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Q & A Session with Tim Bickford, Music Supervisor for Firstcom Music

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During the course of my music journalism internship with SoSoActive, Kelland asked that I conduct one or more interviews with someone who happens to work in my desired career field of music supervision. I reached out to a handful of companies and received a few responses back from people wanting to share their story with me. Among them was Tim Bickford, a music supervisor who works for Firstcom Music. I was inspired by his responses and hope to someday be able to fill shoes like his one day!

 

Tell us about yourself? 

“I grew up in Hampton Bays on Long Island, started playing piano in the 1st grade, picked up the saxophone in 3rd grade, and began playing the guitar in high school.   I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston majoring in Music Business and Management while continuing to study guitar.  In my Senior Year, I landed a Film/TV internship with BMG Music Publishing in Los Angeles.  Upon graduation, I was hired full-time by BMG to do copyright administration.  After getting my fill of the copyright world, I transitioned over to FirstCom Music’s Film/TV department where I am currently the Los Angeles Music Supervisor.”

 What brought you to FirstCom Music?  

“Being able to make the move from copyright administration to Film/TV was a major draw.  The chance to work with a catalog as deep as FirstCom’s and for a company as established in the industry as FirstCom was an opportunity I could not pass up.”

How long have you been working as a music supervisor? 

“I’ve been working professionally in the music industry for over 7 years.  I’ve been with FirstCom for over 5 years and have officially had the title of Music Supervisor for over 1 year.”

Have you had other jobs within the industry?

 

“I was Copyright Administrator for BMG Music Publishing for a year and a half.  From there I served as the Film/TV Coordinator for FirstCom Music before being promoted to Music Supervisor.”

As a music supervisor, what do your day to day responsibilities consist of?  

Here is a basic overview of my daily responsibilities:

  • Handle incoming music searches as well as custom music pulls for FTV clientele
  • Actively work with Film/TV department to better service and grow the client database
  • Stay up to date on music trends
  • Create custom music for clients when applicable
  • Work with Executive Producer to provide feedback and analysis as to what musical genre or style would be most useful for FTV clients and strengthen the library in future releases
  • Identify and work to facilitate alternative methods of reaching out to the Film/TV clients i.e. mobile media, suggested playlists, etc…
  • Attend local industry functions as necessary to represent FirstCom to the Film / TV and music industries
  • Work with Film/TV department organizing and planning special events such as client mixers, FirstCom parties, and other social gatherings

What is the hardest part about being a music supervisor?

“Finding the right song for the scene.  It’s like putting together a puzzle – it doesn’t feel right until you find the one piece that fits.”

FirstCom Music has a huge library, is there specific criteria that a band and or artist must possess in order to be added to this catalog? In other words, what are you looking for?  

“Quality – It has to sound like it could be played on the radio today.  Our clients expect top quality music from us and that is all we will consider putting our name on.”

 What is your favorite part about being a music supervisor?  

“Placing the perfect piece of music with the perfect piece of film.  When you find that right track and everything clicks, it’s just such a satisfying feeling. I also love thinking outside of the box musically.  If there isn’t a track in our library that exactly fits the bill, which elements can I resource and combine to get the job done?”

Do you have any advice for those looking to become a music supervisor? What level of education do you recommend? Industry experience and or workshops to be most beneficial?

“A college degree that is music intensive would be most beneficial in my opinion.  I’ve found being a musician gives me much greater depth and understanding in my work.  A lot of times clients are not musicians and are not musically inclined… having that knowledge allows me to interpret and make sense out of what they are trying to express.  I try to listen to what the client is asking for in a big picture sense.  It’s not only about determining what their requests are on the surface, it’s about digging deeper, recognizing how they need to go from point A to point B, and how I can help them get there.  Aside from understanding the musical requirements, it is equally important to have knowledge of music licensing.  As far as industry workshops or experience – get an internship in a field you would like to work in, that will serve you better than any workshop or seminar you could attend.  The music industry is all about relationships.  Establishing and building those connections is the most important thing you can do.  An internship is the best way to jump start that process.”

How has the digital age changed your job?

“I can’t speak in too much depth about this question since I’ve primarily worked in the digital age.  That being said, the farther we have gotten away from physical discs, the easier life has become to find and access music.  Having our entire catalog available in a searchable database allows for faster and more accurate searching by clients and myself.”