Tunefind: How It All Began…

It all started back in 2005 with two particular episodes of Scrubs and The West Wing airing the same week. Tunefind mastermind Matt Garlinghouse was watching the shows at home and fell hard for some of the music he heard. “Both featured a song, and I didn’t know either of them,” he recalls. He did what anyone would: he searched online. “You expect the internet to have all the answers. I couldn’t find them.”

Joshua Radin
The song that started it all was Joshua Radin’s Closer, which appeared on an episode of Scrubs in 2005.

That inspired him to build Tunefind, the online world’s go-to destination for accurate, comprehensive information on what you hear on your favorite shows and in your favorite movies.

Now with more than 2.5 million unique visitors monthly, the site has become a hub for fans of 850+ shows and another 850+ films. It’s also become increasingly popular with music supervisors eager to spread the word about emerging artists and new tracks they’ve discovered.


Data. And More Data.

“From the beginning we decided to build a comprehensive site about music on TV,” says Garlinghouse. To do this, he knew he needed to gather information as widely as possible, not rely on a small handful of editors. But he also needed good and reliable information. He and his team of friends and active contributors came up with a system that helps users vet and boost accurate information.

The OC SOundtrack
The OC was one of the early shows to feature exciting new music. Music Supervisor Alexandra Patsavas created the sound of the show, breaking bands like The Killers and Death Cab for Cutie.

Tunefind draws on crowdsourced and -rated data, as well as ingesting tv and movie metadata from other online databases and connecting song info to iTunes and other music services. Over its twelve years, it has gained an active, knowledgeable following of dedicated super-users, as well as a strong relationship with supervisors, who often happily send the site info about a show’s soundtrack right as it airs.

“There were mostly fan sites in the early days of the web, so some shows had sites dedicated to that specific show. They had music only for that show, if they even bothered to include it,” explains Garlinghouse. “It seemed to me there needed to be a resource for all of those.  When you have all the songs, you can cross-reference. You can figure out what other shows have used that particular song.”

Building A Fan Community

Yet the site does more than collate and corroborate data. It’s become a lively forum for TV- and film-loving music fans. “Tunefind has Q&A forums on every episode and movie page,” explains Amanda Byers, Tunefind’s managing director, one of Garlinghouse’s longtime collaborators on the site. “There is a ton of activity there, and we were the first site to have that capability focused on the music of a show. It drove a lot of interest and usage of the site.”

Smallville Soundtrack
The adventures of a teenaged Clark Kent were a perfect backdrop for indie and pop music, including many who have gone on to big careers.

Users will do more than converse or sort out a difference in data. They’ll coordinate reaching out to a production company or artist to find out what track they heard, or they’ll start a Twitter campaign to encourage a band to release a track that was featured in a show or movie, but not yet available to purchase or stream.

Thanks to this lively user base, the site eventually grew from a weekend passion project, a hobby worked on over brunch, to a major commercial undertaking. (The site’s business is built on data, advertising and affiliate sales.) Once Tunefind hit the million-user-per-month mark a couple of years ago, the site really took off. “Success has begotten success,” says Garlinghouse. “Tunefind’s community now has enough users to get the data quickly, which in turn gets you more users.”


Taking On The World

Cold Case Soundtrack
Cold Case did a masterful job of using period music to set the scene in the flashbacks that were a huge part of every episode.

This has led to great information about cult shows with smaller followings, as well as international expansion. “We now have international coverage for shows that are airing in Canada or UK but not (yet) in the US,” notes Byers. “Our user base has grown enough to verify the data for a small-audience show, like some of the international foreign language shows aired on Netflix.” This means that Tunefind users in the UK or Canada have already completed the soundtracks for all those shows long before Netflix, PBS, BBC America, and Syfy bring the shows to the US market. Users also spend a notable amount of time on the site, clocking an average of 2:30 minutes’ interaction over 3.5 million monthly sessions.

This intense interest in finding, documenting, and correcting information about songs heard on screen has grown naturally, as television soundtracks have increasingly turned to pre-recorded tracks and more sophisticated approaches to storytelling. Their use of music has shaped shows’ more nuanced, complex storytelling, and vice versa.


Straight to the Source

One Tree Hill is still one of the most popular shows on Tunefind, as new viewers discover great music through the show.

Did you realize it’s actually someone’s job to select the music for these shows? Concurrent with the rise in use of popular music on TV, the profession of Music Supervision has also been on the rise. The Emmys have even added a new category for Music Supervision for the 2017 awards, recognizing how licensed music plays an important role in storytelling.

Over the years, Tunefind has built up relationships with Music Supervisors around the world, helping us confirm songs and answer user questions about some of the more obscure and unreleased tracks used in shows and movies. Many Music Supervisors submit official song lists and answer fan questions directly on the site, to help connect fans with the music and the artists. Tunefind gives Music Supervisors insight into how fans are responding to their work and the songs they’ve selected, and demonstrates how music can deepen audience engagement.


New Music Discovery

Alias Soundtrack
The spy thriller Alias, starring Jennifer Garner, was another early favorite for music discovery.

The site also a boon for musicians, who often interact with fans on Tunefind. The site’s dedicated artist pages allow users to find other tracks (and other placements) by the same artist, showcasing their music. This is vital in an era when sync placements are leading drivers of music discovery. Long-form narrative shows and films have proven to be potent ways to find music that suits a listener’s personal tastes.

“People are experiencing a lot of new ways to find the next cool song they are excited about,” reflects Byers. “Tunefind is one of those ways. If you’re already hooked on a show and its characters and its vibe, that’s an amazing platform to launch from. You’ve got these fans who want to be exposed to new music, and your music aligns with their tastes.”


The Original Shows on Tunefind

Soundtrack of The OC   Soundtrack of The West Wing   Soundtrack of Scrubs

Soundtrack from House, M.D.      


As of early 2017, the site now has the soundtracks for almost 900 tv shows and another 900 movies.

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