What is sync licensing?
Sync licensing, or “synchronization,” is the use of music in visual media such as TV, film, advertisements, trailers, or video games.
It literally describes the “synched” pairing of audio and visuals.
In a narrow sense, the sync license specifies the negotiated terms of that usage: placement, permissions, payments, etc. It’s an agreement between the owner of the visual media and the owner(s) of the music.
But sync licensing has taken on a broader and more active meaning in the 21st Century. It’s become shorthand for the whole process of finding sync opportunities, pitching specific songs, negotiating terms, and getting paid.
Speaking of getting paid, sync licensing is one of the best ways for independent musicians to earn money while reaching new listeners — and it’s growing every year. In 2020, some independent distributors licensed enough music to generate $700k in sync fees (up 30% over 2019).
For a more in depth view of Sync placements please view this article by CD baby.
It’s important to know that TWO different music copyrights are at play in every sync placement. The producer, film studio, TV network, or other content creator has to pay to license BOTH the master recording rights and the composition rights before they can use the music.
If you own your masters and wrote the songs, you’re in a great spot. You can approve both usages at once AND collect both upfront sync fees. No need to communicate with labels and publishers for outside permissions. Also, unless the terms of your sync deal involve exclusivity or a buyout, you can license the same song for multiple uses!
Songwriters, composers, and music producers who create original songs and lyrics can also earn publishing royalties “on the back end” for sync placements. This money comes in the form of performance royalties generated each time a TV show airs again (reruns!) or gets moved to a secondary market.
"Double check with your distribution service" - M37
A small percentage of viewers that hear your song in a film or TV show will pick up their phones to Shazam the track. But those who do have proven they already love your music and are likely to dig deeper, which is why a big sync placement can also help you achieve other objectives such as growing your YouTube subscribers, driving album sales, boosting Spotify follows, etc.
Sync licensing can be lucrative, but it’s difficult to estimate what any one placement is worth because there isn’t a “standard” sync fee. Instead, there are a number of factors that determine how much you earn from a particular placement. These include:
Another thing to remember: When you control all the rights to your music, you make the rules. A placement on a big ad campaign should probably mean big bucks. But if you’re helping your friend make a no-budget short about subterranean vampires, you can set the terms — from free, to cheap, to backend payments based on the film’s future performance.
Sync placements can range from $500 to 28k depending on the slot placement.
Music supervisors oversee the usage of music in visual media.
This means you’re granting that agency the right to negotiate a sync deal on your behalf.
There’s a place for EVERY kind of music in sync licensing. Is the song right for the scene, ad, or project? That’s all that matters.
The fit of the song for the movie, show or scene is most important than how good you feel the song is.
1. They found a song that fit better.
2. Your approach was wrong.
3. Your song had the wrong Metadata, or no Metadata.