Velvet Ears is a boutique commercial audio library and consulting company that provides curated music and sound services largely to the film, television, and streaming industries. Co-founders Liz Gallacher and Kathleen Hasay started Velvet Ears in 2010, and, despite being based in London, the team decided to set up its office in Los Angeles to be near the epicenter of the film industry.
What Is a Commercial Audio Library?
A commercial audio library is a for-profit company that provides music and sound for a range of clients and brokers licensing and usage rights. Some audio libraries, such as TikTok’s Audio Library, provide advertisers and businesses with a selection of royalty-free, open source audio content to use exclusively on that platform.
Who Uses Audio Libraries?
Since the adoption of sound in “talkie” films, music and ambient sound have become integral components of cinematic storytelling, from taking on the role of masking unwanted sounds from noisy early film equipment to being “half of the cinematic experience.” Since the early days, music and sound have been more than an accompaniment. Soundtracks in media often drive sales and are at the heart of branding campaigns—and, at times, have become synonymous with the visual content. Can you imagine Rocky running up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum silently? His training milestone would not have been as glorious without the music. Today, filmmakers, television producers, content streamers, advertisers, and video game creators rely on audio for a range of projects, and specialty audio libraries can be vital resources.
Velvet Ears’ Services
Being a specialty library, Velvet Ears developed its collection to focus on “art-house, post-punk” offerings it describes as “dissonantly disruptive, avant-garde sound couture for the amphonically adventurous.” Velvet Ears has put out 60-plus albums, including 25 mixtape albums. Samples of its signature sounds are available at velvet-ears.com/music-library.
In addition to its catalog, Velvet Ears offers specialized information services—primarily audio-based research to the film, streaming, and television industries—as well as a full suite of licensing and rights negotiation services, along with creative content recommendations and musical engagements. Overall, the Velvet Ears library “aims to bring together all of the key artists, producers and song writers who dominate, inspire, and influence on their respective musical worlds [and the] … innovative library is tailored to fit the needs of the current audio-visual marketplace.”
Assisting in its market reach, Velvet Ears is distributed by an industry giant, Extreme Music—Sony’s production music division—and has firm toeholds in markets around the globe. Velvet Ears library assesses its clients’ audio project needs and connects them to key songwriters, producers, and musicians. Clients primarily originate from the film and television industries, but partners also seek out the Velvet Ears library for advertising projects.
Expertise and Projects
At Velvet Ears, Liz Gallacher brings decades of experience supervising music production on large-scale commercial films, documentaries, and television shows. With more than 150 completed projects, Gallacher’s credits include music supervision for films such as 24 Hour Party People, The Full Monty, and Resident Evil, as well as documentary films Belushi and Studio 54.
In addition to music supervision services, business partner Kathleen Hasay manages clearances and licensing. Hasay has a B.S. in music industry from the University of Southern California and has completed more than 50 projects, including work on the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove and recent Netflix documentary film Stutz.
What Do Music Supervisors Do?
A music supervisor pairs music with visual media such as films, television shows, advertisements, and video games and is a key member of the creative team collectively determining “the musical vision, tone and style that best suits [a] project.” Importantly, a music supervisor is also the liaison working between artists and companies to license music and make it legally available for projects.
The Guild of Music Supervisors was established in 2010 and provides professional development and education support for those in the field. The guild organizes conferences, produces educational webinars, and holds annual award ceremonies to honor and support its members. It outlines five key responsibilities of music supervisors:
- They identify music; collaborate with musicians, songwriters, and producers; and secure use rights.
- They communicate with media staff, production executives, and promoting partners.
- They accurately prepare budgets and deliver products at expected costs.
- They manage legal rights and licensing processes within scheduled time frames.
- Within a client’s best interest, they determine the viability of producing ancillary musical products, such as soundtracks, for additional revenue streams.
Effective music supervisors come to their work with an encyclopedic knowledge of music across musical genres and periods. They also possess a deep knowledge and understanding of film, as well as a thorough understanding of music licensing laws. Business negotiation skills, information research skills, and the ability to establish and grow networks in the film, television, and music industries are also essential to the success of a music supervisor.
Logistically, most music supervisors work in cities with a robust film industry, such as Los Angeles, New York, and London, or in cities with vibrant music scenes, such as Nashville, to facilitate work and to help them grow their professional networks.
Degree Programs for Music Supervision
Increasingly, more colleges and universities are offering specialized degrees in music production and related coursework. Leading schools and programs in the field of music supervision include the following: