An Editorial
By Mark Frieser, Chair, Sync Summit

No matter what part of the sync business you’re in, nothing’s more important than 100% airtight rights clearance.


The quality of the music, its price, its “syncability,” who you know or where the music comes from – whatever – none of these factors matter if the music isn’t properly cleared.

None of them.

So why is it this central point – so simple, so logical and so clear to me and every music supervisor I know seem to be lost on so many rights holders?

Frankly, I’m at a loss.

Not knowing the clearance status of your rights is the quickest way to not only kill a single deal, but to be written off the “go-to” lists of every music supervisor and producer.

Joe’s right you know.

I personally felt that something so obvious in its importance to the sync process didn’t even bear repeating on our blog or at our conferences, but after a recent conversation, I’ve changed my mind.

Let me explain.

At one of our Sync Summits, a prominent music supervisor met a company purporting to possess “one-stop” licenses (master & publishing) for several tracks the music supervisor wanted to use in an upcoming project.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case.

In fact, after the music supervisor did some initial vetting of the tracks, it was found there were several uncleared samples interpolated in the tracks.

Which isn’t exactly One-Stop, is it?  More like Full Stop

And just like that, the deal died, along with the chances of the rights holder to have a long-term business relationship with this music supervisor.

All because a rep didn’t have their rights airtight.

In this article, I’ll briefly lay out the why music supervisors like One Stops and what rights holders need to do in terms of best practices. First the why.


Music supervisors vet rights as if their lives depended on it. Because they do. And, they expect you to conduct your business in a similar matter.

That’s because a music supervisor’s job involves a lot more than picking music for a project or sitting with a director brainstorming – they’re also responsible for making sure that the tracks chosen for a project are properly cleared for use in a visual media project.

In other words, it’s literally their ass, their reputation, their livelihood on the line.

If a music supervisor uses a track that hasn’t been properly cleared, not only will this hurt their career and reputation, but it could have massive financial and legal repercussions when the visual media company or project they worked with has to correct the error.

Movies, TV shows, ad campaigns, trailers, video games – there are examples of all of them being pulled (at great cost) post-release to be re-synced after legal teams discovered music rights weren’t properly cleared or couldn’t be cleared after the release.

And who do you think is left holding the bag when that $50 Million film ad campaign is postponed for two weeks while the studio re-syncs the film’s title track?

The answer to that question is obvious – the music supervisor.

And this is why, when you speak to music supervisors, when you come to our conferences and when you read articles like this, all the music supervisors emphasize their preference for “one-stop” deals over and over again.  They want and need rights that are clear and simple if you plan on doing business with them.

In fact, this is so important that some TV production companies and film studios ONLY let music supervisors work with music from an approved list of publishers, artists and labels.  Why?  Simply put, loss prevention and mitigation of risk.

And while this may stifle creativity, frankly some studios have been burned so many times that would rather put blinders on the creative people behind projects rather than expose themselves to potential losses.

The good news is that most visual media producers are not so rigid. Most allow music supervisors, producers and directors a good deal of freedom to select music from a creative point of view, which is good for them and good for you.

Music supervisors really do want to do business with new people and find new music – just don’t make their jobs any harder than they already are.

If you meet a music supervisor, don’t say you rep one-stop tracks or that you’re a one-stop shop unless you’re 100% sure you have ALL the master and publisher rights for any tracks you own, represent or make.


So what is a one-stop really?  In its most basic form, its extremely clearcut – a “one stop” is a track that has all assigned rights clreared, and a “one-stop shop” is a library, publisher, label or other rights owner, creator or holder authorized to represent all assignable rights to a particular track or set of tracks for sync licensing.

This means publishing and master rights must be 100% pre-cleared.

Not half, not some, but all your rights better be airtight.

And this means not only having the master rights for a track properly cleared and accounted for, but making sure that you’ve also accounted for and cleared every possible publishing right.

So if you are going to say you rep/own a one-stop track, or are a one-stop shop, you’ve got to make sure of the following:

  1. You must know who the publisher/publishers are for the track you’re representing or own.  More important, you must have signed permissions from each one for every track you represent or else you don’t have a one-stop.
  2. If there are samples, interpolations or representations of underlying works within any master track you’re repping/own, you need to be 100% sure you know what the track is, who the publisher is, who the writers are, and that you’ve received permissions to represent their interests in a sync deal.  If you don’t, then you don’t have a one-stop
  3. If you are looking at international markets, you need to make sure that you have cleared the rights with any publishers that are unique to other markets. If you don’t, then you don’t have a one-stop.

That’s not so hard right? 

Follow these three rules and you’ll be in great stead with music supervisors. It’s essential to be a “go-to” person for the music supes – just as long as your music’s decent and you help them do their jobs efficiently – but that’s a subject for a future post.

Our next SyncSummit is in NYC on June 14-15, 2016, our next Hollywood event is on November 9-10 and if you register by November 17, you’ll save $300