and companies in the business. Get an internship, training. Always follow through on what you say you'll do. If you say you'll be someplace, be there. Be relentless and well-organized, thick skinned but humble. Expect to hear the word "no" many times, but don't think they didn't like you. Mostly, people go through their network first before they work with some one new. Attend every networking event you can, even if it's not specifically in music or entertainment. Say "yes" to every opportunity. If you'd like to ask Joseph Miller about music supervision, you can contact him at