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Meet Jennifer Smith of Rat Dance Party Music Supervision in Studio City / Sherman Oaks

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Smith.

Jennifer, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am an LA native so, like any Angeleno, storytelling is in my blood. I grew up watching classic films with my grandparents in the valley as well as watching and participating in live theatre, including dance. Music has always been a love of mine. I was that kid who would read the linear notes and lyrics. I would piece together stories for my mixtapes / CDs for any narrative of my world.

My high school theatre program at Claremont High was one of the top programs in the country, which helped expose and give me some amazing opportunities that started the foundation of my career. I was able to direct, produce, cast, build sets, act, breakdown scripts, run sound/lights, costume design, put together call sheets, and many more skills that have helped me. From there, I went to Whittier College and majored in theatre and communications. What I loved about the theatre program at Whittier was the study of the arts from production, characters, story breakdowns, and cultures. It was a more scholarship-oriented program.

I knew I wanted to work in entertainment my whole life. I wasn’t sure what aspect. I thought I wanted to work in casting, so I interned at a casting agency. I learned a lot, but it wasn’t the right fit for me. I was still unsure of the direction I wanted to take.

Right out of college though, I got a job working at a music clearance company that worked with many productions on their music needs. I had no idea what music supervision was or anything about the process of music in film and tv. I just knew I was smart, eager to learn, and I loved music. I learned so much there and was able to work with all types of productions from daily talk shows to indie films to major productions and everything in between and beyond. I was there when the modern TV revolution started. It was a great first job! It turns out – I found my calling. It fit me like a glove. I worked there for four years and then was poached to work in the synchronization department of an indie (at the time) called “Kobalt Music.”

While I was at Kobalt, I did supervise a few projects, but I realized that I had to make a choice, stay working with content full time, or explore this new opportunity. I decided to put my love for content storytellers to the side for a bit.

My time at Kobalt gave me skills that made me a stronger music supervisor. I call this time at the company my “master’s program.” Not only did I continue to grow my knowledge on the business side of music and licensing, but I was able to stretch my creative chops more. I pitched and placed songs from the Kobalt catalogue/roster in all media, and I got to work with music supervisors, production companies, and studios. I got to work with songwriters, producers, managers, and artists on creating songs for synch and helped with synch opportunities. I learned about the aspects of publishing, A&R, co-writing, performance rights organizations, and new media. Not only did I work from the publishing side, but I was able to work with the record label side of Kobalt which taught me about marketing plans, radio campaigns, data analysis, release plans, and other “label” skills. It is important to understand the full circle of the business and of synchronization in content. Even though I loved my job, I felt a void and missed working with producers, writers, studios, networks, and directors. I knew it was time to go home.

I left Kobalt when it grew to a major publisher and joined the music team for American Idol on its new network ABC for season 1 under the amazing music supervisor Robin Kaye. I felt at home and empowered. After season 1, I got a call to music supervise a new show. I realized it was time for me to make the jump to pursue my dream and Rat Dance Party Music Supervision was born.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
My career path has not been a smooth road. There were a lot of ups and downs. When I started in the industry, information was not as available as it is now. I did not know about the pay scales or “market value.” Just like a lot of women, I dealt with a lot of gender bias and situations that were not okay that harmed my mental health. I am so happy that in the modern landscape of the industry, the conversations and “policies” are starting to change. I am proud to be in this era and to be part of that change.

Music Supervision is not just “picking” songs that go into content. Music costs money. You have to be organized, solution-based, team-oriented, understand the legal rights that is needed to use a song, what rights the network/distribution needs for all deliverables including what they mean, have thick skin, understand union costs/issues, how to budget/spend the money, and much more. To read the full definition and responsibilities of the job that what a music supervisor does:

I am in my 30’s now, so looking back, I can appreciate my struggles. I learned a lot from my journey, and I am continuing to grow as a person and a professional. One thing that I have always done is to stay true to myself. No matter what people say to you or how they treat you, always follow your heart, gut, and who you are. I have never been a person to blend or “do what is cool,” I do not consider myself to be “cool,” I am just me. I named my company something 100% of who I am. I grew up with pet rats (I still have them). Ever since I was 5, I wake up and have a dance party with my rats.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Rat Dance Party Music Supervision story. Tell us more about the business.
Rat Dance Party is a music supervision and entertainment company. We assist new, rising, or established media companies, production companies, producers/showrunners/ directors bringing their vision to life through the character of sound while making sure all deliverables are correct and on time. Our passion is elevating the creative vision with the singularity of sound. We celebrate all types of characters and stories.

RDP also does consulting that gives an education aspect for managers and songwriters who want to take an active role in their career with sync from understanding how the process works, develop a strategy plan tailored to their needs, and learn how to communicate better with your record label, publisher, third party sync pitching company, and other partners. Each program is individually tailored. We are not a third-party synch pitching company.

One thing that I most proud of is how I am growing. My company had only started a year ago, and I am honored to be a team member on so different types of stories and characters. A lot of great stories that I worked on are coming out in 2020, also known as Year Of The Rat. I can’t wait to keep working with great projects in the future and learn from the teams that come with them.

What sets me apart is not just my experience and contacts, but my solution-based attitude, out of the box thinking, and chutzpah.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I wouldn’t use the word “luck.” I would have to say my life journey is how I got here. I come from an entrepreneur family (not in entertainment), so the dinner table was always a business school. My mom made sure my brother and I were exposed to the arts, where my love came from. She exposed us to all different types of art, stories, and culture. This upbringing had a huge influence on who I am today. I have always worked hard and hustled to make connections and learn new skills while staying true to myself and my values. My support system of family, friends, and colleagues have helped me grow as well. My biggest supporter is my husband, Scott. I know I couldn’t do this without him.

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