Sync Licensing and Entering the Music Industry
Megan Vineberg – Staff Writer
The most common questions people ask when you mention being a musician is how to generate income. It’s not unheard of but sync licensing is still a pretty lucrative business as a way to get in the game of being a professional musician. Of course, you shouldn’t sign anything without seeking legal counsel. It’s also important to own your body of work in order to benefit most from music licensing deals.
Some of the most common questions about music sync licensing deals are: What is a “sync” license, and how do I get one? Do I have to pay a fee, or am I simply paid royalties for my work? Where can I find those who will license my music? Where is my music being licensed to and for how long? How does sync licensing work?
“Want to get your music on your favorite Netflix series or the latest 2K? That’s where sync comes in. Many artists have reached mainstream success after landing the right sync placement. Sync opportunities are on the rise with the growth of streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime spending millions on creating original content.” -Tyler Schurb, founder of Seneca Endeavors
WHAT IS A MUSIC SYNCHRONIZATION LICENSE?
Spotify For Artists defines a synchronization music license or “sync” license as it’s the placement of your song in a TV show, movie, video game or ad campaign. “A well-placed sync can launch an artist’s entire career,” said Darren Schmidt of the Legal Department at Spotify for Artists.
The publisher pays a fee to obtain the rights to the song to publish the song on their projects, whether that be a television show, film, commercial advertisement or even a video game. Most recently, I’ve seen this work for Nick Ortega and Emma Maidenburg of electronic duo PRXZM. They inked a deal with Microsoft, and scored themselves a placement on racing video game Forza Horizon 5 using their song “Where We Started,” off their 2019 EP, High Desert. Another great example of this is if, say, you wanted to post video along with a song on Youtube. You would need a synchronization license in negotiation with the copyright holder.
Nick Murphy, known professionally as Chet Faker, received a sync licensing deal and his music was played during the Superbowl.
Not only do artists get paid and have the opportunity to earn passive income, but they also get to reach new audiences. CD Baby Licensing gives musicians the ability to license any of over 3 million songs opted-in to the CD Baby Licensing/Sync program. In 2020, CD Baby licensed a wide range of music, generating a total of $700k in sync fees, at a 30 percent increase from 2019 onward.
Perhaps the production team of a Y-100 Morning Zoo wants to use a specific song as the show’s opening, they have to get a sync license. According to soundcharts.com, in that case, rights holders will be compensated twice: first, through the sync license fee and then through public performance royalties.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST THE PUBLISHER?
According to the syncreport.com, the average sync fees for one-stop tracks range between $2,000 and $5,000 (master and publishing) for TV shows. License fees may vary, however, for commercials. It all comes down to where the campaign will be aired, for how long, and the amount of edits the commercial will have.
In a post on LinkedIn Pulse by Tyler Schurb, the difference between royalty types were explained: mechanical royalties are based on the physical or digital sales of a song and are paid out to the composer and collected by the publisher in exchange for a percentage. The current mechanical royalty rate is 9.1¢ per sale of physical recordings and permanent downloads in the United States. Performance royalties are paid to the songwriter and publisher any time a composition is played or performed in a public setting. Public performances include music played on the radio, on tv, or as cover in a venue. Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) such as BMI or ASCAP keep track and collect these royalties on your behalf. It’s important to note that the owners of master recordings are only paid out mechanical royalties for digital streams such as on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming platforms. Alan Galbraith from the Music Licensing Department at Spotify goes on to say,“You can pull hundreds, even thousands of dollars depending on where your song is used, whether it’s in the opening credits, a trailer or some other crucial scene.” An example of a really well-paced sync is “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds featured in the 1985 teen drama Breakfast Club starring Molly Ringwald. People remember the ending scene of the film largely in part due to that song sync. MUSIC SUPERVISORS VS. MUSIC PUBLISHERS: WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE? Music supervisors source music for a production, while music publishers pitch your music to music supervisors and grant the sync license if they choose your music for the production. The sync license gives permission to use your song in media in exchange for a fee. HOW TO GET A SYNC LICENSING DEAL There can be multiple masters for live recordings, covers, radio versions, etc. Each master can be controlled by different labels or distributors. The royalties from a master recording are collected and controlled by the distributor or label, if the artist is working with one. Once you enter into an exclusive recording and/or publisher deal, your label and publisher will negotiate sync and master use licenses on your behalf. The split is generally 50 percent payable to the label (made payable to the artist if independent) and 25 to 50 percent payable to the publisher.| WHERE CAN I GO FOR SYNC LICENSING DEALS? According to Ramsey Brown of omarimc.com, Music Gateway, PremiumBeat, BeatStars, Music
Vine, and Artlist are some platforms that offer sync licensing in order to best help the artist submitting. Music Vine is one platform that was made for this type of music business deal in particular. Pump Audio, Rumblefish, YouLicense, Music Xray, Ricall, Beatpick, Audiodraft, Broadjam, iStock Photo, Prescriptive Music, TAXI, Sonic Bids, and Soundlounge are all excellent options for independent artists who own their work, according to girlgangmusic.com. Additionally, some music distribution companies like Distrokid will offer this service for free.