By Mark Frieser
CEO, Sync Summit
It’s probably no surprise to you the question I’m asked most is “how can I get a music supervisor or someone in charge of music on a (TV/film/game/app/ad/brand) project to listen to my music?”
Today, I’m going to answer that question based on a lot of conversations with music supervisors and a good deal of my own experience.
First, you’ve got to get yourself out there and get yourself known.
Nothing lives in a vacuum (except Tardigrades, but you’re not a Tardigrade), and if no one knows who you are or knows about your music, no matter how good it is, there’s no chance they’ll listen to it, let alone use it.
THEY CAN LIVE IN A VACUUM, NOT YOU
This is a relationship business – so many of the deals that happen only happen because of shared connections, word of mouth and the connections you can make only by meeting people.
So for a start, my suggestion is that you attend an event or two – it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Sync Summit, one of our online listening sessions, the host of other great events that are out there, a local Meetup or even just calling a friend in the business and getting together for a coffee.
I’m not just saying this because I produce events and want you to attend them (and let’s be honest, of course I’d love you to attend our events) but for the simple reason that the more you connect to people, the more you’ll learn, the more you’ll have the chance to network, and the more likely it will be that you’ll make a connection to a decision maker and the people that can help get your music licensed.
So attend events. Meet people. Let them know what you do, share your music in a polite and brief follow up email and make it as contextual as possible so people remember where they met you. This will help a lot.
But that’s just the beginning, because the fact is, whether you’re a composer, a songwriter, an artist, a manager or an indie publisher or label, at a major, or with a talent agency, now more than ever, getting a song placed in an ad, a show, film, game, trailer, app or tied to a brand is one of the surest ways music makers and owners can get music heard and get paid for it.
The question is, beyond getting yourself out there and getting known, what’s the most efficient path from start to finish for you to get your music licensed? Doing it yourself or getting someone to help you out?
Let’s take a look…
Doing it yourself, while it’s definitely possible, is a real challenge – I have friends that have been successful in managing their own licensing efforts and getting gigs to score on projects, but it’s not easy.
For Example, among other things, you have to:
Spend time researching and contacting music supervisors.
Preparing all your music for sync, this includes providing correct metadata, file format.
Pay for and store your music in a manner that easily shareable.
Make sure all your ownership agreements are verified (well, you should do this anyway).
Negotiate all your own deals (this takes a lot of work and skill).
Constantly growing, maintaining and keeping your database current.
Taking time to go back and forth with music supervisors and the people who work with them to go over deal points, confirm rights, etc.
Compiling and sending out playlists.
Responding to briefs/requests from music supervisors.
And that’s just the basics.
The fact is, even if you do all this, a lot of music supervisors won’t event respond to you without a sync agent, – they all get from 200-1000 emails a day, and if they don’t know you, many times they’ll just ignore you or delete your email, so at best you’ll only connect with a small number of the potential licensees in the industry looking for music.
Considering all the things you need to do, and how hard it is to get someone’s attention – it’s a full time job that in most cases, you’re better off giving to someone else rather than trying to do it yourself so you can concentrate on your main job – creating and getting great music out to the world.
Fortunately, there are a lot of people out there that can help you, and they’re the Sync Agents.
Now, let’s talk about what a sync agent does, and why having one in your corner that believes in you and your music can make the crucial difference between getting your music heard, known and licensed and your languishing in obscurity or your spending all your time pitching your music when you could be making music instead.
What’s a Sync Agent and What Do They Do?
So what’s a Sync Agent?
The answer is pretty simple – it’s a person or a company (sometimes both) that acts as your authorized representative, i.e., your agent, to represent you, your interests and your music to potential licensees (that means music supervisors, producers, brands, ad agencies, game developers, app developers and others) that want to license your music or sometimes ask you to compose music for their productions.
And just what does a Sync Agent do? On the most basic level, they work between your catalog of work and potential licensees (i.e., music supervisors, ad agencies, etc.) to connect your music to the licensees’ projects. But they really do much more than that.
I personally think of a good Sync Agent as someone who acts as a trusted partner to their clients (i.e., you) and licensees (music supervisors, studios, developers, ad agencies, brands, etc.). Good sync agents do get their emails opened and returned – and do business with licensees because they are trusted helpers.
To me, a good Sync agent is someone who, more than anything, is a problem solver.
They help music supervisors and other licensees solve problems related to finding and securing music for their projects, and they help music makers and owners by effectively presenting and promoting your music the right way to the right people at the right time for the right use.
Here’s just a few of the things a good sync agent does:
Work directly with you to know your catalog and your music.
Help you organize your music for promotion, including assisting with metadata refinement, creating relevant playlist and making sure files are properly linked and available as needed in MP3, WAV and AIFF formats.
Verify that your rights are representable (knowing who owns what and to what extent, and how to properly communicate this to buyers).
Network relentlessly and maintain an extensive database of license contacts. Get to know everyone in the licensee community – how they work, what they need, what kinds of projects they work on.
Research like crazy what projects people are working on and react contextually instead of sending out low-impact, general promotional emails .
Get on the lists of licensees to make sure they are sent requests (i.e., briefs) for music.
Know how to promote you and your music in a politely persistent and contextually valid way – and equally as important, as Kenny Rogers said, they know when to hold them and know when to fold them, i.e., they don’t send music supervisors music that doesn’t fit their current search, spam them or send too much random music.
Negotiation of deals. This is a SERIOUS skill – knowing how to work the give and take with licensees/buyers (and with you) to make sure everyone gets the best deal possible is absolutely crucial. This works on multiple levels – budgetary, term, length, region and being able to gauge what will work for project. It’s key.
Be on point, on time and constantly available to licensees. To be a good sync agent, you have to work on the same aggressive timelines and the licensees do.
For example, one time, for an entire week, I had to work the phones, text messages, email and IM literally all day and night between NY, LA and Asia to close out a project between a licensee and a client. I got probably 15 hours of sleep that week, but we got the job done successfully and at the end of the day, it’s the results that matter.
That’s the level of commitment you need to succeed in this game, and a good Sync Agent will do whatever it takes to solve problems for licensees and close a deal.
Do all the heavy lifting on the deals – paper them as we say. Discuss and confirm the details with you, the licensee, create all the documentation, sign it with the licensee, invoice and process payment.
Get E&O Insurance (especially if they work with ads) to indemnify and protect you and licensees alike from lawsuits. This is expensive and more important than you think.
By handling all the above responsibilities on your behalf, a good Sync Agent both frees you up to concentrate on your music and opens up the potential for you to get more deals.
Again, and just as important, a good deal of music supervisors and other buyers won’t even listen to or consider (especially at a higher level) your music for their projects unless you’re represented by a sync agent.
I advise everyone making or owning music to seriously consider getting a sync agent if they don’t have one.
So How Do You Get a Sync Agent?
Outside of attending sync-related industry events where you can meet sync agents, you can look them up online – a Google Search will help you get started. Also, I’m providing a list of agents at the end of this article for you to contact.
So, now you’ve found a few sync agents that seem promising to work with. Now what?
Start off by introducing yourself, who you are, or what your company is, and giving them (if in person) or sending some links to your music (if through social media or email). If they dig you and your music, they’ll be in touch.
Next, if you decide you want to work together comes the representation deal between you and the agent.
I’m going to try to be neutral in terms of my opinions on the particular deal points that people ask as agents – everyone is different and the points I that work for me as an agent may be quite different to those of my peers, and I respect that.
Still, there are a few main points to look out for that will come up in every deal:
Exclusive or non-exclusive. There’s advantages and disadvantages to both.
Percentage of “up-front” fee you pay to the sync agent – the amount of money paid for the specific sync license (usually 20% – 30% though can increase to 50% or more in some cases). This can be just for the master/sound recording, just for the publishing or both, depending on the sync agent and your particular situation and your ownership.
Percentage of royalties paid to sync agent. For a variety of reasons, some agents will ask for a percentage (typically 50%) of the publishing share of the “back end” or royalties from a sync. This could be because there was no upfront fee, or that this is just the way they do business. There are 100% valid reasons for people to ask for this from you. Just be sure to ask why this is required before you agree to it.
Term, Region. This means how long is your agreement (i.e., is it one year, is it renewable, or is it something different) and what regions it covers (i.e., North America, just Germany or the known Universe). It seems simple but this is important.
How much of your music is represented by the agent? You can limit the agreement to certain tracks or your entire catalog, new compositions or a combination of some or all of the above – it’s completely up to yo.
How will they represent you? How will they promote you? What materials will they need from you (music files, lyrics, documentation) to present you? How will you need to provide these materials and in what formats? Will they retitle your music? Under what terms will try retitle?
Those are the basics.
When all is said and done, just remember you should, as with any legal contract, have a lawyer look over any agreement you are given before signing anything.
And most of all, trust your gut – if you feel comfortable working with someone based on all the pointers I’ve laid out, then sign with them and get to work. I think you’ll be glad you did.
I really hope that I’ve given you a good perspective on the value of a Sync Agent and why you should strongly consider getting one.
Now’s here’s a list of a few people (including me) that I think are great Sync Agents for you connect with to discuss possibly representing you and your music.
This is by no means an exhaustive list (I will add to it – if you want to be listed, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org) but it will get you started.
I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO SEND ONLY STREAMING LINKS – NO FILES
And… send a good 1-2 paragraph bio and links to your website and videos:
- Disconic (My company) – http://disconic.com – Contact Mark Frieser @ email@example.com.
Friendly Fire Licensing – http://friendlyfirelicensing.com – Contact Dan Koplowitz @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Shelly Bay Music – http://shellybay.com – Contact email@example.com
Sound Revolver – http://soundrevolver.com – Contact Jess Furman @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Music Gateway – http://musicgateway.com – Contact email@example.com
Songtradr – http://songtradr.com – Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
InDigi Music Group – indigimusic.com – Contact email@example.com
Aaron Monty EPM Music – Contact – firstname.lastname@example.org
mVibe – https://www.mvibe.com – Contact – email@example.com
Sweet On Top – http://sweetontop.com/about/ – Contact Kristina Benson @ firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bodega Sync – www.bodegasync.com/apply – Contact – email@example.com
Said So Sound – https://www.saidsosound.com
Midnight Choir – https://www.midnightchoir.com.au/about/ – Contact Jen Taunton @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Scharf Entertainment – http://www.stevenscharf.com
Visionworks Music – www.facebook.com/visionworksmusic – Contact email@example.com