Peer Review: Kayla Monetta

BUTTER Music and Sound‘s Music Supervisor/Head of A&R, Kayla Monetta, talks us through how a decade in the music industry can prepare you for the role and how learning how to get over song-attachment is an important job lesson.

Who are some contemporaries that you admire, and why?

Since my job is a mix of Music Supervision and A&R, I find myself working with a lot of sync licensing companies, labels, and publishers. A company I really admire is an independent sync licensing company called Low Profile. In my opinion, they are one of the most progressive companies when it comes to A&R signings, and the very artist-friendly deals they have with their artists. I hope that other companies will follow suit.

In terms of music supervision, I really look up to supervisors like Zack Cowie (Master of None), Brienne Rose (Russian Doll), and Mat Biffa (End of the F***ing World), to name a few. The music they selected for all three of these shows (for example) acted as almost another character itself in each episode. When music is able to take the place of dialogue successfully, you know that it works.

Please share 3-4 pieces of work that you think best embodies excellence in your profession, and explain why?

Aside from the above TV show standouts, there are a few memorable ads that had outstanding supervision recently. I think we can all remember Facebook’s Never Lost ad featuring Kae Tempest, with music supervision from Droga5. It serves as a perfect example of how music steps in as the main form of dialogue.

This might be an obvious pick, but it’s important to note that the Apple iPhone X commercial featuring Sofi Tukker pretty much changed the sound of advertising. To this day, brands are still looking for Sofi Tukker soundalikes due to this ad. I used to work at the band’s publishing company and saw first-hand how much this commercial changed the trajectory of their careers. A huge win for everyone.

What do you like most about the work that you do?

Right now my Music Supervision work is primarily rooted in commercial advertising. My goal is to always try to steer a client in the direction of licensing a track from an unknown or smaller artist so they receive enough money to keep them going, record another album, etc.

There are artists I have worked with in the past who have told me that a commercial I helped place their music in allowed them to quit their day job. That’s the best thing to hear for someone in a role like mine, and is ultimately why I do what I do.

What is the process for becoming a Music Supervisor/Head of A&R?

When I was younger and had dreams of becoming a Music Supervisor, I remember reading interviews exactly like this in hopes that it would help me navigate this often misunderstood and – at times – cliquey industry. My path to becoming a Music Supervisor and Head of A&R was definitely not conventional. I started my career interning at record labels, music PR companies and booking agencies. My early roles in the music industry included writing about music for Vice’s music channel Noisey, label marketing at Downtown Records and Cult Records, and doing PR for bands. I loved music and wanted to have well-rounded experience across multiple parts of the industry to understand the bigger picture.

I think it’s really important for people in roles like mine to have had industry experience on the artist or label side of things. There is a level of exploitation I have seen artists, unfortunately, have to endure due to working with people who have no idea what an album release actually entails. You hear this a lot, but for me, it really is all about who you know. I was able to shift into the world of licensing and supervision through my years of work and experience in the industry, and the trust I earned by working in various roles over the years with managers, labels, artists, etc. Also, a lot of cold emailing 🙂

What is one thing all Music Supervisor / Head of A&R’s need?

On a technical level, it’s a necessity to have close personal relationships with labels and publishers. In my opinion, it is also necessary to have Disco, the music software system most music supervisors use. It’s completely changed the game with receiving files and organizing millions of songs. I would truly die without it.

On an emotional level, patience and a flexible ego. A lot of people glorify the role of a Music Supervisor as this crazy creative job where you get to listen and curate music all day. I would say that is 50% of the job, on a good day. The bulk of the work involves negotiating fees within the budget you are given to work with, and in some cases, educating the client on how music supervision and licensing works. This requires a lot of patience. There are also times where you can get so attached to a song you present to the director or client that they end up not selecting it; this is where having a flexible ego (or losing it entirely) is a necessity.

Did you have a mentor? Who was it?

I’ve had a handful of mentor figures who have helped me throughout my career, and I feel very lucky they happen to be women. One person who really took a chance on me was Natalie Cervelli, who previously oversaw all ad licensing at Third Side Publishing. I was very eager to work there and learn about licensing, and she really took a chance on me and taught me the ins and outs of the business.

Some companies are structured in ways that don’t necessarily incentivize employees to expand beyond the scope of their job descriptions, but Natalie really made it a point to teach me how everything worked, and even shared clients with me. This type of mentorship is rare, and I hope I can one day want to pay it forward to someone else who is hungry to break into the industry.


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