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How Do Songs Get Picked for TV?


You probably heard the plea for a deal with God sometime this summer. Perhaps you’d encountered Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” years before, but suddenly the song’s devastation was back in your head, on the radio, and blaring across the living room from your sibling’s TikTok feed. Or maybe you discovered it for the first time while mainlining the latest batch of the 80s nostalgia-bait Netflix series Stranger Things, which wove Bush’s plaintive synth-pop classic throughout its fourth season, helping to send it to the top of the Billboard charts for weeks nearly 40 years after its initial release.


This phenomenon isn’t entirely new. Wayne’s World made “Bohemian Rhapsody” a bigger hit than it had been when Queen released it 16 years prior, and placement in both Slumdog Millionaire and Pineapple Express landed MIA’s “Paper Planes” near the top of the charts after months of obscurity. Ferris Bueller's Day Off even got “Twist and Shout” back on the charts.


Still, a belated boost in a song’s chart position after a sync - the industry term for use of music in film and TV - seems to be happening more often, and more powerfully. It’s a widely observed phenomenon, noted by Slate, Billboard, and The Ringer, probably attributable to the current ease of streaming old music, the amplificatory effects of social media, and TV’s recent dominance of the cultural center. (Streaming services’ ability to track every spin of a record, rather than the music industry’s old methods of measuring album purchases and radio play, also plays a major role.)


“Syncs are becoming a bigger part of the music industry than ever,” the Guardian wrote in July. If that is indeed the case, then might music supervisors - the relatively anonymous film and TV workers who get songs into shows - be emerging as some of the most powerful figures in the music business?


Check out the full article on Vice HERE.

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