Companies that connect songwriters and composers to music supervisors and production companies often enlist the part-time help of music screeners to assist the A&R department in finding suitable compositions to fulfill the needs of entertainment industry clients.
Music screeners are typically part-time employees who work on a contract basis with independent A&R companies, media advertising agencies, and other organizations that connect music makers with those interested in licensing their recorded work—for instance, a music supervisor seeking a background tune for a TV show title sequence. These individuals assist A&R professionals in listening to samples of work sent in by songwriters and their agents. Unlike record labels, which generally do not accept unsolicited material, these independent companies take in hundreds or thousands of demos every year. Music screeners sift through the submissions to identify songs that have the potential to fill a particular need for a specific client. When the screener lands on a possible match, he or she sends that demo to the A&R executive for further review and approval.
The workday is typically only two to four hours and consists entirely of sitting down at a computer or in a listening lounge with a set of headphones and listening to one pre-selected song after another. When listening for a specific project, the screener will be given instructions as to what characteristics and style are sought. He or she will be asked to record his or her impressions of the song and how closely it meets the criteria set forth. In some cases, the screener is simply listening to music that has recently been submitted and logging pertinent information concerning genre, style, voice, subject, etc. The job is similar to that of script readers for film studios and or manuscript readers at book publishers.
Skills & Education
A degree in music, recording arts, or music business is preferred, but not required. A music screener should have a vast knowledge and appreciation of different genres of music, as well as a keen ear for tonal quality and that “it” factor of a memorable tune. Courses in music history and composition are helpful. The gig is aurally stimulating at times, but finding a gem requires tolerating a lot of hack jobs. Not every song is a great listen, so the screener will have to exercise patience and persistence to stick with the job. The ability to intelligently communicate with your colleagues concerning the screened samples is an absolute necessity.
What to Expect
This is an entry-level position and is typically a temporary one that becomes available only a few times a year as music companies prepare to accept new clients and recruit new songwriters. Positions may also be available on a limited basis with agencies that represent songwriters and composers. Salaries and hours will vary greatly based on the employer, but individuals can make as much as $30 per hour, excellent income for those in need of extra cash, and it’s one way to make connections in the music business in preparation for a career. Like the mailroom, though, once you’re in the screener farm you’ll be itching to get out. It can be difficult to seek promotion from this position, but it is a great addition to a résumé if you want a job at a record label or music publishing house.
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