Navigating the Sync Placements Industry
Insights & advice from a professional who is a part of a team that has granted over 5,000 sync placements Worldwide!
BUT FIRST, WHAT IS A SYNC PLACEMENT?
Sync licensing or a sync placement refers to the use of music in visual media such as TV, film, advertisements, trailers, or video games. It describes the synchronization of audio and visuals. Sync licensing has become a broader term that encompasses the process of finding sync opportunities, pitching songs, negotiating terms, and getting paid. Sync placements can help increase an artist's reach and awareness by providing a platform for their music to be heard by a wider audience.
Josh Briggs got his start playing bass in punk bands. He’s worked in the music industry for over 15 years employed at some noteworthy establishments including Capitol Records, ASCAP, and now Terrorbird. His focus has always been on music publishing which sync licensing is a major part of. Josh along with his team at TerrorBird - a music marketing and sync licensing company - are responsible for thousands of placements for hundreds of artists. If there’s anybody to ask how to score a sync placement, it’s this guy!
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF A MUSIC SUPERVISOR
A music supervisor's job can involve many different tasks. On the film and TV side, they work in post-production and act as a liaison between the producers of a show and the music industry. This can include being a creative advocate for the music, as well as handling business affairs such as clearing music and negotiating fees and rates. In some cases, they may also need to inform people that certain music is not available for licensing and search for replacements. The common misconception about music supervisors is that they just make mixtapes and create soundtracks for films, but their job involves much more than that.
WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON TYPE OF SYNC PLACEMENT
The bulk of the sync licensing industry is centered around TV, with advertising coming in a close second. TV typically has more individual music needs per episode than commercials, while advertising (including trailers and promos) may be on par with the TV industry as a whole. But TV takes the cake, for sure.
WHAT IS THE MOST COMMON GENRE FOR A SYNC PLACEMENT
Pop music. People want popular music, it’s popular for a reason. It’s the hits, memorable songs that are lyrically relevant and sound current or sound like they’re from a certain era, time, and place. That’s the majority of licensing, but it doesn’t mean that’s all the music that gets licensed. We’re (Terrorbird) looking for developing artists, left-of- center voices, and people who are doing their own thing. It’s really about finding the right sync for the right artist and matching those projects together. It doesn’t mean you should go out there and start making pop music. However, if your music doesn’t sound like what’s currently popular or does not meet current production standards for audio quality, it may be harder to find a place in sync. It's important to manage your expectations but understand that there is a place for every type of music, every piece of music out there, right now.
WHAT IS THE LEAST COMMON GENRE OF A SYNC PLACEMENT
In my experience, we don’t see a lot of Country. But the biggest thing is library music, music supervisors are huge music fans so they can smell bullshit. It’s a mistake to try to make music that is specifically tailored to sync licensing because music supervisors can tell, it’s quite obvious when an artist is trying to be the "flavor of the week." It’s not a good use of time to make a copycat album based on songs from different ads, trailers, or TV shows you’ve heard. That, and certain types of genres, such as techno, electronic, and metal. Some very specific genres of music in that way tend to be used as a caricature when it's used in film and TV, and do not get licensed as often. It’s easy to create and to find a facsimile for it. You rarely hear the biggest artists, even being licensed in those spaces, let alone the up-and-comers. It's probably the biggest challenge because it tends not to be taken as seriously in the sync space. And I'm not really sure why that is, but it is.
WHAT IS THE RECOMMENDED ROUTE FOR ARTISTS IN THE SYNC PLACEMENT INDUSTRY
To succeed in sync licensing, it can be helpful to look for artists who are a step or two ahead of you in their careers and see how they got there. This can provide a roadmap for your own career, and help you understand what steps you need to take to reach the next level. Paying attention to what shows and movies artists you admire are appearing on can also be helpful, as it can give you an idea of where to focus your efforts. If you see an artist you idolize on a show or in a movie, and they are represented by a particular rep or publisher, it can make sense to reach out to that rep or publisher and let them know that you make music in a similar vein. This can help you get started on the right path. The path has already been laid out, you just have to go find out what it is.
ADVICE FOR A GREAT PITCH TO A MUSIC SUPERVISOR
Keep it personal, short, and sweet. We can always ask for more or seek out information on our own. Generic emails that are sent to multiple people at once are not as effective, tailor each email to the specific recipient. It’s important to even just change the opening sentence, make sure you spell the recipient’s name correctly, and if you can reference a reason why you want to be there. Mention why you are interested in working with the rep, such as a shared interest or connection with an artist on their roster. If we see you’re friends with an artist on our label, we’ll go verify that and ask about your music firsthand because their opinion matters a lot to us. On the other hand, if you genuinely have a unique sound that is unlike any artist(s) on the roster, mention that. It might be that you're the odd person out - that you are something different for them to be able to put forward for sync opportunities that they don't normally get to pitch for. Additionally, letting the rep know where you are from can be beneficial, as geography can be a factor in certain opportunities. Geography matters because certain cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Austin have a lot of production. A music supervisor might need music from a certain area, it's always helpful to know where you're from. Location can be the difference maker between pitching one artist over another.
[Music supervisors are currently looking for the Bay Area sound, learn how to start pitching your music today]
ADVICE TO BREAK THROUGH THE SYNC PLACEMENTS INDUSTRY
One of the most important pieces of advice for anyone looking to break into the music industry is to build a community, it is important to work with and support other musicians. No person is an island, I think that’s very true in music. Opportunities often come through connections and building a network of friends and colleagues in the industry can be beneficial. If you feel like you’re unable to or don’t have local connections, you can very easily build connections online. Many artists have said, "their DMs are open," you might be surprised with whom you can connect with in a meaningful way, whether it’s just to say “Hey I like your music or let’s do a show together, let’s collaborate, would you ever want to topline something, or feature on this track of mine, etc.” You'd be amazed at how many people will say yes because creators believe in other creators. Everyone can learn from everybody. Trying to operate within a vacuum is a mistake. It is important to connect with others in the industry to succeed.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MISTAKES ARTISTS MAKE
Trying to be all things to all people is one of the biggest mistakes that artists can make. And we've even been victims of that, we try to have a diverse roster, and have as many different sounds as we can for all the assorted needs of various music supervisors. Instead, it is better to focus on doing one or a few things well. I’ve had conversations with music supervisors where they’ve essentially asked us to even put our composer clients in a box. This is because music supervisors often have to deal with thousands of artists, and it is easier for them to work with specialists who excel in specific areas. Additionally, artists who try to show the range of their skills may not be as good at any one thing as a specialist would be. It is important to identify what you are good at and focus on that in order to be successful. Somebody actually reached out to me this morning saying, “Let me know if you need anything.” I was like, “Well, I don't need anything, I need very specific things at very specific times."