Page last updated at 07:41 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 08:41 UK

Talking Shop: Alexandra Patsavas

Alexandra Patsavas
Patsavas set up her own company, Chop Shop Music, 10 years ago
You might not recognise her name, but Alexandra Patsavas is one of the most important people in the record industry.

As the music supervisor on hit shows like The OC, Grey's Anatomy and Gossip Girl, she reaches millions of television viewers every week, and has the power to make or break a band.

The OC, in particular, helped to push The Killers, Death Cab For Cutie and Imogen Heap into the limelight - and established artists like Coldplay and Beck soon started offering exclusive first plays of their material to the show.

Patsavas explains how a typical show comes together - and lets us peek at the "recent tracks" playlist on her iPod.

How do you go about choosing what goes onto the soundtrack for a show?

Grey's Anatomy, for example, gets a compilation CD every couple of weeks filled with current music that I've discussed with the executive producers and which they feel is great for the sound of the show.

Sometimes we pitch for an edited scene and sometimes the writers fall in love with a song and write it into the first outline of the script.

Which do you prefer?

Oh, both ways. We use so much music that if a writer is inspired by a song and we can clear the rights, most often it works beautifully with the scene. But sometimes it's not exactly as the writer had envisioned and we pitch alternates.

Grey's Anatomy
The season finale of Grey's Anatomy featured Duffy, Adele and Coldplay
How hard is it to suppress your own taste in music and choose the right song for a particular scene?

You know, the great thing about this job is that you don't have to be so straight and narrow. I certainly have music that I love, but you begin to appreciate the best of every genre.

I'm working on a show called Mad Men which takes place in the early 1960s, so most of the songs are from that period, which is a totally different way of listening to music.

Do you get a shiver down your spine when you're looking through those 1960s record collections and come across something rare or new?

Oh it's definitely thrilling! The part that can not be so thrilling is the challenging rights dance - making sure that this unknown gem is owned by someone or there's a company that can license it.

Sometimes, the writer can't be found - especially if it's catalogue material - and there's no way around that.

Do you work hard to track down new bands?

The film music business is well organised, so there are great companies that pitch music to supervisors like me but we also have individuals worldwide making blind submissions.

Is there a big team of assistants sifting through the garbage to find the nugget of gold?

You know what? There's a lot of gold! But definitely, they spend a lot of time listening.

Alexandra Patsavas
Anna Ternheim
Secret Machines
Anya Marina
The Little Ones
Ambulance Ltd
You seem to pick a lot of British acts for your shows - The Kaiser Chiefs, Duffy, Super Furry Animals, to name a few. Do you pay particular attention to the music scene over here?

I grew up in the 1980s and my focus was definitely on the great music coming out of the UK at that point, so I think I have a special love for it. But, with work, the important thing is not where music comes from, it's more about where it fits.

Is there pressure to make the music cool? I always thought Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson's socialite character in The OC) would have been more into Christina Aguilera than Death Cab For Cutie.

Josh Schwartz wrote those characters to be in tune with pop culture. Seth (Summer's love interest) certainly loved his Death Cab and his indie rock. Summer was fashionable, but maybe she was hipster and she liked cool music.

Anyway, we definitely had a few references to favourite songs from the 80s. Some Journey, some Boys II Men.

Do you ever get to the point where you can't discern the good songs from the bad?

You can always discern the bad! You can get a little deaf after a while and it becomes hard to hear good. But the bad always, always sticks out.

Would you say there are similarities between you and the guys in High Fidelity?

[Laughs] I have more friends and relatives! I'm more a part of my social world. But I am fanatical about music, just like those characters.

Alexandra Patsavas was talking to BBC News entertainment reporter Mark Savage.

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