The press has called her “one of the most powerful gatekeepers in the entertainment business,” and indeed film and television music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, head of the Los Angeles-based firm Chop Shop Music Supervision, has become extraordinarily influential by choosing the music that has defined the signature sound of some of the most-watched television shows of the past 10 years, including Grey’s Anatomy, The O.C., Gossip Girl, Mad Men, Rescue Me, Private Practice, Chuck, Roswell, Boston Public, Carnivale, and Without A Trace.
Chop Shop’s clients, who include such high-profile producers as Josh Schwartz (The O.C., Chuck), Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice), Dennis Leary (Rescue Me), Matthew Weiner (The Sopranos, Mad Men), and McG (Supernatural, Fastlane), trust Patsavas’ musical instincts and uncanny ability to pair the right songs with the right scenes for maximum emotional impact. Her work has not only created many indelible moments in recent television drama, it has also reminded industry executives and TV viewers alike of how powerful music can be when employed in the context of a visual medium.
What is also notable about Patsavas is her consistent usage of music by lesser-known artists in her projects, an unflagging support that has propelled several emerging bands to platinum sales, including Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, and The Killers — who each performed live on The O.C.’s Bait Shop — and Snow Patrol, The Fray, and singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson, whose tracks, after being featured during key emotional scenes on Grey’s Anatomy, instantly jumped to the top of the digital sales charts. Though her intention is to serve the show and the scene, Patsavas’ willingness to introduce independent artists to the mainstream has also revived the importance of television as an international launching pad, earning her kudos from not only music fans but from the artists themselves.
It’s not surprising that Patsavas would turn to independent music to accent her shows. An indie-rock fan since her college days booking bands at the University of Illinois, Patsavas, a native of the Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn, also ran her own promotion business before moving to Los Angeles in 1990 to book acts for the talent agency Triad Artists, which was eventually sold to the William Morris Agency. Next up was a stint in the film/TV department of performing rights organization BMI — a job she credits as her first introduction to the world of merging music and film. Soon after, legendary B-movie director Roger Corman recruited Patsavas to supervise the music for the feature film Caged Heat 3000. She worked with Corman for two and half years, coordinating music for nearly 50 films.
In 1998, Patsavas formed Chop Shop Music Supervision, which she ran initially out of her Hollywood apartment. The company’s first projects included the indie feature film Happy Texas (and its soundtrack), and the WB’s sci-fi series Roswell, whose soundtrack — which featured songs by then-unknown British acts Coldplay, Dido, Travis, and Doves — laid the groundwork for Patsavas’ music-supervision style. In 2003, Josh Schwartz hired Chop Shop to supervise the music for his drama about SoCal teens, The O.C., which lasted for four seasons, but spawned six Patsavas-produced soundtrack mix CD’s chock full of indie favorites like Spoon, Interpol, Nada Surf, Imogen Heap, and Bell X1, as well as covers created specifically for the show, like Matt Pond PA’s version of Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova.” The six-volume series, “Music from The O.C.,” has sold nearly two million copies collectively according to Nielsen Soundscan. Patsavas has also produced three original soundtracks for Grey’s Anatomy. The second volume, which features the blockbuster hits “How to Save a Life” by The Fray and “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol, earned her a Grammy Award nomination for “Best Compilation Soundtrack Album” in 2006.
In 2007, Patsavas proved her versatility even further when she took on three stylistically diverse television shows, the CW’s Gossip Girl (a wildly popular series chronicling the lives of teen socialites in New York City), AMC’s critically acclaimed Mad Men (set at an advertising agency in 1960’s Manhattan), and NBC’s action-comedy series Chuck (about a computer geek-turned-government secret agent).
Also last year, Patsavas decided to capitalize on her success in discovering new talent when she inked a deal with Atlantic Records to form a new imprint, Chop Shop Records. A natural extension of her supervision business, the label has already signed three artists since announcing its existence in March: singer/songwriters Jade McNelis and Anya Marina, and experimental indie-pop band The Republic Tigers, who released their debut full-length for the label, Keep Color, in May 2008.
This year, Patsavas continues to supervise the music for new seasons of Gossip Girl (for which she is compiling a soundtrack album), Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Mad Men, Rescue Me, Chuck, Without a Trace, Supernatural, and Numb3rs. She is also the music supervisor for the Catherine Hardwicke-directed feature film Twilight, a romantic thriller based on the popular young-adult vampire novel, and due in theaters in December 2008.
In addition, Patsavas has partnered with Josh Schwartz to develop an original series for the newly announced interactive video network TheWB.com, a premium digital network being Beta launched in May by Warner Bros. Television. The as-yet-untitled series, to be set in the music world, will take viewers to the front of the line and behind the soundboard of a fictional Hollywood rock club, chronicling the lives and loves of the club’s employees, patrons, and musicians.
Patsavas has earned many accolades over the course of her career. She was dubbed Advertising Age’s “Entertainment Marketer of the Year” in 2006, included in The Los Angeles Times’ “West 100” (a list of the most powerful people in Southern California), named one of Variety‘s 50 honorees for their annual “Women’s Impact Report,” and featured as one of Billboard‘s “Top Women In Music.” Patsavas was also honored as “International Person of the Year” at a ceremony during the fourth annual MUSEXPO, an international music and media conference, in April. She has been profiled in Wired, The New York Times, Glamour, The New York Post, The Los Angeles Times, In Style, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Chicago Tribune, Elle, Jane, Billboard, Giant, and interviewed on CNBC and MTV.