First and foremost, I’d like to wish you a happy, healthy and successful 2023, both personally and professionally.
I believe the New Year is an opportunity for us to resolve to put into action ways to live and work better in the year ahead, especially for those of us working in music and media.
Over the past decade, I’ve learned through experience as a sync agent, an educator in the field and as a music supervisor what principles in sync and composition lead to long-term success for those who have resolved to integrate these principles into their work.
The musicians, sync agents, publisher and label sync executives, artist managers and music libraries who put these principles into practice are those that consistently get their music licensed for opportunities in TV, Film, Games, Ads, Apps, Podcasts, online platforms and social media, and today I’m going to share these basic principles with you.
I’ve distilled them down to ten basic principles, resolutions if you will, that if you implement them in your approach to submitting your music to the people and projects in music and media in 2023, you’ll position yourself and your music alongside the leaders in the field who consistently get their music heard and licensed by decision makers in music and media.
- Resolve To Submit Well-Produced, Mixed And Mastered Music. We’ll start with the most basic principle of all – only submit music that’s been properly produced, mixed and mastered. And while this point seems obvious, I literally cannot count the number of times I’ve heard music that people have submitted for projects that is clearly not mixed, produced or mastered to the standard that we would use before submitting a song to a streaming network.
Those of us working in the industry can tell a song hasn’t been properly mixed, produced or mastered within the first couple of seconds, and if it’s still in demo or rough form, we’ll just move on to the next song. We just don’t have the time to follow up with you to give you notes on how to improve the mix or the mastering, and what could have been an opportunity for you and your music is lost.
- Resolve To Sign Split Sheets With All Your Co-Writers and Assign Right Of Representation For Sync. If you don’t know who owns what percentage of your music, and we don’t know who’s authorized to license your music, we cannot work with you, period. And we’re not going to play detective trying to sort out something we expect you to know before you send us music.
That’s why it is so important for you to put in writing every time the percentage you and each of your co-writers own of every song you write as soon as you finish writing the song . Also, you need to decide on who and how your music can be represented by you and your co-writers. You can designate one person to represent your rights or give each other joint permission to represent your music – it doesn’t matter, so long as you define who can submit your music for licensing opportunities.
It can be something as simple as this split sheet and this representation assignment document. However you decide to document ownership and assignment of right of representation, do it, and do it every time. Otherwise, all your great work and creativity will lead nowhere.
- Resolve To Know The Ownership Of Your Masters. Along with split sheets and rights of representation, you need to know who and at what percentages your masters are owned by you and others. Countless times, music has been submitted to me where someone has assured me that they own 100% of their masters, only to find out upon further inspection that there’s a producer who owns 5% of a master, or there’s that manager you had a few years ago that you gave 10% of master rights to of an album in lieu of payment, et cetera, et cetera.
These lapses of knowledge and documentation on your part complicate the syncability of your music, and we just don’t have the time to help you sort out the issues of your ownership. So make sure you know who owns your masters in what percentages or we cannot license your music.
- Resolve Not To Use Samples In Your Music. Just don’t do it. Samples make things infinitely more complicated for us when we’re licensing music.
For example, let’s say we love a song of yours for a project, you own your master 100%, your split sheets are signed, but there’s a sample of the melody of Bananarama’s “I Heard A Rumour” interpolated in the chorus and you submitted the song without letting us know about the sample.
Other than the fact that it’s going to piss us off just based on general principal that you didn’t tell us, if we still want to move forward with the song (which we probably won’t), it means that now we’re going to have to get in touch with a major label and several publishers to clear the sample in your song. And that’s something we’re not likely to do – it’s a major pain timewise and more important will exponentially raise the cost of licensing your music. So avoid samples.
And another thing about samples – be careful with samples from services like Splice. Read the fine print – the licenses may be limited and not usable for sync purposes. My advice is to avoid these entirely, and if you do decide to use them, make triply sure they are completely royalty free and clear for any usage, include sync.
At the end of the day, you’re better off not using samples at all – let your own creativity shine through without relying on that of someone else to make your music excellent.
- Resolve To Know The Syncability Of Your Cover Songs. Under the compulsory license, you can cover literally any song that exists, but that doesn’t mean that you can easily license it for sync purposes. The compulsory license only extends to streaming, download and physical formats like albums, not licensing for sync. And while we all love covers, especially those that are reimagined with a different feel and sound, many of them are unsyncable because the owners of the underlying composition and lyrics either won’t give their permission and/or will charge a prohibitive fee
And that hurts, because while we may love your cover, it’s going to be too expensive or complicated for us to license. So help us to help you – before you submit a cover (or even better before you cover a song) research the writers and owners (i.e., publisher) of the composition, be proactive and get in touch with the publisher, let them know you have a cover version of one of their songs you’re planning on submitting for sync and find out if there are any encumbrances to the composition/lyrics being easily cleared.
This will go a long way towards making your dark, orchestral version of Jody Watley’s “I’m Looking For A New Love” syncable for that new teen vampire series. Start by checking out who the publishers of a song are in Songview.
And not only will doing your research make a cover more syncable, the publisher may even help you find sync opportunities as music supervisors and other licensors come to them asking for cover version of their songs regularly.
Here’s something to get you started with coverable songs – a list of coverable songs from the 90s. These are all songs that have been vetted by the publishers are being sync friendly.
Finally, think about covering a song in the public domain – I know a lot of people that have done incredibly well in sync by creating reimagined public domain songs and you should cover some of these too. Here’s the link to the public domain database to get you started.
- Resolve To Enter Your Metadata Correctly With Good Descriptive Tagging. If you don’t have correct metadata with good descriptive tagging in your MP3s, we cannot find you and we cannot pay you. If your metadata is incorrect or incomplete, or as is the case with most of the music that is submitted to us, missing, we’ll delete your music before listening to it. And that’s a big opportunity lost for both of us. So make sure that before you submit your music, you include at a minimum the following information in every MP3 of yours every time you submit a song
- Song Title
- Composer(s) with PRO (e.g., Mark Frieser (BMI))
- Publisher(s) In Grouping (e.g., Chansons de la Revolution Publishing (BMI))
- Genre (just enter one)
- Year of release
- BPM (Beats Per Minute)
- In Comments Section: Start with phone/email contact, then basic descriptive info: one stop male vocal vocoder mid-tempo bright orchestral anthemic building moving RIYL Human League
If you want more info on how to get your metadata right, check out the sync café archives where we’ve talked extensively about best practices in metadata or better yet, for personalized instruction on how to get your metadata right and sync in general, sign up for my and music supervisor Patricia Carrera’s Sync U Course.
- Resolve To Research The People And Projects Before Submitting Your Music. One of the keys to success in sync is knowing who and what projects you’re submitting your music to, and that’s where research comes into play. Good research and an approach that’s tailored to that person and their projects goes a long way in getting your music licensed.
So when you are thinking of contacting someone or a company, research them and their projects on IMDB, on Google, on LinkedIn, on tunefind, on ispot and on social media. Get to know what they do and who they are so that when you do submit music, you do so in a personalized and targeted manner that will greatly increase your chances for success.
- If The Music Doesn’t Fit, Then Don’t Submit: Resolve To Submit Music That Meets The Need Of A Project. This one seems obvious, right? But it’s not. So many times, when I’ve floated a brief to people or sent out a DM asking for music, what I’ve gotten back about 50% of the time is completely outside of what I asked for.
Why do people do this? Probably because they are thinking that perhaps even if their music is outside of the parameters of what I’ve asked for, they either think their music could fit or if it doesn’t, this is an opportunity to introduce their music to me.
This is not an entirely flawed strategy to help me discover your music, but if you are going to send me a link to your music that doesn’t meet the needs of what I am looking for, or my current projects, do not send it as a response to the specific music request.
Instead, send me a quick note saying that while you don’t have any music that meets my current needs, I can get a sampling of your music at a (preferably) disco link that you provide with no more than five songs. That’s it. Just make sure you don’t directly respond to my request for 1990’s French Hip Hop with your dark synth reimaginations of Edith Piaf – that’s a non-starter that will get you off my list of go to resources.
- Resolve To Connect, Communicate and Follow Up Courteously and Consistently. In a very busy world, respect and courtesy goes a long way, and that means making connections, communicating and following up in a concise, consistent and courteous way that respects my time.
Whether you are introducing your music to me for the first time or we already work together, presenting yourself and your music and responding quickly and accurately goes a long way. Here’s a good example of an email I created with a music supervisor that you can use as a template/guide when sending out your music.
- Resolve To Understand Contracts And Quote Requests, How To Read Them, And When To Get Help. When you became a musician, a sync agent or anyone else working in music, unless you’re a lawyer or an IP geek like me, you probably didn’t get into the business because you wanted to become fluent in the language of intellectual property. But you should because it will pay exponential dividends to you in your career.
Basically, what I am saying is know what you sign from a business and a legal perspective. As I am not a lawyer, I will not give you advice on the legal aspects of contracts or IP, though I can give you some advice from a business perspective as someone who’s had to negotiate and finalize the terms and scopes of thousands of agreements and contracts.
Know what people are paying you, and under what terms and for how long and under what conditions. And if there’s anything that you don’t understand or makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to ask – the person/company on the other side should be happy to answer your questions, after all, they want to use or represent your music at this point and for the most part, people are fair. And if they won’t, answer your questions, that’s a big red flag.
And if you are signing with a sync agency or another representative for your music, go over the agreement carefully, make sure you understand the terms, and even if you do understand the agreement, make sure you reach out to a lawyer you trust to review the agreement with you to make sure the agreement is fair and equitable before signing it. And if it isn’t, don’t be afraid to push back or abandon the agreement entirely.
And one more thing: If you have issues with any of the above, get help. Helping you meet your goals in music and media is the reason I started Sync Summit, and we have a ton of tools to help you, including our Sync U and Music In Ads online courses, our Sync Support mentoring program, our consulting services, our 2023 LA Sync Summit and of all the resources of our community on Facebook, our blog and the archive of our over 200 Sync Café chats on every aspect of sync.
I hope this list of resolutions helps gives you a foundation for success in sync for 2023, and as always, thank you for everything you do and for being a part of our community.
CEO, Sync Summit