If you’ve found yourself here, we expect that you have some basic knowledge of what synchronization is (and if you don’t we highly suggest heading to this article to learn more). And, hopefully, you’re at a stage in your career where you’re seriously considering sync…but when exactly should you consider a sync placement for your songs?
First, let’s set some context for how it can be a lucrative form of revenue for your songs – As Digital Music News outlined in a 2022 report, one of the positive tradeoffs of the pandemic was how impactful sync placements became for independent artists. Take the St. Paul-based songwriter Destiny Roberts, for instance. When live shows were put on hold, she was able to rebound from a sudden downturn in revenue thanks to a placement on the pilot of the Netflix show “Chambers”.
“The timing of it was just too perfect,” explained Roberts. “I’ve had the most listeners that I’ve ever had in my career streaming-wise…so many messages from people around the world that watch the show, found me, love my music, and discovered me. And now they’re fans that listen to all my other songs.”
Sync companies have also considered her for several placements since then, including one that tapped a Roberts track (“The Jungle”) for a commercial from Rihanna’s cosmetics line.
Between case studies like that and evidence of continued growth in the sync licensing sector — see: the RIAA’s year-end report for 2022, which noted a 24.8% increase in revenue from sync royalties — it’s no surprise that more and more music creators are baking sync placements into their career goal timelines. And while understanding what sync is one part of it, knowing how you should handle yourself when opportunities are presented or how to generate them organically by finding ways to stand out in a saturated field of streaming content, is the other half of it.
When Should You Consider a Sync Placement?
In order to even start considering a sync placement or pitching for sync, there are a few things you, as the songwriter or rightsholder, need to have or have already started. First, your music has to be released and distributed. Next, your songs need to be registered with a publisher or publishing administrator. Not only does this ensure you’re set up to collect regular global publishing royalties, but it also starts adding your songs into databases that music supervisors use to look for potential placements (namely when you’re being approached by a third-party).
If you plan to do the legwork and actively pitch your music to sync houses and music supervisors yourself, you also need to do the work to get your song’s stream count up or its popularity. Most music supervisors and sync houses are looking for “commercially viable” or viral songs, or data to back up that this song might be a hit if placed. Doing this work, in whatever way it means, will help you “sell” your song better.
How Do You Prepare Yourself For a Sync Negotiation?
To prepare yourself for a sync negotiation means to not only be prepared with the basic knowledge of how sync works but to also have a good understanding of what you’re looking to get out of the placement. There are companies in all corners of the music industry that specialize in sync licensing, including traditional music publishers (that are actively pitching), sync houses, creative sync teams at labels and distribution companies, production music libraries, etc. Every artist is different and finding the right fit takes time and research. What is more important is understanding your value as an artist and asking the right questions when you get a seat at the table.
When approached by a third party seeking to pitch and sync music on your behalf, be sure to ask about any recent success they may have had, how your music fits their goals for growth as a company, and what their business model and terms are. The answers to these questions will help you put their priorities in perspective alongside your own.
What Research Should You Do Before Seeking a Sync Deal?
Before pitching to a music supervisor, take the time to research their current project(s) and ask yourself if your sound is a realistic fit. Let them know who owns or controls both your recording and publishing rights.
If you’re actively pitching your music to music supervisors or sync houses, the same applies. Research their current client base and projects, and come up with a list of questions you’d like answered by their team. Questions can include what their general placement process is like, what fees are associated, how much creative control you retain, etc. Above all, be professional and respectful; it goes a long way.
What Questions Should You Ask Before Accepting a Sync Licensing Offer?
A rightsholder should ask sync companies and their teams for information regarding the media, territory, term, scene description, and use of the song within the production. You can also request more information about the production itself, its overall budget, and who is involved in the project (e.g., who the director is, who the actors are, or who is distributing the project). The more details you have, the better prepared you will be to consider an offer with confidence and make the right choice for you.
How Do You Cultivate Relationships in the Sync Industry?
The sync industry is built upon trusted creative relationships and knowing how to be at the right place at the right time. This is why it’s imperative to align oneself with partners and companies that can put the music in the best place to succeed in this space.
While aligning with people who have relationships in place to pitch and sync music is the best way to set yourself up for success, artists should also build their own relationships with producers, music supervisors, and video editors. Understanding the strengths and subtleties of each field certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
Music supervision, for one, is a craft — a highly nuanced profession. It combines a deep knowledge of music and moving pictures with song clearance and negotiation skills. It also requires a wide network of relationships with music rights holders and other creatives like showrunners, executive producers, and directors.
While Songtrust does not offer creative services such as sync, we highly encourage our clients to forge those relationships and pitch their songs for creative opportunities. To ensure your songs are searchable for supervisors, and you’re collecting all your performance and mechanical royalties, register with Songtrust or check out our free Sync Crash Course today.