Music Supervisor Sarah GaviganSarah Gavigan has placed literally thousands of indie and unsigned artists to TV ads.

She has been in the commercial production industry since 1995. In 2000, Gavigan created Ten Music, the first company to represent independent record labels and artists to advertisers for music licensing. Recently, she built HANK (, the first online music supervisor. Gavigan has licensed music to well over 1000 commercials for such companies as Adidas, Nike, Nissan, Hummer, Target, Microsoft, Old Navy, and Payless Shoes.

In her 20 year career she has been an Agent, founded the first company to represent Indie Artists to Advertisers for licensing, taught at a University, and consulted for Labels and Publishers all over the world on music licensing.

She is founder/author of the groundbreaking online educational resource Get Your Music Licensed and has created a unique online community as the platform to share her insight and expertise on the notoriously hard to access music licensing industry.

Sarah is a wealth of knowledge and an industry mover and shaker you should know about!

Interviewing Sarah was something I looked forward to as I am a fan of her work! Not only the music she picks but also the fact that she has played such an important role in indie music getting licensed. She offers a fantastic online course and has also taught at UCLA. Considering I interview people for the sake of sharing knowledge and insight into this industry, Sarah was a perfect fit for my interviews! Thanks again Sarah for answering my nosy questions and sharing your insights. Aaron Bethune.

Interview with Sarah Gavigan

PILM: How did you get started in the music industry?

S: I was a talent agent, representing cinematographers and set designers for music videos and commercials. I got started in commercial production, or ‘short form’ production, and really enjoyed it. It was fast and furious, and I loved the creativity came along with that. The pace is much different than the full length film world. Along the way I began representing a team of directors from Iceland, who also happened to be signed to Warner Music called “Gus Gus”. Through working with them, I began meeting Indie musicians, such as Thievery Corporation, who took an interest in my position in the business. They wanted to know how to get their music licensed in a commercial. They asked me to represent them, and I said, “What the heck, I have no idea what iam doing…but lets do it!”. Eventually, we kept throwing out the bait, and then landed a much bigger fish than we ever thought. The business was ripe to license independent music, and that is how my company ten Music was born. That’s how I got into music licensing. My company was the first company to represent Indie Labels and Publishers to advertisers, to offer music supervisors for commercials. Music Supervisors in advertising didn’t exist in 2000.

PILM: How can an artist find out about a project that needs music?

S: That’s not really the best way of going about getting your music licensed, that’s more of the second step. The first step is making connections and relationships with the right people. Its almost impossible for an individual or artist to get in on a project, blindly. You have to earn the trust of a music Supervisor first. Build a relationship, and, then dig in for the specific projects. When a music supervisor hears something we might use, we drop it into our database for another search. The band or individual might not get the call right away, but you are in the database.

PILM: What does a perfect email from an artist look like from a Music Supervisors point of view?

S: Short and sweet. I’m not looking for your bio, tour dates or the brag sheet; none of that matters. Quick descriptions and the song is all I’m looking for, and if the song has the attributes we need for commercials, we go from there. A link to the song where I can choose to either stream or download is preferable and 128k quality is fine for the initial step; if we are interested and want more, we will contact you and get a higher quality file or the .wav file. I prefer

PILM: Is there any room for negotiation regarding budget once a supervisor has contacted a band or group and said “ we want to use your song”?

S: I think its important to ask why you want to negotiate. One of the most important things musicians need to know is what their music is worth; once you know what its worth, you may not need to negotiate! Some artists are willing to give away their music for almost nothing in order to create that buzz. Other musicians aren’t because it isn’t about the buzz for them at that point, its about selling a proven product, and they won’t go below a certain number. If you get an offer and you aren’t sure, ask around and get some comparable licensing fees. Know what the licenses are worth before you start negotiating! For example, something I tell my students is that if you get approached by a music supervisor, find out how far along in completion their project is; that alone will tell you how badly they need your music! In this sense its a bit of a chess game, and its important to know how to play if you want to be successful in negotiating. Its in the artist’s best interest to ask questions, and not just blindly agree and say yes.

PILM: What are the terms of a license that musicians should be aware of?

S: This is one of the most important things for musicians to be well versed in. For example, if exclusivity isn’t in the agreement, and after the fact, they said ‘By the way, we want exclusivity’, and you agree, well, exclusivity can be worth a lot of money. Knowing these terms is just as important as getting your music out there. The terms basically are the time period, the territory, the usage and exclusivity. You should know some of the basic terminology used, such as MFN, or most favored nations, which means that each side gets is paid the same amount as pursuant to their percentage of ownership.

PILM: What are some things to avoid when you get a chance to speak with a music supervisor?

S: Don’t ask if we’ve listened to your music! That is an automatic, and we wouldn’t be talking if we hadn’t already. When you speak with a music supervisor, that is your time to be a good marketer, and gauge us, and use that to stand out and leave an impression on us. Be creative!

PILM: What are some of the differences in licensing between different media? For example, TV and film vs commercials?

S: One big difference in ad’s (commercials), is they don’t want anything polarizing. This is why you don’t often hear much pop music in ad’s. Take the show Entourage; you wouldn’t hear a good majority of the music from that show on an ad. Ads are all about telling a story in 30 seconds…very rarely is that time not quirky, funny or heart tugging. In dramatic work, you have a myriad of other emotions in play, so naturally there is a greater variety of music used in Film TV and other media.

PILM: Where do you see the future of music licensing going, with more and more indie bands and artists realizing that the DIY approach to licensing can be worth a fair bit of money?

S: If a musician is smart, they need to see past the money; they need to see a strategy. Am I a performing musician? Am I a non-touring musician? Is it the money, or the exposure? If you get that big placement, how will you get that message out to your fans? What is your distribution channel? Consider everything and use it to create a strategy for getting your music licensed the same way you would if you were going to promote a single to radio…carefully and deliberatley A Sync license is one of the largest platforms for distribution piece of music can get. Like radio, the power lies in the repetition; I may not like a song the first time, but after the 100th time its probably going to be in my head regardless.

PILM: I have one more question for you. How do you get heard above the noise?

S: First, the music HAS to be licensable. If you haven’t done your homework, you shut the door before you have a chance. Start with the basics, build relationships, that will get you heard. Simple songs are good; if a song is complicated it very rarely will get into big time licensing.

If you would like to learn more about Sarah, send her your music or take her online course please visit her websites here:

Aaron Bethune