Interview with SPRING ASPERS, music supervisor for All About The Benjamins, currently No.6 at the US Box Office - Mar 20, 2002
"Soundtracks have discovered new artists many times and unsigned as well."
Spring Aspers is Vice President of Soundtracks and Supervision at Island/Def Jam LA. She oversees all Island/Def Jam soundtracks, as well as doing music supervision for movies such as All About the Benjamins, Dr. Dolittle 2, The Whole Nine Yards, Next Friday, Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth.
How did you get started in the film, TV and music business, and how did you become a music supervisor?
I started out interning with Pilar McCurry at Sidewinder Music, which is a soundtrack company. Thatís where I learned the skills. I stayed there for a few years, and then I went out on my own. Pilar McCurry was an incredible mentor.
What qualities are needed to be a successful music supervisor?
You need to have knowledge of a very broad range of music. You have to be very organized and patient and you have to be a really strong communicator to build liaisons between different parties.
What experiences have been important to you in developing your skills as a music supervisor?
With every movie you learn something new. Iíve worked hard just starting from the ground up and it just continued to grow naturally. One thing is that when you get to work with the same people over and over, the trust factor is immediate and thatís a very efficient and enjoyable way to work. Having good working relationships is key. However, it is always exciting to work with different and new filmmakers.
What are you currently working on?
I just finished All About the Benjamins, and the next film Iím working on is Friday after Next, which is the third in the Ice Cube ďFridayĒ franchise.
Who are the people you work with when deciding what music will be used in a movie?
As far as the creative part, I usually work with the director and the producers. The film studio is also a huge factor and obviously you have to answer to record label concerns as well.
What creative challenges do you face when working with a movie?
The biggest creative challenge is to get the directorís vision across. Youíre not there to do it for yourself, youíre there to fill out a vision. Directors can see all the elements, they have an overall context and in a scene they might interpret the character one way and the music put on it might change that. So you have to make sure that you see what they see.
You supervise the music for movies, but you also try to place Island/Def Jam artists in other movies and TV shows for which you do not supervise the music - is that right?
Yes, I represent Island/Def Jam artists to the film and television community.
Does this experience of being on both sides of the fence help you?
Yes it does. It gives you flexibility to have a record label like Island/Def Jam where there are so many different kinds of artists and so many talented artists. Itís an amazing thing to be able to approach a project from so many different directions because you can find the best creative source.
You do A&R for all Island/Def Jam soundtrack albums, what does that part of your job include?
I keep my eye out for projects that have some sort of weight or interest for any of our artists. There are movies and TV shows that you look for that would be an amazing fit for what weíre doing at our label. We look for good projects to put our artists in.
How do you work to get your labelís artists music placed in movies?
We communicate with other music supervisors, with the film studios and basically just make sure that people are aware of what is happening at our record label. If we have a new release coming out, you make sure they get that. If we have a song weíre really excited about, you make sure that they feel it too.
How should a publisher or a record label go about placing a song of theirs on a movie that you are supervising?
They would just call me, and submit the song to me with their contact information.
Is it possible for an unsigned artist/act to get their song featured in a major movie?
Yes. Itís sometimes a big challenge, but I think that the cool thing about soundtracks is that youíre not limited to anything really. Soundtracks have discovered new artists many times and certainly unsigned artists as well.
How do you find them?
There are so many ways. Somebody might send you something that sounds great, or you might see somebody live who is really talented. Or you could find them through a publisher because maybe they have a publishing deal but do not have a record deal yet. There are so many ways; thereís not really one method.
Have you ever featured an unsigned artist's music?
Yes, I certainly have.
What resources do you use to find music for the movies you are working on?
I use every resource from the artists themselves to record labels to publishers to managers.
Do you accept unsolicited material?
What decides which record company will release the soundtrack?
Itís about what creatively fits. If a record company has the good artist for a film, then obviously you would go there. It could also be that you need some great country music and a particular record label has an amazing country catalogue. Itís logical for you to go for what the best creative home would be.
How much is paid in licensing fees when it comes to the music in movies, and what are these figures based on?
As far as fees go, there are certain standards but thereís nothing set in stone. Theyíre all based upon what people ask for versus the budget of the film. There are so many variables: Is the song a hit song? Are there samples in it? Is the artist unsigned? Etc.
If you order a song from a writer or producer, what input do you have on the writing and production of it?
At times you have to make sure that the song lyrically matches, so in that case you would help guide the theme that the song is about.
How much do you consider the potential sales of a soundtrack, when putting together the music for a movie?
Selling is always an issue because itís the music business, but itís really about making sure that the music fits your movie audience for a particular film. There should be an automatic appeal.
How common is it that the temp music actually ends up in the final movie?
It happens quite a bit. When youíve listened to something for that long, there are times when a director wants to keep it.
How do you think that DVD will change the aspects of the combination between music and movies?
As home theaters get better, you will definitely see that impacting the movie going experience. But ultimately I feel that nothing will ever replace that live interaction in a room with a bunch of other people. It will have a strong impact, but I donít see the movie going experience becoming obsolete.
If you could dramatically change some aspect of the film music industry, what would you do?
I would take away temp music because I think that composers should be given a clean slate to write music to.
What selections of music in movies you have worked on, and which are you happiest with?
I actually love working on the Ice Cube movies, he is such an incredibly smart individual. Another film I was really proud of working on was the documentary Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth. It was all Jazz music that Lenny would have listened to. I love all of the films Iíve worked on, but these films have been very meaningful to me.
What has been the greatest moment of your music career?
Maybe bringing my mom to one of my first movie premieres, that was great because she was proud!
What do you see yourself doing in 5-10 years?
Who knows? Iím open to all possibilities. I wasnít planning on doing this, so Lord knows where Iíll be ten years from now.
Interviewed by Jean-Francois Mean
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