Without running the Jazz Oasis show on WERS, Meghan Currier ’06 feels she never would have become a music supervisor for movies directed by Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Todd Phillips, and more.
“Had I not had that experience, I wouldn’t have got that assistant booking agent job in New York City,” said Currier, who majored in Sound Design for theatre and film. “I was knocking on jazz club doors, and was willing to even get a hostess job. I was hired on the spot because I said I had interviewed Regina Carter [for WERS]. Had I not had Jazz Oasis, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Full stop.”
As a jazz novice, Currier came to love the genre, diving deeper into learning not just the greats, like Miles Davis or Louis Armstrong. She eventually managed four people, created weekly content, talked to performers and scheduled them to come in and play live.
While working at the storied Birdland Jazz Club in New York, she was also making playlists for restaurants, helping friends with their projects, and doing commercials on the side. Getting paid to make playlists was also due to her WERS experience.
“The first time I ever made a playlist for a restaurant, I was working and living at Emerson, working at WERS. Up towards Fenway there were some restaurants and the general manger called me at WERS and asked me to make a six-hour playlist for them,” said Currier. She then approached more restaurants, and made specific playlists that fit the mood of the lunchtime crowd, cocktail crowd, and more.
Currier went on to work at Creative Arts Agency (CAA), helping with contracts for major musical outfits. She was grateful for the work, but it was too corporate, and she was considering going to grad school.
Knowing Currier’s career interests, her boss recommended she speak with a music editor about the job, and that music editor made the introduction to Randall Poster, which changed the trajectory of her career.
At the time, Poster, who is known as a prominent music supervisor for the entertainment industry, was working on the second season of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, and he hired Currier in 2011 to work with him as a music supervisor.
“I had never been on a film set. I learned really quickly, sort of the ins and outs, and subtleties of doing music supervision by being around him, and being in the recording studio, and on set,” said Currier.
Currier has continued to work with Poster, and his Search Party company recently merged with Premier Music Group. She also does independent work on the side.
In her role with Premier, she figures out the musical landscape of any project. Her work may include selecting pre-existing songs, recording new material with current artists or studio musicians, and hiring composers. Sometimes she works with the casting department so on-camera musical scenes look authentic, and not just like an actor pretending to play the piano.
Currier said she has met famous directors such as Wes Anderson and Martin Scorsese, but it’s Poster who is the forward-facing point with them.
“When I’m working with [Poster] I take on more of the licensing and negotiations role, or recording sessions and helping put real musicians on camera, and tracking down some obscure piece of music that Wes [Anderson] wants,” said Currier. “I was working on The Grand Budapest Hotel and there was this one song of a particular group he wanted. I was on the phone with [a friend] who spoke Russian, and doesn’t know the entertainment industry, but was helping me translate [for] an expert from Russia [who was helping me locate the music Wes wanted]. I dig down a lot of rabbit holes.”
Directors like Anderson may have very specific music in mind for movies and scenes, and other directors may need more assistance in selecting music. Whether it’s a Scorsese or a lesser known director, Currier is always balancing multiple projects and their different budgets.
She said part of the balancing is managing the director’s expectations, particularly when it comes to budgetary concerns
“A lot of people think I have the coolest job, and yes to an extent, but it’s also taking into account your budget, and what will legally be cleared,” said Currier. “Oftentimes, [let’s say] I want to clear a … song, and I know it’s going to be crazy expensive. Even if [the artist] approve[s] it, I have to give them the scene and give them a synopsis of the [film or show], and what the scene is. Often people say no due to not wanting the song involved with drug use, sex, or violence.”
That’s all part of the negotiations, and picking music that is suitable for the scene and the budget. She said that balancing act is a key to being a good music supervisor.
“You have to be extremely flexible. You have to be a good listener and a good communicator. I think you need to leave your ego at the door, and at the end of the day you’re hired to service someone else’s vision,” said Currier. “Sometimes you don’t necessarily agree with an editor or director and you’re like, ‘No, no, no. Can we try something else to consider?’ And sometimes by butting heads you land somewhere really interesting.”
As for Currier’s advice to students interested in music supervision, she recommends they just knock on doors like she did to get started, push for informational meetings, and get their feet wet by getting involved with projects, no matter the size.
“I was working on tiny pharmaceutical commercials. Just do anything to get experience. And be creative about it. There are so many different ways to approach filmmaking, it doesn’t need to be traditional. Filmmaking isn’t traditional. The bolder the better,” said Currier.