As an intense spotlight shines over Hollywood and the greater entertainment industry related to issues of parity when it comes to hiring practices, the Guild of Music Supervisors (GMS), whose board is made up of six women and five men, has proven to be the rare outlier.
And it’s not just the leadership, as its members are currently 42% female and 58% male, according to recent figures collected by third-party agency Untold. “We are super jazzed about our male/ female ratio,” says Madonna Wade- Reed, who serves as the guild’s vice president. “What other organization is almost at 50/50?”
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But what the GMS boasts in gender balance, it lacks in diversity, Wade-Reed, herself a woman of color, acknowledges. Armed with the figures — the guild is low in Latin, BIPOC and Asian representation, according to the Untold survey — work in this realm is high on the agenda, and Wade-Reed aims to forge ahead.
For starters, the guild formally announced a diversity, equity and inclusion committee in July 2020. Around that time, Friends of the Guild was also created as a way to encourage songwriters, music producers and musicians to connect with music supervisors and get involved in GMS activities. In addition, it offered access to those aspiring to become music supervisors who didn’t meet the guild criteria in the form of a “subscription” type entry that allowed everyone to have a seat at the table, including those who hadn’t reached freelance level.
“We created that in the spirit that there was never going to be ‘No,’ ” says Wade-Reed. “If we were a community that you wanted to be a part of because you wanted to grow a career in music supervision or you worked in an ancillary position, it allows anyone to be involved.”
GMS president Joel C. High recognizes the urgency of the issue. “Madonna and I work every day to help promote the craft of music supervision, and Madonna, in particular, has been unwavering in keeping diversity, equity and inclusion as the guiding principles on how we grow this organization we both love,” he says.
Wade-Reed is confident she can bring the receipts, looking ahead in 12 months’ time and committing to show that the GMS has made a change. More than 110 members have already volunteered to mentor up-and-coming music supervisors. “We’re going to put our heads down and do the work in our community and beef up those things,” she says.
Adds High: “This group of volunteers strives to lead by example and do good for the broad and collaborative community that are telling stories with music — and that includes representation and greater engagement with that community.”
To that end, music supervisors like Wade-Reed battle perception issues as well — in her case, she’s often pigeon- holed as someone who can only do “Black music.” Take one look at Wade-Reed’s resume, however, and you’ll find credits for over 47 titles, including “One Tree Hill” and “Smallville.” Currently working on CW’s “Batwoman” (pictured), Wade-Reed ponders, “Why does every comic book project open with an AC/DC song?”
As the guild aims to show, the way it’s long been done is not the way of the future.
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