The Downlow On Sync: The How-To On Music Synchronisation 

Kavina Kumar
Kavina Kumar

This year, the sure-paced marathon of a music journey has turned into more of an offroad sprint. And none have picked up the pace faster than the new hybrid-model artists who are running it. You might be planning career moves that you never imagined going into 2021, and if we had mentioned the word ‘Sync’ in January, you would have every right to think we meant syncing devices. 

But here we are, looking yonder and expanding the repertoire that comes with being a musician. If you’ve seen that meme with the contrasting statements about 2020: This is hell, to 2021:“ok how do we make hell comfortable?” – well, get comfortable because it’s not too shabby here. Yeah, Netflix and Amazon Prime are on steroids, but this has opened up many new doors for up-and-coming musicians – the new kind of movie star.

Stay tuned, and let us tell you about an opportunity called Sync, which is making a major play for an artist’s revenue status – if you know where to look – Spotify streams, you don’t own me!  

What is sync?

When music is enmeshed with visual mediums; movies, tv shows, advertisements, and video games, to become a new audiovisual package, this happens through a process called synchronisation. In short form; sync needs licenses too, which help get around any legal requirements ascertained from copyrights of a track. 

Sync is responsible for the first time you fell in love with the Shins after the scene in Garden State where Natalie Portman made Zach Braff listen to ‘New Slang’ in her headphones. Or the notorious Grand Theft Auto soundtracks that infiltrated our traffic rush hours and had us fantasising about our next heist. These are just a few of the soundtracks that became painted amongst the stars because of sync. 

Technically speaking though

Sync is everywhere that sound can accompany visuals, and thanks to the ever-expanding streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon prime, and Youtube – the second most visited site of the year, sync is inescapable. Sync fuels advertisements, add theatrics to the gaming experience, and even accompanies visual campaigns for many businesses. The ever-growing need for music to complement the heavy schedule of new shows and visual content has given rise to innovative opportunities for emerging artists due to the increased demand for fresh new music. And with the potential to be paid further royalties every time that piece airs, there is an ongoing income opportunity for artists to get in on. 

Well, ok then! Sounds good!

Different rights are covered by different licenses 

A song contains copyrights for both a master recording; the actual sound recording itself – whether in the form of a cover, recorded, or live performance, and the composition rights; covers the lyrics and composition of a track. Both these rights are obtained for use of original music in an audio-visual sync deal via a publishing license and the master use license. When a sound supervisor wants to move forward with a sync contract, they will interact with both sets of those rights. For obtaining the Master Use license, they will deal with the music label or artists, and for the publishing rights(sync license) composition and lyrics, they will go through the publisher or artist(s). 

*Make sure that all parties that hold rights to your tracks are in the know and can easily liaise with each other when a sync opportunity comes up. Obtaining licenses is tedious work, and chasing people may deter a sync supervisor from pursuing a deal. Another factor to consider is that the more people that own rights(like three or four songwriters), the more annoying it gets for supervisors.

Why should we Sync?

Besides the fact that income is a struggle for artists to generate right now, especially with streaming culture and restrictions on live shows, the potential for exposure is limitless. 

Yes, the process does sound a little complicated, but you already understand what’s going on because you’ve hacked the distributor lingo and are now pitching songs for playlist status. So you might as well add sync to the mix because landing a deal can only have a positive impact on your Spotify streams. Not only will you be growing the audience that your music will have the ability to reach, but the paid promo opportunity, additional stream of revenue, and the endless possibilities that could continue to take you to new heights and unreached frontiers. 

Think Kavinsky’s song ‘Nightcall’ in Drive. Indie crowds were already around it, but the movie boosted it to a mainstream level of success linked with the release of the movie, this resulted in views skyrocketing to 180 million on Youtube.   

Florence and The Machine’s original song ‘Jenny Of Oldstones’ for Game of Thrones became the most Shazamed track in history within two hours of the Season 8 episode release. 

VIBE.

Sync isn’t just for the big-name artists

You might be feeling intimidated by Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther soundtrack contribution, or the Bee Gees Saturday Night fever, and yes, those are some of the greatest examples of original compositions created for movies, as well as synchronisations finest link-ups, but just as the people want to innovate, so do they want fresh music to soundtrack their new ideas. They need you fam! And just like you may be intimidated by the likes of Kendrick, a lot of companies have big dreams, but can’t allocate the funds to secure Kendrick to sync their projects, and they don’t necessarily want to with all the undiscovered talent out there! A big-name artist is just a talented artist with exposure, and this is a step that helps.

Meet the major sync players

Among those whose ears to get your music around are the producers/directors, music supervisors, and the ones who will publish and push your music to the first two. 

Directors and Producers a.k.a the source of Everything

It never hurts to go straight to the source, which is the creative directors and producers of the projects that require music. Some creativity comes with this process, as getting on a director’s radar requires a good stint of networking or a direct line of contact. This may sound a little daunting, considering we aren’t all living a stone’s throw away from industry conferences and the movie-makers of our generation because this is Australia, not NYC. So the next best thing would be to search for the companies, startups, gamers, or other industry folks that can keep you in mind or put you in touch with directors. Reaching out on your own is empowering because the right recipe could be a well-worded email and a killer track – nothing is impossible these days, and people are looking for the next great idea. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. 

Music supervisors

The sync supervisors are the matchmakers of tunes and visuals, and the ones who source music, secure the rights and pitch the music to directors. The supervisors are a little harder to get to, and I say ‘a little harder’ because once again, nothing is impossible, there just isn’t a great many music supervisors floating around, and sometimes production companies split different aspects of the role as well as hiring external sound engineers for a project. So it’s better to let the music publishers go to them, or let the sync supervisors come to you.

Publishers 

Publishers hold (not own) the composition rights for your tracks, and can aid you in sending your track out to sync agents, song libraries, or directly liaise with a sync supervisor for potential contracts to use your songs. The world is your oyster, but to get you started, check with your label to see if they handle publisher rights and sync deals already, as some are taking on that extra responsibility to streamline the process. Otherwise research some song libraries such as Songtradr who have direct deals with Disney and Netflix, or Taxi, Sentric, and even your music distributors like Tunecore or Distrokid, who have publisher licensing built into your tracks. 

Before you ask, there’s no recipe for a good sync song, it’s just good music 

In an article recently, Music Supervisor Lisa James and Director Alex Menck from Big Sync Music both stated that authenticity is always the key to success and that they do not recommend changing your sound to adapt to sync opportunities. Percussive and instrumental-driven tracks have demand in the advertising space because of their versatile nature, and soul and street-urban music with positive energy. But instead of creating music for sync, think more in terms of composition, thoughtful lyrics, and creating moments inside a track that might work with a visual, so that you can pitch the best songs for the job. 

Lastly, we need to discuss Metadata 

To have success from pitching songs to a sync agent or publisher, the metadata of your tracks will need to include a few crucial elements, so that it is search optimised for sound libraries and catalogs. Metadata is the set of data embedded in your tracks, like track length, bpm, genre, etc, but goes a little further to describe specific details of your track. If you get this part right, you’ll be ahead of the curb by including details such as who has ownership rights and contact details for accessing these rights, as well as keywords to help find a specific style. This makes it an easier job for music supervisors to locate your track in a major sync library, saving them time and making you look great in their books.  

Include the obvious details such as the track release year, number of parties sharing ownership rights, and contact info for the publisher that the sound supervisor should use to get in touch. Provide details on the mood and instrumentation in as much detail as necessary, info about the composition, and specify if it’s a cover, remix, or original. And lastly, don’t forget the ISRC code so usage data of music may be recorded, and you can keep track of incoming royalties. 

And there you have it, a whole new world. 

So what have you accomplished this year? TikTok Star( -never in my life!)? Playlisted artist? Distributor specialist? Spotify Superstar? Social Media analyst? and now Sync opportunist! We’ve got articles to help you with all these things if you aren’t up to date, and if there’s anything else you want to hear about, feel free to reach out to us and let us know, because we’re learning too, and we love to help in any way we can.

 Till then, we’ll wait until we can jam out at your next gigs, at which you’ll probably be telling us all about your latest sync deal. GOOD VIBES AND MUSIC BLESSINGS ONLY.