How to get a music sync deal with ITV's Hayley Smith

ITV's Love Island music supervisor Hayley Smith gives us her advice for new artists looking to get their music synced...


Love it or loathe it, 'Love Island' is one of TV’s most popular shows, dominating the summer viewing schedule.

With a gargantuan audience, getting your music played on the show can be a career changing move. Not only in terms of being discovered but sync deals can also be a lucrative income stream for a new artist. But how can you make them happen?

ITV’s Hayley Smith works as part of the team behind the show’s soundtrack so knows a thing or two about how programmes pick their music. We were able to track her down to discover how new artists can increase their chances of landing that all important sync and how the team behind 'Love Island' select music for the show…

What skills do you need to be successful as a music supervisor? 

Working in television is very fast paced and with some of the entertainment shows I work on the turnaround time is instantaneous. So I think it’s important to be patient and organised but also to have the ability to manage a heavy workload against time pressures.

You’re constantly meeting different people whether from record labels, management companies or part of the production team so good communication skills are a must!"

Ultimately a good ear and an interest in music are invaluable as you’re constantly undertaking music searches and listening to the hundreds of tracks each week.

What's been keeping you busy at ITV with music projects? I guess ‘Love Island’ is a big undertaking? 

‘Love Island’ has been a beast! It realistically takes up almost half of my year so I am kept very busy by it. I started the preparation back in April as the show requires so much music and they essentially have 24-36 hours to make each night’s episode.

Due to this short edit window we prepare for every possible scenario music-wise. We work closely with the series producers on the lead-up and provide them with a hard drive filled with thousands and thousands of pre-cleared commercial tracks."

We also go on a hunt for new and lesser known artists which is a main contributing factor for the reputation that now surrounds the 'Love Island' soundtrack. Social media was going absolutely mad for it this year and a lot of the hype was down to the stripped-back versions and covers that have become distinguishable to the show.

How can new artists best prepare to pitch to a music supervisor? 

I receive hundreds of tracks from various different artists and unfortunately there aren’t enough hours in the day to get through them all. Think about the style of music the show uses and make extra certain that what you’re sending reflects that.

I would include no more than five of your tracks as a ‘sampler’, give a brief introduction to yourself and your music and it’s always great to mention some other artists that you may be compared to. Finally, it’s important to have all of the copyright information to hand so your music can be cleared for use efficiently.

What do you look for when searching for new music to use in a show? How does the process work? 

It completely depends on the brief. I work primarily with entertainment shows so my common go to is ‘current chart music’. I absolutely love finding alternative and less obvious choices though, so I enjoy going on the hunt for artists that haven’t quite made it yet. I will often speak to my contacts at labels as they are usually one step ahead and can provide a great selection for us to work with.                                                                                                          

And how does new music find its way to you? 

I'm constantly being sent music from record labels, publishers and music libraries so we are never short of new music. When I’m carrying out more specific searches I can either go directly to the labels with a brief and they will send over playlists filled with options, or I can make these playlists myself.

I use Spotify a lot for discovering new music. The ‘Release Radar’ and ‘Discover Weekly’ playlists are so helpful and I also use the ‘related artists’ feature constantly." 

On top of that, I’m frequently at gigs and festivals...

If you had one piece of advice for new artists looking to place their music, what would you say?

Network! This industry is all about making contacts and you’ll often find that music supervisors will go with artists that they like and can rely on. Attend regular networking events - I know that AIM hold a yearly sync conference and it may also be a good idea to become a member of the Guild of Music Supervisors so you can stay up to date with everything sync.   

Are there any common mistakes that new artists or their teams make when trying to get their music on TV shows/synced? 

It’s a tough industry to crack and a saturated market so I get it - but persistence isn’t always key.

A common mistake I see fairly regularly is pitching music that doesn’t quite fit the brief and then continuing to push it for what are maybe the wrong reasons." 

I always appreciate when a bit of research into the show has been undertaken beforehand.  

Are there any new areas of sync that can be particularly lucrative for an artist? 

Brand partnerships. This can involve many different layers of support from a brand, as well as the music being synced itself. There have been some huge successful campaigns - one noticeably being the Years & Years and Samsung partnership. This not only gave music fans access to the first ever live gig streamed in VR, but it brought the music industry and virtual worlds closer together.

Visit to find out more. 

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by Jim Ottewill
August 28, 2018
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