Alex Patsavas: The Industry's Premier Music Supervisor on Choosing Songs for TV and Movies (Q&A)

Hitmakers Alex Patsavas - P 2013
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Hitmakers Alex Patsavas - P 2013

The curator of the music for the "Twilight" franchise, new film "Warm Bodies" and such TV series as "Mad Men" and "The Carrie Diaries" is inseparable from her target audience.

Nearly two decades into her career, pioneering music supervisor Alex Patsavas still doesn’t distinguish between work and play, and for a very good reason: The curator of the music for the Twilight franchise, the new film Warm Bodies and such TV series as Mad Men, Grey’s Anatomy and The O.C. is inseparable from her target audience. “I’m a TV watcher, I’m a woman in my 40s and I grew up listening to modern music,” she explains.

Patsavas has shown impeccable taste and judgment while essentially serving as a filter for potentially appealing new music, and the debuting CW series The Carrie Diaries, set in the mid-’80s, has enabled her to come full circle as an inveterate music fan. “I get to pitch a lot of songs that I was attached to in high school, so it’s really fun,” she says. What’s more, a series of covers slated for the show pairing up-and-coming bands and vintage songs gives her the opportunity to connect her teenage passions to her current ones.

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Patsavas’ other focus at the moment is her Chop Shop label, which she has just moved from Atlantic Records to Universal Music. But her primary function -- “introducing acts to an audience that may not discover them otherwise” -- hasn’t changed over the years. “There’s also that special thing of pairing a song to characters and a storyline that audiences are invested in,” Patsavas points out. “That factor can’t be ignored, because it creates an atmosphere of receptivity.”

The Hollywood Reporter: You’ve been doing music supervision since its infancy, really. How has your job changed over that time?

Patsavas: Perhaps it’s just me, but not as much as you might think. In some ways, [providing music for groundbreaking series like Roswell and The O.C.] was the beginning of music supervisors being able to use a lot of current music on television, and that happened for a couple of reasons. Producers were interested in new music and supervisors were able to pitch that music, but also, technology changed our ability to clear things quickly. And artists themselves became open to music in television because producers were using it so lovingly and intelligently. So that shifted. When I started, a lot of artists didn’t feel great about TV, and that’s certainly not the case now.

THR: The current cliche is TV is the new radio.

Patsavas: I don’t think that’s true, to be honest. It’s a different entity entirely. But I do spend a lot of time speaking with the producers about the audience -- who’s watching the show.

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THR: Do you tweet?

Patsavas: Yes, I tweet not only about bands on the roster, but also something special that might be happening in a TV or film project. I have a great staff of people that have been with me a long time, and we definitely try to reach the people that might follow us. We introduce songs of the day that have nothing to do with the label, and albums and all sorts of cultural touchstones.

THR: Purely as a fan, have you heard anything lately that you love?

Patsavas: One of the bands that’s on the label I believe in a great deal, and that’s Milo Green. And I also am a fan of a band called Lucius.

THR: What’s the most recent track that you’ve championed that has had some chart success?

Patsavas: I have no idea [laughs]. It’s interesting to look at Twitter and see some of our Facebook followers the day after an episode has aired or a movie has come out. Certain things certainly resonate, but I don’t actually keep track as much as the labels do. 

Twitter: @THRMusic