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Whats the difference between a music supervisor, music editor, temp score, and temp music

What's the Difference Between a Music Editor, Music Supervisor, Temp Music, and Temp Score?

What's the difference between temp music and, well, music? Why would anyone hire a music supervisor? What do composers do if you already have a music supervisor? These are all common questions that get submitted to us during the feedback process. This article helps answer those questions: 

Temp Music

Temporary music is any music in your unfinished edit (AKA offline-cut) to which the rights have not been purchased yet.  Films of all budget levels depend on the editor or assistant editor to cut in temp music. Producers will buy the rights only after the picture is considered “locked” to make sure that only buying what is actually being used in the movie. At that point the music is no longer temp.

Though the law is not our specialty at EditStock, we believe it is legally ok to use any temp music you want in your unfinished edit as a placeholder. The rights that producers purchase are called synchronization rights, and master use rights.

Temp Score

Temp score is music from the soundtracks of other movies that editors cuts in their unfinished edits. Usually the temp score is from a film of the same genre that the editor is working on. Cutting an action movie? Make sure you have the soundtracks to the Borne movies.

Unlike temp music, temp score from another movie's soundtrack can almost never become the finished music. This is because of licensing rights. Most producers will include in the composer's contract that they cannot resell the score so that no other movie sounds the same as theirs. At picture lock the editor will send their cut, full of temp score, to the new composer who will replace it all with original score. The composer will likely use the temp score to know what mood and key moments the editor was looking to highlight.  

Music Supervisor

A music supervisor is a person who licenses music for the producer, makes suggestions to the editor for temp music, and finds replacements for final music.

One thing music supervisors are really good as is finding sound-alikes. A sound-alike is a song that sounds similar to a famous song, but is much cheaper to license. Let's suppose you as the editor temp in a famous song written by The Beatles. The music supervisor let's you know that to license use of that song would cost $1 million dollars. A music supervisor might be able to find a song that sounds really similar (sound-alike) but only costs $100! This happens A LOT. While the production is paying the music supervisor a salary which is obviously a cost, the production is ultimately saving money if the music supervisor finds them a great sound-alike. 

Music supervisors have big networks of musicians and music libraries. With a big network a music supervisor might be able to call up the rights holder to that Beatles song and get it for cheap ($100,000?!). Great relationships will get you hired! 

Music Editor

Finally we have the music editor. A music editor is the person who smooths all the music out, cuts in replacement songs, and sound mixes songs before they go to the mixing stage. A music editor is exactly what it sounds like, the editor (just like the film editor) but only of the music. Sometimes productions will even have music editors working on the unfinished cut. 

Final Word

Some editors love cutting in temp, others hate it, but it is an important skill for all editors to master. Music editing is also an "invisible art" and picture editors should appreciate it, and approach it with the same respect they do their picture cuts. 


  • Colette Treece

    This was very helpful. Thanks!

  • James Walker

    How does one go about pursuing a license or education to BE a music supervisor/temp music editor?

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