We know that TV and cinema royalties pay well. So as a songwriter, how can you make money by getting your tunes used on screen through a music synchronisation deal?
Discover how to get music synchronisation deals and you can unlock the key to making money from having your music synced with visual images. Not only is this good for your bank balance, but it increases the reach of your music.
In this article, we explain what music syncing is, how it works and how you can get your tunes before a much larger audience in the process.
How to get music synchronisation deals
Music Synchronisation: Have you ever wondered how that theme tune to your favourite TV show ever made it to where it was? Or how an artist’s song featured on a big advert? It could have been written specifically for the show or it could have been part of a music synchronisation deal. Keep reading to find out all about music synchronisation deals and how to get one.
What is music synchronisation?
Before you begin to try and land a music sync deal, you must first understand exactly what it is and how the industry works. There are some different requirements and legal procedures than you may find in other areas of the music industry. Not fully understanding these could result in you missing out, or getting into a muddle with agents and companies. Don’t forget that this is a business after all. So you must stay ahead of the game and be savvy in your dealings.
A music synchronisation deal involves a license which is granted by the copyright holder of a composition allowing the licensee to “sync” music with some kind of visual media output such as:
- TV programmes, documentaries or series
- Films and trailers
- YouTube Clips
- Business Presentations
- Video Game
When an audio/visual project producer wants to use a recording in their work, they must contact both the owner of the sound recording (record label) and the owner of the composition (songwriter via publishing company).
How does sync licensing work?
A licence is created between the ‘sound recording owner’ and the production company who will be using the track. It is a binding contract that allows the production company to use this piece. It does not become theirs and they do not have exclusive rights (unless this is part of the deal). You as its creator still have final ownership. It’s simply a permission slip. You’ll often hear the same tracks used on TV trailers and commercials. IN these cases, each production company has had to get a licence – and you can sell these to as many companies as want your music.
How much does a sync license cost?
This depends entirely on the track and its value. It can be anything from free (some artists are happy just to have the exposure of having their track used in the media), to very large sums of money. It’s not purely based on how good your track is deemed to be. It depends on the buyer’s budget, their profile and what it’s being used for. Naturally the bigger the project, the more you can expect to get. If you’re unsure of how much to charge, use an intermediary organisation – more on that later.
Who gets paid from a synchronisation license?
The owner of the music always gets paid. Be aware that just because you’ve written a piece, you’re not necessarily its owner. This could be the publisher, producer or label who made and released the track. The same applies to any music royalties you’re owed and income from streaming services. Who will be the copyright owner should all be agreed at the time of signing contracts. This is another reason it’s important to understand how music syncing works. Artist’s aren’t always aware of it, yet it’s now a major part of the industry, especially with the growth of online videos.
If the piece being synchronised also includes an artist or several artist’s voices, then they too will a fee. In this case, both a licence for the composition and a master licence to cover the artists is required.
The sync license agreement
If you’re arranging a sync licence agreement yourself, you must use a proper, professional contract that is binding. The Musician’s Unions has templates you can download and use for this. They also offer free advice to members. Don’t be tempted to just draw up your own if you don’t know what you’re doing. A media lawyer can be helpful in reading through contracts and advising on legalities.
What is a sync deal?
As there is no set fee for using music in the media, the copyright owner and production company looking to use it must come to an agreement on how much they’ll pay for the licence. There will likely be negotiation, and again, this is why sync agents and intermediaries are becoming increasingly popular.
What are music synchronisation rights?
This describes the right to use a piece – or several pieces – of music alongside visual images. As a songwriter, you may be approached and asked if the rights to your composition can be purchased, or you may attempt to sell the rights to your song. Sync rights, or a sync licence as it’s also known, are needed even if just a very small segment of a song is being used.
Tips for getting a music synchronisation deal
It may all sound rather complex and technical, but it’s well worth understanding, so you can be in with a chance of getting increased exposure for your tracks. Read on below for some practical hints and tips on getting started in the music synchronisation business.
Make sure your tracks are up to scratch
It sounds obvious but when a producer wants a piece of music to accompany his project whether it’s a film, advertisement or television show, it needs to be of perfect recording quality.
Recording an acoustic guitar and vocals off a small multi-track recorder isn’t going to get you a music synchronisation deal, unfortunately. Go to a professional studio and get your tracks laid down properly, with high-quality backing and mixing.
Record two versions of everything
Whilst a producer may want a light–hearted ballad for a romantic comedy’s end credits, often an instrumental track is all that’s needed so take some time to record a separate version of your songs without vocals and perhaps some extra compositional layers to thicken up the sound.
This could be the difference between getting a music synchronisation deal or not. Think back to ‘Top of the Pops’ and the use of the instrumental version of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’. That was a big statement for music fans on Friday nights and became instantly recognisable.
Create a paper and digital business card for music synchronisation
When working with a music producer on a music synchronisation deal, treat it like a business and be professional. Hand over a business card so they can contact you regarding the sync and for future work. It’s helpful to have a press pack to give out too.
Remember, you are still an artist and they will have plenty of people just like yourself in mind so stick out from the crowd. Also, use your MP3 track as a digital business card.
On iTunes, you can input all of your data on the track such as name, composer and the year it was written. This makes it easier for producers to find the track and it makes you look a lot more professional.
How to submit music for sync
Now you understand how the business of music syncing works, it’s time to start putting your music before potential sync licence buyers. To do this, you need to submit your track for consideration. There are times when music owners are approached after a company has heard a track, but in the main, you’ll have to be proactive and create your own leads.
How to Submit a Track for Music Synchronisation
Getting a music synchronisation deal is no easy task mind. There are multiple ways you can get involved in the synchronisation world and they include:
- Managers and Agents
- Digital Distributors and Aggregators
- Online Brokers such as: Music X–Ray and Pump Audio
- Competitions (such as this one with NextGen)
If you know anyone in broadcasting, maybe offer up some of your tracks as suggestions. Finding tunes is time consuming and often a hassle for those needing to sync images and music. If your track works, you can save them time and effort by suggesting it. And it’s not just mainstream, large scale media you should consider. YouTubers will often need music, as will Vimeo users and those creating corporate videos.
Using a music sync agency – what is a sync agent?
A sync agent is used throughout the music and arts industries. While you’re busy writing and perfecting your sound, they’re building relationships and networking with influential people. As sync agents concentrate on selling licences to film, TV, commercial and online channel producers, they have very good contacts and know who needs what and when. Using an agent can get you more syncs, faster. But they’ll also take a cut for it.
Places to sync my music
You might want to try syncing your own music first and if you have no luck, try using an agent and take the hit on any takings. If you want to get your music in front of broadcasters, here are some of the agents and companies you might like to investigate.
Music Gateway is a large agent for music sync licensing. The site contains lots of advice, and the option to upload a demo for consideration.
Music licensing companies UK
Having music used in a major TV show has been a springboard for many careers. The BAFTA award-winning reality show Made in Chelsea became renowned for sourcing cool new emergent sounds. These are used during its beautiful opening and link scenes set to visuals of west London, leading The Guardian to claim it had ‘the best soundtrack on TV’.
It’s also won the Most Shazammed TV Show award, alongside an Individual Sync track placement Award. Andrea Madden, who sources the tunes for the show, often uses playlists, labels and intermediary companies to find exciting new work that fans will love.
Here are some more companies you might like to check out.
Some of these organisations will uploads briefs for sync music required. This can be really helpful. Rather than approaching broadcasters with no idea of what they’re looking for, keep an eye out for briefs that match a piece you already have – or could write to fit.
It can be worth considering trends and suitability when writing a piece. Many musicians make a full time living from synchronisation alone and others have been able to further their careers off the back of money made. But don’t expect it to take off straight away. As with anything in the business, it takes time to build a profile and make the right contacts. So keep writing, keep plugging and we hope to hear some of your tracks on the big or small screen in the near future.
- What is a synchronization royalty?
This is the same as a music synchronisation licence fee. The money paid to the music owner (usually as a one-off fee), in return for using their music on screen, synchronised with visual images.
- How do I get music clearance?
‘Clearance’ is the process of getting permission to use samples of other people’s music for use in yours. This is achieved by asking the copyright owner and – usually – paying them for it in return for written permission. To find them, get in touch with the production company or record company.
- How do you get paid for your music?
As a musician writing your own music, you should join a collection scheme such as PRS. These collect any royalties owed to you for your music and distribute the funds to the music owner (this may be your studio or producer, or it could be shared across all the musical collaborators).
Have you got a music synchronisation deal? Has your music featured on YouTube, TV or a commercial? Send us a link in the comments below.