If you’re an indie musician that stays up on the latest industry trends on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, or Tik Tok, you may be hearing more and more about a “new” buzz word called “Sync.”
While digital influencers are finally sharing details about this somewhat traditionally closed door area of the music industry, it’s important to note that sync licensing has always been a major revenue stream for music publishers and composers alike.
Whether the film and television studios are hiring composers or songwriters on a contract basis to create original works for their visuals, or simply working with a music publisher to sift through existing works, film producers (and later television) have used music to help tell their stories since 1927.
Not to bore you with the history of music sync licensing (though I do suggest that you do as much research as you can about any business that you’re interested in diving into) let’s get to what you really want to know:
“How do I get a piece of the sync licensing pie?”
In recent years, the invention of websites like TAXI, Artlist, Musicbed, and dozens more have made it easier than ever for independent music creators to join the professional music licensing world. But like all things, open access creates oversaturation. With hundreds of thousands of creators uploading new works daily, how do you set your work apart?
Here are some key ways to ensure that your works are professionally prepped and ready for submission to music licensors and publishers.
Set up your profiles
Do your best to fill your profile out with as much detail as possible. You may be tempted to slap your name on your profile and start pitching, but the more details that you give describing your artistry, experience, and catalogue, the better feel music supervisors will get for your experience and your niche expertise.
Remember, in the event that it takes a few weeks (or months) to start getting contract offers, you still want to be building relationships with music supervisors on these platforms. This is a guaranteed way to network within the sync community as everyone reviewing submissions (and seeing your profile) works in the sync world in some capacity. Keep that in mind so you can create a strong presence and good impression.
Understand the call sheet
Every song opportunity listed on music licensing sites comes with a clear breakdown of what type of song they’re looking for. They typically give a breakdown of:
- Project Type
- A Sound Reference
- Lyrical Subject Matter
This will help you understand which listings your song will have the best chance of getting selected for. I don’t recommend pitching to spots that don’t match the characteristics of your song. This wastes the music supervisor’s time and can give you a bad reputation. The last thing you want to do is introduce yourself to the sync and licensing community as a time waster. If you keep submitting songs that are ill fit, eventually no one will review your track!
Plus, with an endless number of calls for songs daily, there’s really no reason to pitch songs that are outside of the project type.
Pitch your songs to projects
Once you get your songs properly uploaded, you’ll be able to begin pitching to projects. Outside of ensuring that your song meets the scope of the project description, here are a few other things to keep in mind.
If possible, find a way to pitch your catalog as well. If you specialize in a niche like, let’s say “slow tempo dream wave songs about love” and your wider catalog would be a good candidate for a placement opportunity, then it could be of benefit to the licensor to have the option to listen to more of your works during the selection process.
You can do this by leaving notes in the comments of the pitch area saying that more of your music can be heard at your music website. You can also note that you can be reached by email at myemaildot.com for custom requests. Note that not all sync platforms offer a custom pitch section when submitting, but utilizing the platforms that do can be a big game changer for you!
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More than anything, just keep in mind that you want to prepare a submission that leaves a great impression and keeps the door open for sync A&R reps to review more songs from you even if your song isn’t selected this time.
Typically you want to upload a minimum of 3 works that, even if they reflect your unique musical expertise, they show variety. Typically if your catalog allows you want to include:
- An Uptempo Happy Dance Speed song
- A Downtempo slower ballad
- Something in the middle
By adding variety, you’re ensuring that you can pitch to the majority of sync listings within your target genre. This also helps to show range should a music supervisor choose to review your profile.
You also want to make sure that you upload any and all metadata and liner notes. Music supervisors can’t give you a contract on a song that you don’t own or that you haven’t asked the other copyright holders permission to license. So make sure that you inform any and all collaborators, and that their contact info is listed as well.
Sometimes music licensors will want to review lyrics if the song has them, so upload these as well if there’s an option to do so.
Understanding deal types
There are two major types of licensing deals, exclusive and non-exclusive. This refers to the licensor's ability to use your song exclusively or not.
Exclusive contracts are more common from libraries or publishers who want to be able to offer a unique collection of songs that their competitors do not have the access to pitch to sync placements as well. An exclusive contract means that you won’t be able to submit that song to any other opportunities outside of the ones that the licensor contracts on your behalf.
A non-exclusive deal means that you or other licensor reps can use the contracted song while it is under contract. Always use your best judgement and a licensed legal attorney if possible when determining which deal would be the most beneficial.
Both deal types have pros and cons, though non-exclusive deals are typically favored amongst music creators new to the sync licensing space as it gives them more opportunities to work with a variety of licensors.
Once you’ve got an understanding of how to set up your profile and start submitting songs, you’ll be on your way to joining creators that have added ‘sync’ into their revenue streams.
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