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Sync Licensing 101

Get Your Music in TV Shows and Movies: Sync Licensing 101

build your skills Apr 17, 2021

Sync Licensing for Musicians

For indie musicians, the music industry has a hard climb. Artists spend months writing songs, spend hundreds of dollars on marketing, and even more so on recording and producing. After that, if they’re lucky, they get paid peanuts. With that being said, a Sync Licensing deal is basically an indie artist’s dream.

What does Sync Licensing mean?

Basically, sync licensing is the entire procedure involved in getting your songs placed in movies, TV, ads, games, and much more. That is, searching sync opportunities, pitching particular songs, negotiating terms, and getting paid. Sync licensing is one of the best ways for indie musicians to earn money while reaching new listeners— and this industry is growing bigger every year. It is a billion-dollar industry hidden in plain sight and for an artist, it can launch their entire career and make them some serious $$$.

 

Let’s talk money.

We know what you’re thinking— how does the money-making work here? Well, there are a few ways musicians earn royalties through sync placements.

Understand that in every sync placement, there are two separate music copyrights at play— the master recording rights and the composition rights.

Assuming you composed your song yourself, if you’re not tied with a label and own your own masters, you’re in an amazing financial spot. The process is smoother for you since you can approve both the usages at once, and, well, you get to collect a sync fee for both the rights! Always own your masters!

Also, pro tip: if your sync licensing deal does not involve a buyout or an exclusivity clause, you can legally license that same song for multiple placements!

Sync Licensing deals will generally make you anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending upon where your song is used— a crucial scene, closing credits, or maybe even as the iconic intro to a show!

People who create original songs and lyrics (producers, composers, and songwriters) can also make money from publishing royalties in the form of performance royalties generated each time a TV show reruns or gets moved to a secondary market. Imagine your music as the theme song for an upcoming Netflix show. Cha-Ching!

 

Who curates music for sync placements?

These people are called music supervisors, and they oversee the usage of music in visual media. While they might be freelance workers too, but usually music supervisors are hired by production companies, film studios, networks, and are people that are proficient with the law and passionate about music.

 

Scenarios where you’re likely to land a sync placement deal.


While sync placement offers can reach you out of nowhere, here are a few more realistic ways of increasing your chances of landing a sync deal.

  • You specifically compose music for sync deals
    If you’re serious about sync placement, you can also custom-tailor your music to a sync placement in mind. You can then take help from services like Taxi and ThatPitch.

  • You are pitching your own music
    If you have all the rights to your music, you can actively seek sync connections and pitch your own music which you think makes a good fit.

  • Your metadata is appropriately tagged
    A music supervisor might directly use terms related to the theme, tempo, genre, vibe while searching for music. Make sure your metadata is on point.

What kind of music should I make for Sync Licensing?

This is a question you shouldn’t be worried about. There’s a place for every kind of music in sync licensing. Is the track apt for the project, ad, or scene? That’s literally all that matters.
The job of these music supervisors is not choosing the trendiest song, their job is about choosing the right song.

Do not try to change or alter your songs to make them more “sync-able”— an eccentric element you remove from the song to play it safe could’ve been the very thing that a supervisor loved you for.

 


Keep these things in mind.

  • Production quality is key
    Don't compromise on your production quality if you ever aim at landing sync deals.

  • Sign up your entire catalog 
    Freshness, age, engagement metrics, or sales don’t matter at all for sync licensing deals, this is really one realm of the music business where you can put your whole body of work, to work!

  • Be careful with explicit lyrics.
    Profanity will, no doubt, limit the range of possible placements. If sync is on your mind, make sure those cusses are really serving a purpose. Best to create a “clean” version of your song while you’re still mixing, just in case!

  • Keep Researching!
    It really helps to stay on top of sync trends and news. Did you know artists can use IMDb to find music supervisors as well?!



Following GreaseRelease might just be your biggest find in terms of staying top on research! Check out The Top 4 Mistakes Most Artists Make.


And that’s it! Always keep an eye open for sync opportunities and you’ll massively increase your chances of being placed. If you’re interested in getting sync licensing deals, you must look professional to the music supervisors. And the first step to looking like a pro is by building your own website. Check out The Indie Musician's Guide to Building a Professional Website.

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