While Emmy Award-winning comedy Ted Lasso has captured the hearts of millions of fans for its warmth and the humanity of the title character, played by the show’s co-creator Jason Sudeikis, the series’ music has become a surprisingly important character.
Whether it’s AFC Richmond owner Rebecca Welton belting out Frozen’s “Let It Go” at karaoke as she deals with the fallout from her divorce or The Rolling Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow” becoming a major plot point in an episode or even Rick Rolling to Rick Astley’s ’80s classic “Never Gonna Give You Up” at a funeral, the music synchs — up to 21 an episode — have propelled pivotal emotional plot points.
Not surprisingly, the songs are resonating with viewers. After an episode featuring Martin Solveig & Dragonette’s “Hello” aired, the 2010 dance hit’s downloads increased 11,107% and the song re-entered the Dance/Electronic Digital Song Sales at No. 2. “She’s a Rainbow’s” downloads were up 1,977% after its usage. Even a short snippet of Phil Collins and Philip Bailey’s “Easy Lover” led to a 317% increase in downloads for the song compared to the previous week.
As the season 2 finale airs Friday (Oct. 8), all that success has earned Tony Von Pervieux, the show’s music supervisor, the title of Billboard’s Executive of the Week. Von Pervieux, who serves as an independent music supervisor in addition to developing and managing artists including Charlotte Lawrence and Leona Naess through his company, TVPmusic, formerly worked as creative director of ABC TV Studios, where he worked with Ted Lasso co-creator Bill Lawrence on Lawrence’s sitcom Cougar Town.
The University of Central Florida graduate will begin work on season 3 of Ted Lasso in 2022, as well as fellow Apple TV series Bad Monkey. Here, he discusses how big a role music plays in the show, his favorite synchs so far, the process for clearing synchs amid a growing budget and his dream synch for the show.
When you began working on Ted Lasso, what kind of discussion was there about the role music would play?
There wasn’t a ton of discussion initially. As with every new show, we work through that in post [production]. The couple of things I did know going into season 1 is that we would lean towards British acts when it made sense and that Jason was a huge fan of ’80s hip-hop and ’90s alt-pop songs. So that’s where a lot of those scripted pop-culture song references come from and why we use a lot of the bigger British acts like The Rolling Stones, Queen and the Sex Pistols.
What synch are you proudest of and what was your role in making it happen?
Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” in season 2, episode 10, was probably the most rewarding. Writer/producer Joe Kelly reached out to me looking for a song for the funeral scene, one that Rebecca can sing slowed down and a cappella. They wanted a pop song from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s or ’90s that was the “least funeral” I could get that could also draw some kind of call and response.
My friends Marty Silverstone and Peter Kurczaba over at Primary Wave sent over some options and when I saw “Never Gonna Give You Up” I immediately pulled that one from their pitch and added it to the very top of my playlist that I would send to the producers. I pitched the idea of also using the music video to “Rick Roll” our audience and the producers came up with a very creative way at the end of the show to tie it all in. Rick’s manager and wife, Lene Bausager, commented that this is the first time they have ever seen the song used in [a] funeral scene, which for a song that has been licensed probably thousands of times, is a pretty cool response.
How often is the song that the audience hears already suggested in the script?
There are definitely songs written into the script by the writers/producers, especially when we have any visual vocal performances that need to be cleared beforehand, like the karaoke episode in season 1 or sometimes when Ted references songs in dialogue that require clearance, like the “Under Pressure” banter between Coach Lasso and the Doc in season 2. There is a solid music collaboration between myself, [co-music supervisor] Christa Miller, [co-creator/Coach Beard] Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly, Bill Lawrence, [producer] Kip Kroeger and the editors. But Jason is the ultimate decision maker.
A pivotal moment in season 1 is when Rebecca sings “Let It Go.” Initially, Disney turned you down. How did you get them to say yes?
The reason likely was because without seeing the song in the scene, karaoke uses tend to be looked at in a slightly less favorable way to some rights holders, as if maybe their song would be butchered. Or since this was an unknown and unreleased comedy at the time, there was no history yet on this show, so the initial answer to me was a “kindly pass.” Because I was able to view the scene and saw how magical and heartfelt Rebecca’s performance was, I [went back to] Disney to ask [them] to please consider reversing their decision based on showing them the actual footage, along with a passionate email from myself about how this song ties into Rebecca’s storyline with her goddaughter and to show that this song is only being used in the most touching, beautiful way. It worked. Jason was happy because he really wanted that song to be the one.
Given the show’s success, how much easier has it been to get clearances for season 2? How much did your budget rise for the second season?
I can’t tell you how much we have in our budget for each episode, but we did get a bump from season 1 to season 2 knowing after the first season how many songs we actually used. I will say that season 2 has been a bit easier getting approvals, but each song clearance is a different case. Sometimes there are internal issues between the artist/writer, label or publisher that affect me being able to clear a song easily, so there have been a few occasions where I have to go a bit further out of my wheelhouse to try and get the approval.
Which episode had the biggest music budget?
The Christmas episode [in season 2] was a doozy. We had about 16 songs in that episode and Christmas music tends to be a bit pricier since it’s cyclical. But the “Beard After Hours” episode was Goliath. We had around 21 [songs], most of them well-known, so that episode definitely took first place using “wall-to-wall” music.
How hard was it to get a Stones synch and master? And how far in advance did you have to clear “She’s a Rainbow” since the song played a part in the script?
Alisa Coleman at ABKCO reps both the publishing and recordings on The Stones catalog so it makes it easier going to one place. Because it was a scripted song, I did clear it before it was shot. As an Easter egg, we also went back in episode 203 and used it for another quick use of Higgins’ ringtone, prior to the big use in 205. The big challenge was in post-production, because the producers wanted to use the song a lot more than we had anticipated due to the lengthiness of the scene. The editors wove the song from the start of Roy Kent leaving his sports broadcasting job all the way through his journey to the stadium to accept the coaching gig with the team, which then took us through the end credits. That was over five minutes of usage.
So, there was some concern on my part having to go back to seek approval on this revised use with all the stops and starts, additional editing, as well as going way over in the requested time. In those situations, you know that the band or [their] reps now have a big hand in deciding whether to approve the revisions. Fortunately, the use of the song was great, and the edits worked magically because of our music editor Richard Brown’s great work, so they allowed us to re-clear it for the full intended use, “as is.”
Following the use of Martin Solveig & Dragonette’s “Hello” in the episode “Beard After Hours,” downloads surged 11,017%. It’s one of several songs that has seen a reaction. Why do you think the songs are resonating so much with viewers?
I honestly never know what songs are going to get the spike. It’s hard to predict. In that episode with Beard, we used so much music and a lot of great songs, so it’s interesting to see which of those songs decides to raise its hand on the sales and streaming side. This episode was also unique to this season, so the fact that the biggest spike may have come from this one, and was used in a club scene, is fascinating to me. This song also has a soft spot in my heart as this was one song in a playlist that I made at the hospital for the birth of my first kid, Takeo, in 2012. I put the playlist on shuffle and this was the song playing when he was born.
What artist is your dream get?
Nirvana. We just have to find the right use for them and be ready to spend some money. I was thrilled to finally use Radiohead’s “Karma Police” in this last episode for the end scene with Ted. It gives me chills when I watch it, which to me is the sign of an effective use.