Sync is fast becoming big business in the music industry and an important additional revenue stream for songwriters.
The use of music in films, adverts, games or TV shows – otherwise known as sync – is nothing new. But in recent years, thanks in part to the rise of the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime and the explosion in gaming, it’s become an increasingly important part of the music business.
While other parts of the sector struggled in 2017/18, sync revenues grew globally by almost 10% (figures from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry).
As well as helping to boost an artist’s bank account, a good sync deal can provide exposure. It can help an emerging musician break through or breathe new life into a song that’s been around for years. A case in point is Jake Bugg’s 2012 track Lightning Bolt. It was released in 2012 but enjoyed a resurgence last year when it featured in an advert for Mini Countryman.
Know your rights
Here at iSingmag we always bang on about the importance of understanding copyright because, err, it’s important. Here we go again.
Before you can nail down a sync deal it’s important to be clear about who owns the rights for what. With music, there are two rights holders: the master rights (the person who paid for and owns the recording) and the publishing rights (this belongs to the writers of the song, unless you’ve signed a publishing deal in which case they can be owned by a publisher or publishers). If you are the artist, writer and the owner of the recordings, then it’s pretty simple: you don’t need anyone’s permission to license your recording for sync usage.
If you’ve co-written a song with someone, for example, you can’t agree a deal unless your co-writer is up for it too. It’s important to know who owns the rights to what – and get the details sorted before you try and license recordings.
What can you earn with sync?
This all depends on how and where your music is used. Television is generally the lowest budget type of sync. A reality TV show might only pay £250 to £1,000 to use a song. A big US show will pay thousands. Film pays lots more, as does advertising. Land a placement on a major brand campaign like Jake Bugg and you can expect a good sync fee.
How do I get a synch deal?
A key player in the synch chain is the music supervisor. Their role is to source music for films and television shows. They look for music that will add authenticity to the story and help convey the interior world of the characters. One of the highest profile music supervisors is Norah Feldman (even Billboard magazine interviewed her). Feldman is the driving force behind the soundtrack for US hit Stranger Things. Such is the popularity of her work that Sony releases a collection of tracks from each season of the show.
If you think your music would be a perfect fit for a particular show, there’s nothing stopping you from doing your own research, identifying the relevant music supervisor and pitching your work directly. Be aware though that there’s a lot of competition (we bet Feldman’s inbox is overflowing with unsolicited submissions). It’s a bit like trying to get through to a top record exec, not impossible, but not easy.
If you’re just getting started, consider signing up to a sync platform such as Music Gateway or Songtradr. These businesses have relationships with music supervisors, production companies and advertising agents and can promote your work. They offer varying levels of support and services, depending on your needs (and fees vary accordingly). Even if you do sign up with a platform, that doesn’t stop you networking at music events, and doing all you can to get your music out there.