"I'll never forget the first time I cleared Radiohead’s'How to Disappear Completely' for Roswell. It was a big moment for me."
HITS Talks to Alexandra Patsavas, Music Supervisor for The O.C. and Grey's Anatomy
Alexandra Patsavas' Chop Shop is one of the most highly sought after music supervision companies in the business, with clients like The O.C. and Grey¹s Anatomy, each of which has produced successful soundtrack compilations, as well as Rescue Me, Without a Trace, Shark, Supernatural, Boston Public and Carnivale, among others. The University of Illinois grad, who started out working for B-movie king Roger Corman, is a big indie-rock fan, bringing artists like Beck, U2, the Beastie Boys, Death Cab for Cutie, The Killers and Modest Mouse to network and cable television as well as feature films. This is the first in an ongoing series of dialogues with music supervisors as the “new gatekeepers.”

Where do you discover new music?
I¹ve been music supervising for so long that I must be on every list in the world. I devote at least one weekend day to listening to new music. I put on my headphones, go to iTunes and listen to stuff. I get new music from managers and labels from all over, whether it¹s Iceland or Sweden or Turkey. I go to live shows, read blogs and check out college fanzines. I was that kind of kid, so I know where to find those kinds of kids.

How important is TV in exposing new music to the public?
TV producers have decided that music is something they want to highlight, and I, of course, am thrilled because I¹ve always enjoyed discovering new music. The fact we have such adventurous producers that are interested in debuting acts and new songs has been great for me. They grew up fans, too. Years ago, bands felt that licensing their music to television whittled away at their cred, and that¹s just no longer the case.

How do you feel about the use of music in commercials?
I do music consulting for commercials myself. If bands are reaching an audience they might not reach any other way and fans are finding them through commercials, it can only be a good thing.

Are you open to working with label promotion people, publicists, publishers and artist managers in choosing music for your projects?
I¹m always open to dialogue. Whether it works is a whole other story. It behooves me to know the new bands being signed, the focus tracks being worked at radio, what songs are being used in certain ad campaigns. The more that I know, the more effective I can be. As a music supervisor, you bridge two industries, and it benefits me to know what¹s going on at every level. Whether it¹s what shows kids are going to, what unsigned bands are being pursued, as well as what a superstar group¹s next single will be. It's important to be able to present as much information as possible to our producers.

Music plays a major role in The O.C. and Grey¹s Anatomy.
Both have producers that always intended music to be an important part of the show, and that is reflected in how it¹s used and how much is used as well as setting aside a budget so we can achieve that. It¹s about commitment, just like a casting choice. Both shows have music-driven producers who love music.

The first episode of the current Grey¹s Anatomy season featured Mat Kearney’s “All I Need,” which was not only identified in the credits, but had an ad card picturing the album. Is that a future trend?
The WB has had ad cards since I did my first show, Roswell, there. The ad card is offered in exchange for a reduction in the master licensing fee. It depends on whether there¹s enough time at the end of the show to do it. It's a network decision, not a music supervisor decision, but it¹s always wonderful to be able to offer it to an artist.

What constitutes a song working for a particular moment within a TV show or movie?
When I find a certain song for a certain moment in an episode of television, it could be a lyric, or something that adds an emotional component to the scene. Sometimes, source music is simply source music, from a jukebox or a car radio. Some music achieves many different things. It all depends on what the scene requires.

Any distinction between doing music for a feature film as opposed to a TV series?
It's the same creative challenge. The difference is the time frame, which is extremely compressed in TV. For me, it¹s about working with the creative to define the sound for the project and to create a cohesiveness that helps tell the story. We are supporting what¹s already there with what, hopefully, are the best music choices possible.

How do you balance your own personal musical tastes against the demands of using music to support the production?
As a music supervisor, your personal taste is reflected in your song choices. But I worked on a show called Carnivale for HBO that was all pre-1935 music. When you have a project like that, you have to research and listen. Great music from any era or genre stands out. As a supervisor, you can appreciate the best tango, the best opera, the best Latin hip-hop… Indie rock may be my first love, but you¹re limiting yourself as a supervisor if you can only work within a very small genre.

Do you enjoy being involved in the development of new artists?
Definitely. It's so nice to help an artist as good as Mat [Kearney] reach a larger audience, but the songs speak for themselves.

Any other new acts you¹re working with now?
I love The Feeling, the Teddy Bears and the Pipettes at the moment.

Is there a particular job you¹re proudest of in your career?
I'll never forget the first time I cleared Radiohead’s “How to Disappear Completely” for Roswell. It was a big moment for me.

There have been successful soundtracks for both Grey’s Anatomy and a series of six albums for The O.C. Do you enjoy working on them?
It’s a real enjoyable part of the job. We work really closely with the producers to identify not only an incredibly listenable album, but one that can be a fan's companion piece to the show also. It¹s great fun to create the sequencing for a complete package.
The sounds of a brighter day to come? (1/15a)
Turnaround specialist becomes a music man. (1/15a)
Recalibrating for changing tastes. (1/15a)
As his song says, "Livin' the Dream." (1/14a)
A messy divorce nears its resolution. (1/15a)
Bring your umbrella.
After the snubs, the show.
It's the way all the biggest mob bosses did it.
When vaccination schedules and touring schedules meet.

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