There’s no doubt about it: synch licensing deals are becoming the most desired gigs these days. Having your already recorded song playing in a TV commercial, movie, or show earns you not only a cheque from a corporation (who probably has a bigger budget than that downtown dive bar), but the chance to blast your song in front of a new crowd without the gruelling time or expenses of physically touring.
So then, how does one land such an awesome placement? The gatekeepers in these arrangements are called Music Supervisors, and they are the trusted ears of their clients. A Music Supervisor does their job by listening to song submissions from artists at all career stages, and acts as the matchmaker between two compatible parties, bringing them together. It’s basically the hookup app of the music business, bringing songs to people looking for their match.
Just like Tinder, Bumble, or any similar app, there is a format and technique to presenting yourself to get the most out of your experience. Swipe, and this article will present them to you…
Read The Synch Brief Carefully
Every profile has a bio section where users can type up a little about themselves, and specify what they’re looking for in a match. So, if underneath her selfie, Xara says she wants an athlete at least 6 feet tall, who’d be up for Saturday morning Tango classes, watching medical documentaries and is also looking for a serious relationship… Short, squeamish couch potatoes looking for a quick fling need not apply.
The sync world uses a similar system. The company will contact their trusted Music Supervisor, and describe what they’re looking for. The Music Supervisor then turns it into a comprehensive brief, and starts looking for matches in their existing database, and/or by making a call for submissions that fit what the client is asking for. For example, a car company might be looking for an upbeat indie folk track with warm acoustic guitars, hand claps, and the millennial whoop in the vocal background for their new TV commercials…
Now, since what people are searching for is plainly displayed, please don’t go trying shove your way into incompatible matches. In the dating world, it comes across as sleazy to be hitting up every user with an attractive profile picture, whether or not you have anything in common. In the sync licensing world, where human being is doing the matchmaking and not an algorithm, you can risk losing the supervisor’s trust, respect, and willingness to open your emails if you have a habit of brazenly sending the complete opposite of what they’re looking for, camouflaged under the subject line of being for that specific brief they put out.
Make Sure You Are Ready For A Relationship
Allow me to paint a picture: You’ve been messaging back and forth with their sweetheart, let’s call him Yan. You two finally meet in person at an artsy café, talk until closing time and you’re absolutely smitten. Once you get home, you pull out your phone to text him that you got back safely, and had a wonderful time tonight… Only to see his apology message to you first – his ex called him pleading, he’s still in love with her too, and wants to try to work it out again. No!
Just as you should make 100% certain you are ready to date someone when creating a Tinder profile, you should make sure you have 100% clearance rights to the song you want to synch. If you co-wrote it with someone, you will need their approval. If you are signed to a publishing or management deal that works synch deals, does your publisher or manager have full yes/no say, or do they need to call you for final veto power?
True story: at a conference panel I attended this past February, a Music Supervisor told the story of an artist they had on their roster who gave 2% rights of a song to his buddy who made its beat. That’s was all fine and dandy… until they needed 100% approval for a Super Bowl beer ad offer. The 98% owning songwriter said “Heck yeah!” The 2% owning buddy said “nah… I don’t really drink that brand.” They lost a big opportunity (and a big payday) because of that.
State Your Moral Rights Upfront
Whether they think about them like that or not, everyone has some criteria for whom they would never date (or never date again). Some people can’t see a way to make a long term relationship work with a partner of a different religion, or who voted for a politician they can’t stand. Many people avoid dating convicted felons. A vegan may only want to date other vegans.
If you wrote the song, you have a moral rights claim to it that can never be signed away. It’s completely up to you and and any other rights holders to exercise that if you wish. Seriously, you can tell the Music Supervisor “exploit this song however you want, as long as it makes money.” You can go middle the road, and say “no political ad campaigns, and I want to see the scene of the movie/television show they want my song playing over before I approve it.” Or, you can go all out, and be like “here is a list of 50 brands I’d be proud to associate my music with, turn away anyone else.” It’s a balancing act between getting paid, and protecting your brand. For example, all the money in the world could never convince an artist to let a cigarette company use their song if they lost a loved one to lung cancer.
Look #Flawless Without A Filter
Do you have any acquaintances who look like movie stars in their profile pictures, but are normal humans in real life? I’m not taking about having one bad hair day or coming down with the common cold, but more along the lines of perfecting trick angles, clever flexing, or using old photos.
Yes, there will always be those who want to exclusively date underwear models, but if you’re waiting on a park bench to meet up with Zack, and only recognize him after he introduces himself, maybe using a photo from a few years (and 100 pounds ago) wasn’t the best way to win you over, now that you feel like he had to trick you solely to get you to come out on a first date.
When it comes to getting your songs synched into movies, TV and commercials, the company will often ask for the instrumental version and stems. They might want to mute your vocals while listing off the features of their shampoo, or only have the drums and bass while the two lead characters are flirting on the dance floor. Similar to a dating app user trying to self-consciously hide behind retouched photos, if your song can’t have instruments separated because everyone will hear that the bass was out of tune without the other layers stacked on top, we have a problem when they find out.
One last tip… Answer Promptly
Don’t leave potential matches waiting to confirm plans, whether in the world of dating or synch licensing.