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Sync Licensing

Published: 17 November 2022

Think of your favourite musicians. Now think about where you discovered them? There is no doubt that you have discovered at least one of them through some visual media, even if subliminally. A television show, a movie, a game! At the very least, you’ve likely “shazamed” a song that stopped you in your tracks.

This music backing your favourite television show wasn’t picked by random, it was carefully selected by a professional — most likely a ‘Music Supervisor’. It starts with a thing called ‘Music Sync Licensing.’

A music sync deal is one of the best ways of exposure — potentially expanding your audience to a national and global scale. Alongside exposure, a placement in an advertisement, film or game can mean extra $$ to go towards future projects. If in a successful production, you may earn royalties for years to come.

While that sort of coverage seems unfathomable for many young artists, it’s do-able if you’re not afraid to take the risk. In recent years, we’ve heard Tassie artists heard on major productions — such as Maddy Jane on Stan’s original production Bump and A.Swayze & The Ghosts on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater!

A.Swayze's song Connect To Consume features on the hugely popular Tony Hawk soundtrack - which can also be found on an official Spotify playlist!

A recent example of a sync deal success story would be the Netflix smash-hit, Heartbreak High. The re-adaptation of the 90s show has captivated audiences around the world. It remains one of the most-watched series on Netflix and has been streamed over 33 million hours!! One of the many artists who scored a lucrative deal (assumingly, unbeknown to them at the time) was Sydney’s, Julia Jacklin. Her song I Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You was hand-picked for a pivotal moment in Season 1, Episode 8. It played during one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the series. By this point in the show, audiences feel utterly connected to the characters, and I Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You represents a part of that. The streaming numbers are no doubt rising gastronomically for the Aussie artist.

You can catch Maddy Jane's song No Other Way Season 2 Episode 8 of the Stan Original series Bump!

In short, if you align your music with a brand/media that represents what you stand for, it can help you find a like-minded audience. In Jacklin’s case, a gut-wrenching song/artist on a gut-wrenching episode is a surefire way to find new fans. And get paid in royalties   while doing it!

Music Supervisor Kate Dean is from the Australian, female-led organisation SyncHouse. Kate has been a music supervisor for almost ten years and still gets excited when she can help emerging artists be heard on major productions. 

Kate says making a life-changing amount of money off of sync is not realistic for an artist that is emerging and that there is a lot of risks involved, but that it certainly has huge benefits. 

“You might make $1000, or whatever it may be - but that can then go towards writing your next album or something like that. Everyone hates the word exposure, but thinking realistically, you get your sync fee but you also get that exposure from people shazaming the song as they're watching, that creates more traffic to your music - there's another layer of additional income that it might bring. The person that Shazamed your song might become a huge fan and go to your shows! There is a lot to think about. It can bring audiences to your music that creates long time fans.”

“We do [Music Supervision on] Love Island Australia. People can poopoo reality tv and think it’s not as great as being on a drama series, but you’d be surprised how much comes from that sort of stuff! I remember reading an article a few years ago, listening to the top 5 syncs of that year. In the top 5 (among Florence and The Machine in Game of Thrones and some other major players) was this unknown artist that was synced on Love Island UK. They got so many Shazam’s from it that it launched their career! I love hearing those success stories, we get a similar thing here. While it may not be as big as the UK version, everyone really sees the value of their music being played in Love Island Australia. Artists' streaming is going up after being on the show, it’s exciting!

When music is synchronised with a specific scene, you get really emotionally connected with it. That’s why it's such a symbiotic relationship in that they/productions use music, because it taps into your connection, memories and emotion of a particular song. It’s a shorthand way of telling the story.”


So, what is Sync Licensing?

It’s the permission to use your music alongside visual content. Tv, film, advertisements, games and more.

Tony Hawk and Bump are good examples where Tasmanian artists have had massive exposure thanks to putting their music out there, the right way. People will associate your music with something they already love visually. Your streaming numbers will go up.

What is a music supervisor?

Music supervisors will work with film producers to pair music with media - resulting in engaging, memorable content. They may search through artists & songs specifically to find suitable, relevant tracks for an impending release. 

How do I get my music ready?

Licensing and copyrighting your music correctly is so important! The master copyright covers the song and og recording and the publisher copyright covers the song’s composition - so, the songwriter/s. So be sure to get permission from anyone involved in your song before your sync license is cleared. 

Make sure all your Metadata is present, accurate and up to date. Before submitting your music, make sure all your co-writers, composers etc. are up to date! Avoid legal issues down the line. If your track happens to blow-up and someone involved in the process of making it wasn’t credited, it’s not always pretty!

Have your press kit ready to go. They might be needed! Make sure your social media is active and up to date, because in this generation - it’s often the first place audiences visit when discovering a new artist. Keep your Music Tas page updated! We can’t stress this enough. There are people in the industry that will be directed to your page, whether through our team or directly through a google search. Update your bio, upload your music, make sure all links are working and have a direct point of contact through the website’s message function.

But I’m a newcomer?

It doesn’t matter! As long as your music fits a brief, your song has a chance! Many Music Supervisor’s look specifically for emerging artists - you just need to be accessible. To increase your chances of getting a sync deal.. make sure your music, licensing, social media and press kit is ready! 

Who do I reach out to?

Reach out to Publishers, Labels, Sync Agents. In terms of reaching out directly to a Music Supervisor, Kate says “The chances of someone just randomly emailing me on the day that I’m looking for some music just like theirs, is really rare. There is too much music. Having someone to represent you cuts through much more.

Nice Rights just look after sync. That’s good for artists who don’t have a publisher but are looking for someone to represent them around the world for sync opportunities. Secret Road is another one, there are quite a few ones like that who are always looking for emerging artists!"

Final Advice from a Music Supervisor’s perspective:

“I would say to artists, continue focusing on getting your music out there in general. Being all the DSP platforms*, playing shows across Australia, community radio. That’s how we discover music!” 

Kate says there are times when she will be scouring platforms for a particular artist or song. She recently worked on a film called 6 Festivals, where there was a need for emerging Wollongong (NSW) bands. She scrolled through Wollongong-based playlists to find the bands that would inevitably feature on the movie. Get yourself on those Tassie playlists!

Kate’s final piece of advice is make 👏 sure 👏  you're 👏 contactable!  “Have an accessible email address! If we do discover your music, it’s so important that we can find you. That happens so much on Love Island - we’re trying to track down a songwriter and so many don’t have the contact or profiles we need. We can try and DM them, but people don’t always read them! Have your email!”

*A DSP means “Demand-side platform”. It’s a system that allows buyers of digital advertising inventory to manage multiple ad exchange and data exchange accounts through one interface

✨SyncHouse was approached by Music Tasmania to comment on Sync, and this is not a paid article or an advertisement for SyncHouse.✨

Music Tasmania acknowledges Tasmanian Aboriginal people as the traditional owners of this island, lutruwita (Tasmania). We pay our respects to elders past and present and acknowledge traditional peoples' connection to country. We respect the traditions and customs of the Aboriginal people of lutruwita, who remain the custodians of these lands.