Scott Vener is the music supervisor for How to Make It in America, which air its season finale Sunday night on HBO.
"I would say primarily a lot of the music I'm finding is sort of like what is bubbling on the Internet," Vener says.
While it may seem like he found the music first, Vener says "the people online really deserve the credit." He sees the dialogue and brings it from there to TV. Vener says his own taste obviously plays a part, "but it's almost like watching trends."
In the last scene of the pilot for Entourage, all four main characters are kind of figuring out where they fit in. Vener told the show's creator, Doug Ellin, to use Jay-Z's "Lucifer," but it wasn't the original pick for the pilot. Ellin showed the pilot to Vener after he had sold it to HBO. While Vener was watching, Ellin asked why he wasn't laughing.
"And I was like, 'Well I'm not laughing because the music's so bad I can't even pay attention to the jokes,' " Vener says.
Later, Ellin asked for music suggestions. When Vener played him "Lucifer," Ellin knew that was the one to end on.
Normally Vener picks rather obscure music, and Entourage has a lot of hip hop. But the series finale ended with a classic: Led Zeppelin's "Going to California." Vener says he knew he wanted that as the final song three years ago.
"Everyone makes the biggest deal about the final song ever, and I wanted to find one song that I felt could top all the other songs," he says, "and I would put that song as being in my top five favorite songs of all time."
Vener also chooses the music for the HBO show How to Make It in America. The show follows two 20-somethings as they try to make it big in New York City's fashion scene.
In one scene in the past season, the character Cam finally has money from selling some of his T-shirts, and he decides to buy a good stove for his apartment. The episode ends with him pushing the stove through the streets of New York City with a huge smile on his face. Then Bobby Womack's "110th Street" starts to play.
"I thought it was a not-on-the-nose way of making you feel like he's surviving, you know, he's making it," Vener says.
While Womack's lyrics are about pimps, hustlers and prostitutes in Harlem, Vener felt the tone was right.
"That's [an example of] where the lyrics probably weren't as direct at telling you the story, but the emotion was there," he says.
Vener used Theophilus London's "I Stand Alone" in How to Make It in America before the album was even released. But he doesn't want to take credit for making the song a hit.
"... It's a lot easier to recognize a hit than it is to make one," he says, "and very few of them come around."
Though he says he listened to the likes of Britney Spears and 'N Sync growing up, Vener leans toward the unusual.
"I think when I'm placing music, mostly at the end credits, what I'm thinking in my head is, 'I have 10 friends who I know love music, and if I can stump five out of those 10, then I won,' " he says. "Or if I can make them say, 'Oh my god, I remember that.' Then I won."