While music is already an important factor to a film's overall success, having the right songs for the right moments counts even more. In some cases, the songs used in a film are written specifically for that film, and are easier to match to the film's tone and tempo. The harder scenario is when you pick a song that exists outside of the film, causing your music supervisor to spend precious budget money on a track that might not even play completely within the film. Varsity Blues was one of those films that fell into the latter category, and you wouldn't believe how much it cost to use an AC/DC song for one pivotal scene.
Variety's Artisans series sat down with several music supervisors from some of the most musically iconic films in recent memory. When the panel was asked about the most amount of money they'd ever spent on a track for film usage, the answer was $500,000 for the usage of AC/DC's Thunderstruck in the following scene from Varsity Blues.
Thomas Golubic, the music supervisor for Varsity Blues, as well as Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, recounted how he was surprised the James Van Der Beek vehicle actually had the money to spend on the song. This started a discussion on how music supervision budgets aren't really that big to begin with. This can be problematic for a film that really wants to embody a particular time period in its songs, but Golubic had a piece of advice for directors who want to make a time specific film sound exactly as it should.
"If we're going to have a film that's going to be musically intensive, let's plan ahead. Why don't you hire the supervisor early so we can talk about how we can do this? We can research, get real numbers, so when we put it in front of you it's not an impossible task."
You can give the full video a watch below, as it provides a lot of interesting insight.
Music supervisors are one of those unsung heroes of movie making that do an important job, and aren't really recognized for it as often as they should be. Even in television production, the selection (and maintenance) of music clearances is vital to a show retaining its original aesthetic, which is why you'll see shows like The Wonder Years or Malcolm In The Middle have had a hard time finding their way to DVD in their original form.
At the end of the day, a music supervisor helps paint the picture of any film or show as effectively as any actor, director, writer, or crew member does on the set. After all, even if you spend half a million dollars on an AC/DC song in your high school football movie, people are at the very least going to have something to sing on the way home from the movies. Though if one song was worth $500,000; it must have been a hell of a deal Jon Favreau made to give Iron Man 2 an entire soundtrack of tunes from the band!