Songwriters and music publishers talk a lot about “sync” licenses and royalties, as it can be one of the most lucrative income sources for a song. “Sync” refers to the synchronization of music with a moving image. Whenever you hear music in a film, trailer, television show, advertisement, music video, video game, etc., a sync license was secured from the rightsholders of the song used. The terms of this license are negotiated between the rightsholders and the licensee and will include an upfront fee (for both the master and the composition) which, depending on the song and the context in which it is being used, can range from a few hundred dollars to millions.
Not as often spoken about, is “micro-sync” and the royalties that it produces. Micro-sync has the same general concept, licensing music to be used in tandem with a moving image. However, the difference is the size and scale of these uses. For example, on YouTube, there are millions of videos uploaded by millions of people every day that utilize music. While uploading content to YouTube can generate a lot of money for a user, many videos uploaded are for personal use and not intended to earn the uploader money. On top of that, there’s no way a publisher or label could keep up with the amount of license requests that would come in for any video being uploaded to a platform like YouTube, especially since most of these uses would be at a low price point.
Instead, YouTube has signed agreements with publishers and labels then grants the platform the right to host videos using their entire catalogs. In exchange, rightsholders can monetize and collect royalties generated by the videos that use their music. Sometimes a micro-sync license will include a blanket fee, meaning the licensee pays a flat fee for the use of a work or catalog of works. Licensing music from a production library, which will typically contain “pre-cleared” (no approval needed) works for license can be considered “micro-sync” as well.
Ultimately, “micro-sync” is just the synchronization of music with a moving image in smaller, “bulk” uses. Depending on where these uses occur, they can generate both performance and mechanical royalties. A television broadcast, for example, generates performance royalties, while a monetized YouTube video will generate performance and mechanical royalties. It’s an additional income source for your songs, so make sure you are set up with a publishing administrator like Songtrust to collect everything you’re owed.
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We created this guide to answer a simple question: How do songwriters support themselves?
The answer is not as simple as we’d like, but our goal is to make it as clear, transparent and understandable as we possibly can.
Songtrust is more than just a rights management platform and publishing administrator - we’re a team of experts in the music community who strive to educate, support, and provide thought leadership to creators, representatives, and businesses across the music industry.
Our hope is that you’ll finish this guide with an better understanding of the business behind songwriting and have actionable resources to help you be successful.