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Sync Rights - Everything You Need to Know

  • 01 September 2016, Thursday
old TV set in front of a wooden paneled wall

Patrick Niesler, founder of the independent music publisher and label RipCue Music, offers deeper insight into the subject of sync rights in the second article of the series on "How to get your music used on television and in films".

You were brought closer to the basics of sync rights and the relevant agreements in the first article of this series. You know now how sync rights work and what parameters need to be established in order to set a license price. Then you can start writing invoices diligently. But wait! First, you have to obtain the sync license request or get one of your tracks used in a production.In this series, I speak specifically of existing material, not classic production commissions that you may receive as a composer. It's about how you can generate sync licenses for existing songs and make cash off your own small catalogue.We will therefore discuss the following points in this second article of the series:

With this information, you can develop your sync strategy easily based on your own music.

Who is looking for music?

We already know where music can be licensed - everywhere. You can offer a sync license or the user of the music must obtain the appropriate license where no collecting society framework contracts exist. Usually this is the case in the fields of film, advertising, industrial films, internet productions and games.

The first step: Do your homework! You are not a publisher and do not have a large catalogue, so you should be fully informed of the areas where your music would be suitable for. Be honest with yourself; if you specialize in German Schlager, your music would hardly be appropriate for corporate films or games, at least not in the majority of cases.I have often read of artists referring to their music as "syncable". The client has the final word on this. The notion of "syncable" does not actually exist, because it is contingent on the right track for the relevant use.Say you are as a singer-songwriter with strong songs about love, freedom and sunshine. Then you must know which film scenes, commercials and videos your music would be suitable for. You must concentrate on films dealing with a topic that suits your musical style or brands, which might use your music for one of their commercials.

We have now determined the areas and types of clients that our music suits. Of course, you need to do research to identify the right companies, and that is not enough, because ultimately you will have to deal with the people who propose a track, use it for their production and finally license the music.Think about who these people are. Who influences those who decide what music is used? I do not mean who makes the final decision - if a company is making a commercial, it can decide in the last minute that the music is "a bit too ice-creamy" and ask the ad agency to change the track. In fact, this happens more often than people eat ice cream in the summer.The people you are looking for are those whom combine music and picture and those whom need to be inspired by your music. Among them are directors, editors and music supervisors, just to name a few.

Contacting potential music users

There is no tried-and-true recipe for contacting music users. It must simply be the right time. Use a personal touch, don't be unapproachable or arrogant; just play the game. It is not rare for music users in this area to get hundreds of songs a month sent to them. Therefore, you shouldn't be surprised if someone does not jump at your offer euphorically. Sometimes it takes a little time.If you want to send a reminder, then do so, but do not forget to say something new. "I just wanted to check if you got my mail" is wasted time and not very efficient.It is also a success if you manage to get music pitches from agencies and productions on a regular basis. This way you always know what is wanted for a specific project. Again, be true to yourself and only send material that really fits the briefing.Even though we live in a digital world, it all boils down to personal contact, which takes time to foster.

Why does it make sense to work with a publisher?

If you don't want to do all the work yourself, then you should consider cooperating with a publisher. A publisher usually has an existing network of contacts, is regularly invited to music pitches and directly approached by clients to deliver the right music. A good publisher is the link between your creativity and the music business (with sync rights). He or she negotiates for you when it comes to setting the right price and takes care of any licensing issues when rights expire.However, a publisher does not do all of this for free. Of course a publisher wants a share of direct license royalties and related revenue from other rights. For example, if the music is being used for a commercial, he or she would want a share of the potential TV revenues distributed by the collecting societies. The share varies greatly from publisher to publisher, but is generally between 40% and 60%.It is important for every artist to know that they concede not only the sync rights (i.e. the rights of use), but also all other publishing rights pro rata to the publisher in this case.When choosing a publisher, you should always ask yourself three questions:
  1. How does my music measure up to the other music in the publisher's catalogue (for example in terms of genre and quality)?
  2. Are the publisher's references consistent with my own strategy?
  3. Do we connect on a personal level? Are we "on the same wavelength"?
There are dozens of opinions on this, both of musicians and users. The former prefer major publishers due to the better distribution and vast choice, while the latter prefer smaller publishers who offer the advantage of good personal contact and familiarity. In the end, you choose based on your own specific preferences.

In any case, having a publisher and label will allow you to focus entirely on the music. If you still want to be completely independent, though, I will be offering some crucial advice on how to reach the music user in my next article of this series.

Stay tuned und keep ripping,

Yours truly,Patrick

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