In television and movies, the right music can make all the difference – even driving the narrative and emotion of a scene. One of the people in Hollywood responsible for creating that “synchronization” is Emma Rose Isely ’12, the senior director of film and TV synchronization at Universal Music Group in Santa Monica, California. Universal, the parent company of Def Jam Recordings, Island Records and Republic Records, counts the likes of Taylor Swift, Rihanna, The Killers, Shawn Mendes, the Jonas Brothers, Ariana Grande, the Weeknd and more on its roster.
In her job promoting frontline artists, Isely curates custom pitches for film, television and sports. Her work most recently was heard in the new season of Ginny & Georgia (Netflix), Grey’s Anatomy (ABC) and the Season 2 promos of Bel-Air (Peacock).
“To see something that I pitched being used in a show is the best feeling in the world,” she says. “To see it go up the chain of command – from the coordinator and music supervisor to the director and showrunner – is so fulfilling. It’s so cool to see a sync come to life.”
Most of the artists feel the same way, too, since one sync can often pay a year’s mortgage. It’s much more lucrative than streaming. (One million streams only comes to about $4,000.)
“Independent artists can make six figures a year if they have a great company pitching their music,” says Isely.
While the closest Isely got to a music career was singing in the church choir growing up in Clemson, South Carolina, curating music by burning playlists onto CDs was something she has always enjoyed.
“I just always loved music,” she says. “I just didn’t know that it could ever be a reality to work in music from a small town in South Carolina.”
Not until she came to CofC, anyway. But then she started taking music industry classes, like Music in the Marketplace, in the School of the Arts, where she helped create the College’s record label, 1770 Records. Shortly after graduating with an arts management degree in 2012, Isely and her two best friends from the College moved to Los Angeles. She started as a two-day-a-week licensing assistant at All Media Music Group and worked her way up to her post at Universal Music Group by 2019.
Along with her pup, Delia, and the latest self-help, finance and decision-making books, Isely lives in a 1920s bungalow in Hollywood that Paramount Studios stars once used as a dressing room. Although she hopes to come back to the College one day to teach a music business class, she did return to campus in early 2023 as a speaker in a class of her former music instructor, Heather Lee McDonald.
“Emma Rose’s talk was an inspiration for our students,” says McDonald, director of the music industry concentration within the Arts Management Program. “It was so exciting to see them connect the dots and start to envision what their lives in the music industry could really look like.”