Join Now
Member Login
I Heart Songwriting Club is a global community of passionate songwriters who love to help and inspire people to become great songwriters!
I Heart Songwriting Club is a global community of passionate songwriters who love to help and inspire people to become great songwriters!
Join Now
Member Login
I Heart Songwriting Club is a global community of passionate songwriters who love to help and inspire people to become great songwriters!
Join Now
Member Login
I Heart Songwriting Club is a global community of passionate songwriters who love to help and inspire people to become great songwriters!
Join Now
Member Login

Understanding Music Copyright and Sync: What Songwriters Need to Know

Based on the Podcast Episode: “Understanding Music Copyright and Sync: What Songwriters Need to Know” – Episode 46, The Magic of Songwriting with Francesca de Valence

In the music industry, everything you do with your songs revolves around copyright, and the effective exploitation of that copyright. One of the ways to exploit your copyright is to have your music synced to films and TV shows and ads. Let’s break down the key concepts of music copyright, sync, and how songwriters can make the most of this space.

The two sides of music copyright

You might think of your song as a single event when it plays on the radio. However, from a business perspective, two separate things are happening: the composition and the sound recording are being played. These two components have distinct income streams and ownership rules.

  • Composition Rights: These are the rights to the underlying musical work (the melody, lyrics, etc.). If you’re a songwriter, your earnings come from these rights, sometimes managed by a music publisher.
  • Sound Recording Rights: These are the rights to the specific recording of the song. As an artist, your income stems from these rights, typically managed by a record label.

Some creators, like Paul Kelly, are songwriters and recording artists, thus benefiting from both sides of the copyright. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for leveraging your work and unlocking additional opportunities like sync.

What is sync?

Sync, or synchronisation, refers to pairing music with moving visuals—like in TV ads, films, video games, and more. Sync opportunities can be lucrative because they can offer significant upfront fees and ongoing royalties. However, landing a sync deal isn’t as straightforward as it might seem.

Navigating the sync landscape

Various players in the sync space help facilitate these opportunities:

  • Music Supervisors: They work with clients (like TV producers or ad agencies) to find music that fits their vision. Their job involves both creative decisions and managing the rights and negotiations.
  • Sync Agents: These professionals represent artists or songwriters, pitching their music for sync opportunities. They handle the sales aspect of getting your music into various media.
  • Music Publishers: For songwriters, publishers manage the rights to compositions and seek out sync deals as part of their broader role.
  • Record Labels: Labels handle the rights to sound recordings and also pursue sync opportunities for their artists.

Each of these roles is vital in connecting the right music with the right visual content and ensuring all legal and financial aspects are covered.

Maximising sync opportunities

Sadly, the diversity of approaches by music supervisors and the inherently closed nature of the industry can make getting sync opportunities not so straightforward. Here are some key insights and strategies for artists and songwriters looking to participate in this space effectively:

Stay Alert to Opportunities

Some music supervisors actively share briefs on platforms like X (Twitter), inviting submissions directly. However, many opportunities remain within closed networks due to the overwhelming volume of people seeking opportunity. Following music supervisors, joining industry groups, and subscribing to relevant newsletters can help you stay informed about potential opportunities.

Build Relationships and Network

Cultivating relationships within your local music community and broader industry can be crucial. As one supervisor mentioned, using independent artists, especially local ones, can be a preference for both budgetary and personal satisfaction. Networking at local events, music conferences, and through social media can open doors that formal applications might not.

Demonstrate Reliability

Reliability is a highly valued trait. Delivering quality work on time is often as important as the music itself. Supervisors need to trust that you can produce and deliver tracks promptly and handle revisions or specific requirements without extensive delays or objections.

Understand the Creative Process

Flexibility and a willingness to adapt your music for different contexts are critical. Music for sync often needs manipulation, requiring instrumental versions, stems, or specific edits. Artists who are overly protective of their work or inflexible about changes may find fewer opportunities. Being open to creative direction and understanding the broader vision of a project can make you a preferred collaborator.

Craft Sync-Friendly Songs

Creating music suitable for sync involves a strategic approach. Here are some qualities that make a song more appealing for sync:

  • Broad, Emotional Lyrics: Avoid overly descriptive or narrative lyrics. Instead, focus on themes and emotions that can complement various visuals. Lyrics that evoke feelings rather than telling specific stories are more versatile.
  • Universal Themes: Themes like “home,” “togetherness,” “freedom,” and “adventure” often resonate well. These concepts can be universally applied across different types of media, from commercials to TV shows and films.   
  • Genre Considerations: Some genres naturally lend themselves to sync more than others. For example, genres where the vocals blend more with the music rather than stand out prominently can be easier to integrate into visual media. Understanding the production style that fits the sync space can also help tailor your work accordingly.

Receiving direct feedback from music supervisors can be invaluable. However, this often requires having an established relationship where open and honest communication is possible. Use feedback constructively to refine your approach and understand the industry’s specific needs and preferences.

Study Successful Sync Examples

Analyse ads, TV shows, and films to understand what kind of music they use. For instance, Airbnb ads might evoke a sense of home and adventure without explicitly stating it in the lyrics. Instead of describing scenes or actions, the music often aims to capture the mood or emotional tone of the experience.

Develop a Professional Portfolio

Having a portfolio of sync-ready tracks, including instrumental versions and stems, can make you more attractive to music supervisors. A well-organised portfolio that showcases your versatility and readiness for sync projects demonstrates professionalism and preparedness.

Common themes in music sync

Songs used in advertisements often align with specific themes that recur regularly across different campaigns and seasons. This is because ads typically aim for broad appeal and positive associations.

Key themes frequently include love, hope, empowerment, and sporting triumphs. For instance, advertisements around Mother’s Day often feature songs that evoke feelings of universal love and familial bonds, not necessarily romantic love. Similarly, summer ads might focus on themes of fun, relaxation, and spending time with friends, while sports ads often emphasise overcoming adversity and achieving greatness, accompanied by epic, percussive music that builds excitement.

Thematically, empowerment songs like Katy Perry’s “Roar” are popular as they inspire confidence and positivity. Music that conveys triumph and resilience fits well for sports, especially for events like the Olympics or World Cup. Additionally, advertisers often plan for recurring events such as holidays or sports seasons, creating predictable song placement opportunities.

Understanding these recurring themes helps songwriters target their compositions effectively. By observing the types of songs used in different contexts—such as the upbeat and feel-good tracks common in advertising versus the more varied and genre-specific selections in film and TV—songwriters can tailor their pitches to be more relevant and increase their chances of successful placements. 

Tools like TuneFind can help identify where similar songs have been used in the past, providing insight into potential opportunities for placing one’s music. This targeted approach ensures that songwriters can connect with the right supervisors and projects, maximising their chances of placement and success in the sync licensing industry.

Pitching your music effectively to music supervisors

  • Identify the right music supervisors for your genre. Use resources like IMDb to find out who worked on shows that use music similar to yours. For instance, if you notice a show like CSI using music akin to your style, look up the music supervisor for that show and reach out directly.
  • Timing your pitch is important. Research the show’s production schedule or project to ensure your email arrives when they are actively selecting music. This increases the likelihood of your music being considered.
  • Craft a personalised email that demonstrates you have done your homework. Mention specific examples from the show where your music would fit. For example, “I’ve watched season eight of CSI and noticed you used a lot of [insert artist here]. I have music that fits this style and thought it might work well for the upcoming season.”
  • Include links to your strongest songs in the email, preferably hosted on a platform that doesn’t expire. Avoid sending attachments, as they can be cumbersome and may not be opened. A direct link makes it easier for the supervisor to listen immediately.
  • Don’t ask broad questions like, “What are you working on?” This can be overwhelming for busy supervisors. Instead, make your pitch clear and to the point, showcasing your understanding of their needs and how your music fits.
  • Understand that not every pitch will result in immediate placement. Music supervisors might bookmark your email and come back to it later. Your pitch might align perfectly with a project months or even years down the line, so ensure your links remain active.

How to get ready for sync opportunities

Focus on producing high-quality, authentic music. Avoid crafting songs solely to fit perceived sync trends; authenticity often stands out more. Ensure your tracks are properly labelled and organised. Include artist names and song titles in the file metadata, and have high-quality MP3 and WAV files ready. Instrumental versions can be particularly valuable as they are often used in sync.

Be clear about your rights and ownership. Know who owns the composition and sound recording rights, and be able to explain this to potential clients. This clarity can make you more appealing to music supervisors and sync agents. It is also important to develop a catalogue of your music, including a variety of styles and moods to suit different sync opportunities. Make your music easily accessible through a website or a professional music platform with reliable links that won’t expire.

Finally, reach out to music supervisors and sync agents, but be strategic. Send personalised emails with links to your music and relevant context about where your music might fit. Avoid vague pitches and provide concise, relevant information.

Getting creative with your copyright

Thinking outside the box can be incredibly rewarding when leveraging your copyright. One insightful approach is to diversify your creative output to generate multiple income streams. For example, a musician who enjoys collaborating and experimenting with different formats can use these interests to their advantage. 

Take the story of a percussionist who found a unique way to monetise his passion for instrumental ukulele music. By sharing his peaceful morning sessions on Instagram Live, he received positive feedback from viewers who enjoyed the calming effect of his music. This led to instrumental albums aimed at niche markets, such as sleeping baby music or study music. These albums were released under a different name and integrated into specific playlists designed for relaxation and focus. 

This approach allows the music to generate passive income while the artist focuses on other projects. By understanding and exploiting his copyright creatively, the artist created a sustainable “superannuation project” that continues to earn revenue without constant active involvement.

The key takeaway is to explore how your unique skills and interests can be channelled into various projects, thereby maximising the potential of your copyright. By doing so, you can create multiple income streams and ensure a steady flow of revenue even during quieter periods in your career. Embracing this creative approach to managing your copyright can open up new opportunities and add another dimension to your artistic journey.

A blend of authenticity, meticulous organisation, and creative thinking

By staying true to your unique sound, getting your music ready for various formats, and understanding the intricacies of copyright, you can position yourself effectively in the sync market. 

Exploring innovative ways to monetise your work lets you think creatively about copyright. These strategies collectively enhance your chances of success and sustainability in the ever-evolving music industry. Want more strategies to help propel your music career? Consider joining our Level Up Club, an online mentor program for emerging singer-songwriters to take their songs to the stage, the radio and beyond.

By |2024-05-30T14:19:31+10:00May 30th, 2024|0 Comments
Go to Top