Sync licensing is an essential aspect of the music industry, allowing artists and rights holders to earn income by having their music used in various forms of media, such as movies, television shows, video games, and advertisements.
If you’re a composer, songwriter, or an artist with a solid catalog of high-quality music, then this article is for you.
Welcome to the world of sync licensing!
Music sync licensing is one of the most lucrative ways to make a living from your music. You might think of your music as art, but I want you to switch on your entrepreneur hat and view your musical compositions as assets of your business.
Landing a sync licensing deal involves obtaining the appropriate permissions and contracts for a song to be legally featured in a project.
Importance of Networking
Another just as important aspect is having the right connections to land that sync deal in the first place; In my experience, this is big part of the job as a creator if you’re planning on making a living from it.
You need to attend industry events, connect with filmmakers, music supervisors, licensing agents and publishers. You also need to have a solid online presence with samples of your music available for listening.
Networking for business is not what most people imagine it to be! It’s not just swinging business cards and telling everyone what you want. It’s 100% about making real, human connections with others.
Lucrative Source of Revenue
Over recent years, sync licensing has emerged as a lucrative source of revenue for musicians, with an increasing demand for high-quality music to complement the vast array of media projects available today.
For artists and music industry professionals alike, understanding the intricacies of sync licensing is crucial in order to maximize revenue and exposure. This will help you find and negotiate the placement and promotion of your music in media projects.
Understanding Sync Licensing
Sync licensing, or music synchronization, is a significant aspect of the audiovisual industry. It’s the combination of thoughtfully chosen music tracks and fitting moments in visual media, creating engaging experiences for viewers.
A sync license typically covers two separate rights:
A synchronization license (sync) gives a third-party permission to use your music in various media. As a copyright owner, you need to understand how sync licensing works to optimize your song’s potential exposure. The process involves the master and composition recording, each with its own license.
The master recording represents the actual recorded version of a song, while composition rights pertain to the song’s composition, including melody and lyrics.
When a music supervisor is licensing your music for movies, TV shows, games, or ads, they’ll need to obtain both the synchronization rights and master license for your composition.
As a rights holder, granting a sync license means entering into a legal agreement with a party interested in using your music in their content. The sync license will outline the agreement’s terms, conditions, and duration, specifying the ways and scope within which your song can be used. Additionally, the license will cover the payment details, ensuring your earnings as the copyright holder.
Music licensing is governed by copyright laws, granting exclusive rights to the copyright owners. These exclusive rights include mechanical rights, publishing rights, and sync rights. Mechanical rights cover the reproduction and distribution of your music, such as CDs or digital downloads.
Publishing rights relate to any public performances or broadcasting of your song.
Sync rights, specifically, pertain to the synchronization of your music with visual content.
The Importance of Sync Licensing in the Music Industry
Role in the Music Business
Sync licensing plays a crucial role in the music business, as it provides artists and rights holders the opportunity to combine their music with visual content. This could include TV shows, video games, online videos, and independent films. By collaborating with media companies and other industry experts, artists can increase their exposure and reach new audiences.
A music publisher for example can monetize their huge library of music by signing sync license deals with music supervisors and TV studios.
Role in the World of Visual Media
In the world of visual media, sync licensing is essential for content creators who want to enhance their products with compelling music. Directors and producers often look for the perfect song or score to elevate their work, whether it’s for a YouTube video, indie film, or a TV show. Sync licensing allows for a meaningful partnership between musicians and visual media creators, resulting in a richer audience experience.
There are more TV shows and movies made today than ever before due to so many new major streaming platforms and studios.
Potential Revenue Streams
For artists, sync licensing can open up new revenue streams. There are typically two main components of sync-related income: upfront sync fees and performance royalties. Upfront sync fees are negotiated between the copyright owner and the party seeking to use the music, while performance royalties result from the public broadcast of the music, such as in TV shows, video games, or online platforms.
Career Opportunities for Independent Artists
Indie artists and independent musicians can greatly benefit from sync licensing as it offers them additional career opportunities. By securing sync deals, they can showcase their work to a broader audience and establish valuable relationships within the music industry. This can lead to further collaborations and performances and even increase interest in their new music releases.
It’s a good idea to include a clean version of your song when pitching it, this will increase your chances of landing a deal. Recording a cover song is also another great promotional vehicle that often can lead to additional exposure.
Role in Social Media and Online Platforms
In today’s digital age, social media and online platforms play a significant role in the music business. Content creators and online course developers often seek background music or theme songs for their projects. Sync licensing allows them to legally use and showcase an artist’s music, leading to increased exposure and potential fan base growth for the artists involved.
YouTube videos have become extremely popular; often a record label will search the video platform for new talent. Many careers have skyrocketed through being discovered because of a well placed sync opportunity.
Types of Sync Licenses
Specific Song License
A specific song license is a type of synchronization license that grants permission to use a particular song in a film, television show, video game, advertisement, or other media project.
By obtaining this type of license, the music supervisor or visual media creator gets the legal right to synchronize your song in their work. This type of license is ideal when the director or music supervisor has a specific song in mind that perfectly complements their project.
Unlike a specific song license, a blanket license grants the rights to use multiple songs from a certain music library, catalog, or publisher for a fixed period. This type of license allows access to a large music collection, offering more flexibility when choosing songs for their projects.
Blanket licenses are commonly used by TV networks, radio stations, and other platforms that require a large volume of music at their disposal. This type of license allows the creators to easily select tracks without having to negotiate individual song licenses.
Master Use License
A master use license grants permission to use the master recording of a song in a media project. It’s important to note that this license covers only the song’s recorded version, not the composition itself.
The music supervisor still needs to obtain a separate synchronization license for the composition, as every song has two parts: the master recording and the composition.
The Role of Music Supervision and Licensing Agencies
Both music supervisors and sync agencies play crucial roles in the process of securing a sync placement. To better understand their responsibilities and how they contribute to sync licensing, let’s take a look at their individual roles.
Music supervisors select and integrate the right music for visual media projects, such as TV shows, films, video games, and advertisements. This involves working closely with directors, producers, and other creative team members to ensure a perfect musical fit that enhances the project’s emotional impact and overall feel.
Additionally, music supervisors must understand various music genres deeply, be well-versed in licensing and copyright laws, and possess strong negotiation skills to secure the best possible deals for all parties involved. Their day-to-day tasks include sourcing music, liaising with composers and musicians, and coordinating the legal and financial aspects of music licensing.
While music supervisors focus on selecting and securing music for visual media, sync agencies (or sync agents) concentrate on representing artists, composers, and songwriters who want to have their music licensed for such projects. Their objective is to pitch your music to music supervisors and other relevant industry professionals, securing valuable sync opportunities for their songs.
The role of a sync agent involves building relationships with music supervisors, understanding the needs of the visual media projects they’re working on, and being aware of the latest music trends to better match their clients’ work with the demands of these projects.
To excel in this role, they’ll need excellent communication skills, a strong knowledge of music genres, and the ability to visualize how a song could fit into a specific scene or theme.
The Sync Licensing Process and How to Secure a Sync Deal
How to Choose the Perfect Track
To begin with, you will want to identify the perfect track for sync licensing. If you’re working with a music supervisor, they’ll let you know what mood, theme, lyrics, and overall vibe they’re after.
Keep in mind that great music is not solely enough; your track should have the potential to enhance the visual content it is paired with. Look for opportunities where your music can evoke emotions or strengthen a scene, ultimately adding value to a project.
Negotiating the Sync License Fee
Once the music supervisor has chosen your track, it’s time to negotiate the sync license fee. This fee is based on numerous factors, such as the type of media your music will be used in (movies, TV, ads, video games), the duration of the usage, your track’s profile, and the availability of the budget from the production company.
Be prepared to be flexible and strategic when discussing fees, and build a reasonable expectation for payment based on these factors.
Cue Sheets and Licensing Paperwork
Cue sheets will come into play after settling on a sync license fee. Cue sheets are essential documents that track the usage of your music in a project. They contain information such as your track title, duration, composer, and publisher details.
The music supervisor helps ensure that your royalties are properly calculated and distributed by filing accurate cue sheets that are maintained and submitted as part of the licensing process.
Role of Third Parties in the Licensing Process
Sync licensing deals often involve third parties, such as music publishers, sync agents, and music libraries. These entities can help showcase your music to media channels, negotiate deals, and handle licensing paperwork.
Working with a third party can be beneficial, as they have expertise in the industry and can increase exposure for your music. However, be aware that these third parties will take a percentage of your sync license fee as a commission, so always evaluate the pros and cons of working with them.
I look at these types of deals personally: if the publisher or agent can land me multiple deals, compared to one deal that I can land myself, then the deal is worth it. They are also more likely to find a placement for your music, while the composition might never see the light of day if you pitch it yourself. 50% of something is always more than 100% of nothing!
Copyright and Intellectual Property in Sync Licensing
Understanding copyright and intellectual property is crucial for protecting your creative work.
As the copyright owner, you hold the exclusive rights to your music, allowing you to grant or deny permission for others to use it.
Intellectual property (IP) refers to the creative output that can be protected by copyright, such as a song or composition. The music industry has two major forms of copyright: the musical composition (also known as “circle-C” copyright: ©) and the sound recording. Each of these forms has different royalties and revenue streams.
A music synchronization license, or “sync” for short, is a music license you, as the copyright holder, grant to someone else. This allows the licensee to sync your music with visual media such as films, TV shows, advertisements, video games, and more.
Sync licensing is divided into two parts: sync for the composition side and master use for the sound recording side.
As a rights owner, it’s essential to protect your work by registering your copyrights with the U.S. copyright office and becoming a member of a Performing Rights Organization (PRO) that collects performance royalties on behalf of its members. In the U.S., there are three major PROs; ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does a music supervisor acquire a sync license?
Acquiring a sync license involves reaching out to the copyright holders of the music you wish to use – this can be the artist, the label, or the publisher. The music supervisor will need to negotiate the terms of the license, such as usage, exclusivity, duration, and fees.
Once an agreement has been reached, a contract is drafted, and after everyone signs it, you can legally use the music in your project.
How does a music library work in sync licensing?
A music library works as a catalog of songs pre-cleared for sync licensing. Music in these types of catalogs is often referred to as production music.
It contains tracks from various artists and genres that clients can browse, making it easier for content creators, advertisers, and filmmakers to find the perfect song for their project. Music libraries usually handle all the legal aspects, such as licensing fees and contracts, providing a hassle-free experience for both artists and licensors.
What are the best platforms for submitting music to sync licensing?
There are many platforms to submit your music for sync licensing opportunities. Some popular ones include Songtradr, Musicbed, Artlist, and Audio Network. Each platform has its submission guidelines and requirements, so it’s essential to research and find the best fit for your music.
What are average sync licensing fees?
Sync licensing fees can vary greatly depending on factors such as the popularity of the song, the type of project, and the intended usage. For independent artists, fees can range from a few hundred dollars for a small web-based project to a few thousand dollars for more prominent placements in films or ads.
High-profile songs from famous artists can command much higher fees.
How can independent artists benefit from sync licensing?
Sync licensing allows independent artists to monetize their music and gain exposure. Licensing your music for use in TV shows, films, ads, or video games can lead to income through upfront fees and royalties.
Additionally, a successful licensing placement can increase your fan base, generate more streams on music platforms, and open doors for future opportunities in the industry.
What job opportunities are available in the sync licensing industry?
The sync licensing industry has several job opportunities for those interested in the field.
Some common roles include music supervisors, who help choose and negotiate the music used in a project; sync agents, who pitch artists’ music to potential licensors; and licensing coordinators, who handle licensing deals’ administrative and legal aspects.
Conclusion: Making the Most of Sync Licensing Opportunities
Sync licensing opportunities are becoming more prominent and lucrative as the demand for music in various types of visual content continues to grow.
As an artist, composer, or rights holder, staying informed on all the latest developments in sync licensing is important to capitalize on these opportunities.
Let’s recap a few friendly tips to help you make the most of sync licensing in your career:
Finding a few great licensing opportunities for your piece of music can kick-start your music career if you do it right. And it’s a great way to become a household name with music supervisors and production companies, where they might start using your music regularly.