When it comes to teen TV dramas, sometimes it’s the soundtrack that makes the show, and Spinning Out is no exception.
*photo from IMDB
I’m decidedly not a teen, but I’ve been addicted to my fair share of young adult television, and one thing I have always enjoyed is the care and attention paid to the shows’ soundtracks. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The OC, Veronica Mars, Gossip Girl, Riverdale and beyond, these soundtracks launched the careers of hundreds of artists, both as background music to the action to showcasing them on screen themselves, when a band or artist came into the story. As a music loving teenager and now adult, I’ve always been fascinated with the marriage between music and film and television, and I always take note when a soundtrack is particularly awesome. Which brings me to the new Netflix drama Spinning Out and its own buzzworthy soundtrack.
Featuring a mix of independent, established and powerhouse artists and bands from a cornucopia of genres, Spinning Out ‘s soundtrack has been getting attention all over the internet. Lucky for me, I happen to be pals with one of the people behind these attention grabbing assembly of tracks, who definitely needs to be recognized. Meet Dondrea Erauw, music supervisor with instinct entertainment.
She shared some insider info on the Spinning Out soundtrack and what her job is really all about. Take a read below!
Congratulations on creating such a buzzworthy soundtrack! What has it been like reading all the accolades your work has received?
Thank you so much! I have to extend a big thank you to Michael Perlmutter too, as he allowed me to spearhead this one on behalf of instinct, I’m so honored.
Hearing about all of the positive feedback the soundtrack has been getting is so wonderful. There is an overwhelming amount of content out there, so you never know what people are going to gravitate towards or respond to, but we’re all pleased to hear the show is getting traction. I feel really lucky to have been a part of this project, and the fact that anyone is paying attention to the music at all, has me totally enamored.
Can you share a bit of your planning process when it comes to your work as a music supervisor on a show like Spinning Out?
A lot of planning went into this series. Not only were we compiling general music for the show, but we were pre-clearing all of the skating pieces that were written in the scripts. We worked with both the choreographer (Sarah Kawahara) and the show-runner (Samantha Stratton) on all of that.
Before even getting hired on the show, we read the pilot and put together a general playlist for Samantha. At instinct, we like to do that for all of the shows we interview for.
We want the show-runners to get a good sense of our style and to see what we could creatively bring to the table. I also knew that the series took place in Idaho, so I did a ton of digging on local and surrounding Idaho artists to try and find diegetic music for locations, such as bars & restaurants.
Once we’re hired on a project, I like to send a brief to the record labels, music publishers and third-party licensors we regularly work with to see what kind of submissions we can get. We give them the overall genre, tone, general fees and list of inspired artists to go off of, and we collect from there. I then send a mixture of wish-list songs & submissions to the picture editors to hopefully have them assemble the songs into the episodes!
As a Music Supervisor, your goal is to tap into the show-runner’s creative vision and help curate the music palette of their dreams. Samantha has great taste in music and a lot of the artists we initially sent her in that first playlist were artists we ended up featuring in the series; (i.e – The Beths, Adia Victoria, Amen Dunes, The Barr Brothers, Sharon Van Etten & Rainbow Kitten Surprise).
It’s crazy because I started working on Spinning Out back in January of 2019 and did a bunch of research prior to that. I’m also still doing paperwork, a year later, so the process overall can be quite long. It tends to be that way on most TV series.
What is something that you wish people knew about music supervision, and the work involved in creating a soundtrack like this one?
A lot of people assume that music supervisors listen to music and make playlists all day. And that’s definitely part of our job, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
At instinct, we are involved in every aspect from day one, including reading scripts, pre-clearing songs, sending songs to editors, negotiating fees, managing our client’s expectations, balancing the budget and doing all of the clearance and paperwork.
There was also such an overwhelming amount of music in this series, that I ended up working closely with our incredibly talented and patient music editor (Robert ‘Radar’ Hegedus), to ensure that we had proper edits for all the scenes that required music alts. Ultimately, that meant I was working a lot in pro-tools, (thank you to Fanshawe’s Music Industry Arts program for prepping me on that one 😉).
Music Supervision means you have to be super organized, detail oriented and communicative. You also have to be an excellent multitasker and quick to problem solve.
This soundtrack is so varied, with classical music, pop songs, classic rock. What inspired you to choose the songs that you chose?
Most, if not all of the classical skating pieces were written in the script. The show-runner used to be a competitive figure skater herself, so she mentioned early on which pieces she was hoping to use. The edgy Americana & Alternative Rock was a direction both the show-runner and us at instinct mutually felt worked for the show. Not only because of the location, but also because of [main character] Kat’s overall characteristics. She’s misunderstood in a way and truly wants to succeed as an athlete, despite her mental state. We loved the idea of using strong female vocals and songs that had a bit of grit and edginess to them.
We also got to use some surrounding Idaho artists such as Casey Kristofferson and Old Death Whisper in the background of the bar scenes.
In episode 105, Samantha was looking for a fun, hip and up-coming band to play in the college bar. We pitched a few bands from the surrounding Toronto area because the show was shot in southern Ontario. We ended up using Monowhales and they appear three times, with a total of five separate uses. It was really fun having them in the series, they killed it!
But honestly, a lot of the artists we licensed in the show are bands I’m actually a fan of and ones I listen to in my downtime. What a dream!
What was the most challenging aspect of your work on Spinning Out?
The most challenging thing about working on this series was managing expectations based on what our overall budget was. There were some songs we just couldn’t license based on dollars alone, and it can be pretty heartbreaking having to be the bearer of bad news in those circumstances.
When your client writes a certain scene with a specific song in mind, you know they’ve always dreamed about it being that one song, so you want to do your best to land it for them. We always try to get a quote or negotiate a fee on their behalf, but sometimes there are really huge songs that easily cost the amount of the entire episodic music budget. So, it’s our responsibility to balance all of that. Plus, I was licensing on average, anywhere from 10-25 songs an episode, so it was a lot to manage and stay on top of.
What do you think would surprise folks the most to learn about this project?
I think people would be surprised to know how much work goes into clearing songs for a show of this caliber. Spinning Out is very music heavy and it was a lot to balance. We not only cleared the feature songs you hear, but there were a ton of diegetic songs like piano playing in the lodge lobby, or music on the radio in the background of the doctor’s office that you wouldn’t even think about.
We also worked closely with the choreographer (which was new for me). We’d pitch Samantha and Sarah some classical masters and once we nailed the right recording down, Sarah would recommend a music edit, and then teach the actors and the stunt doubles the choreography. All of that music had to be approved and pre-cleared before they even started shooting.
Also, Brendan Canning and Ohad Benchetrit from Broken Social Scene scored the series, and I’ve been a long-time fan of that band. Sixteen-year old Dondrea wouldn’t have believed you if you told her that she’d one day work on a show with them.
Do you have a favorite track that you placed in the show?
I really loved the Sharon Van Etten use in 101, as well as the Amen Dunes song, “Believe” at the end of 103. I’m also a huge Bleached and Gena Rose Bruce fan, so I was really excited that they both made it into the show.
However, I think the one I’m the MOST proud of was the song at the end of episode 104, where Kat and Justin set aside their differences and skate together on the pond. The song is called “All In” by Sun Airway.
Initially, we had another Romeo & Juliet piece there, (which was written in the script). We received a note to try a contemporary artist with lyrics instead. I had very little time to find a needle-in-the-haystack replacement song.
When a scene like this has already been mixed and edited to a specific song, you have to keep in mind the tempo, as well as the cuts, lifts, dips, and moments where they look into each other’s eyes. We also had a third character; Marcus, who catches them skating on the pond. Which meant we also had to score his reaction. The song we were looking for couldn’t be too fast, or too slow. It also couldn’t be too romantic or too mellow.
We must have gone through hundreds of tracks and I think I spent the entirety of 3 days editing different ideas together.
But Sun Airway was a last-minute addition. I came across the song on Spotify a week or so prior, and I loved the propelling beat. It felt romantic, without overselling it. Plus, the lyrics were perfect for the scene: “Once you said you loved me, you never said it twice. All in good faith, all in good time.” Which kind of foreshadows their past and future relationship.
I lost sleep over this one, but it was all worth it in the end. I really do think it was the perfect song for this scene.
What advice do you have for budding or aspiring music supervisors who may be inspired by this soundtrack and your work?
I would say if this is truly something you feel destined to do, get as much licensing, copyright and creative experience as you can. Try working at a record label, publisher or even third-party licensor so you can pitch to other music supervisors.
Educate yourself as much as you can on the legal aspect of our world, because it’s honestly 70% of the job. Also, you need to live in a city where productions take place, (i.e. Toronto, Los Angeles, New York, Vancouver etc). You really want to surround yourself with the music / film / television communities and get your name out there as much as possible. If you have a friend who is making shorts or features, offer to help them with the music.
Music Supervisors tend to get hired because of their experience, as well as their connections and relationships to the record labels and music publishers. Getting to know who is licensing the music at these companies is equally as important as having great taste in music.
Listen to the Spinning Out Soundtrack yourself on Spotify here.