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Become a Music Supervisor: Education and Career Roadmap

Music supervisors work with production teams to create tracks for TV, movies, ads or video games. They may negotiate with businesses or individuals about rights to music, and they also may edit music and compositions. These professionals are familiar with both the technical aspects of music and the way it interacts with multimedia.

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Step 1: Develop Musical Abilities

Because music supervisors should be able to recognize when a composition is good or fitting with a particular form of media, they may need to have some prior experience with music. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), musicians and composers often begin to develop musical abilities at an early age (www.bls.gov). They may learn to play instruments or sing in order to develop aural skills. They may also want to participate in choirs, musicals or community events in order to receive some background in the field.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring music supervisors may need to receive a bachelor's degree in order to be technically competent in both the musical and business aspects of this profession. Some relevant bachelor's degree programs focus on music business and management. These programs can provide business-related coursework in marketing, accounting, music publishing, music development and ethics. They may also provide core music classes like aural skills, tonal harmony and conducting.

Step 3: Get Internship and Work Experience

Internships can be beneficial for those who need to gain hands-on experience in picking appropriate music, finding contacts, clearing songs owned by companies or writers and understanding how to stay within the budgets of a project. Because of the multimedia nature of the job, those who want to work as music supervisors may want to intern for record, film, TV, radio or video game companies.

Some conservatories may be connected with these companies, and undergrad students may be a part of a mentoring program with more experienced music supervisors. Music supervisors may also want to work in academia, but they will have to pursue graduate-level degree programs.

In 2012, Berklee College of Music published a survey of music industry workers. The survey indicated that music supervisors typically are paid on a per-project basis, and payments vary by type of project. For example, the survey data showed that music supervisors who worked on television projects earned up to $5,000 per project, while music supervisors who worked on blockbuster feature films earned between $150,000 to $500,000 per film.

Step 4: Consider a Master's or Doctoral Degree

Music supervisors who are interested in teaching may want to pursue a master's degree. Some appropriate programs are those that concentrate on music business and offer coursework in business, music industry, entertainment industry, marketing and graduate-level seminars.

According to the BLS, many universities and conservatories require professors to have a Ph.D. degree. One example of a degree program can be in music technology. This program provides advanced coursework in music theory, composition, scoring and statistics. Typically, these programs require students to complete dissertations that address issues in music. Students may also need to complete teaching requirements. In May 2012, the BLS reported that postsecondary art, drama and music teachers earned a median annual salary of $62,160.

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