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How to License your Music to Movies & TV Shows

May 16, 2018

Are you looking for new ways to earn a living off your craft as a producer or musician? Ever wondered how music makers get their work into ads, TV shows and movies, and get paid for it?

How to License your Music to Movies & TV Shows

If the answer to both questions is “Yes,” then what you're looking for is one short word – sync; or in two words – sync rights. We've talked to Sync & Licensing Manager Lucas Iliev of the licensing agency Music Gateway about what sync is, how to do it, and what his top 3 tips are for artists submitting their music.

Lucas is a four-year veteran at the company. He's landed a number of placements in productions with major publishers like Netflix, NBC Universal and Vice, and is continually working on new projects.

What is Sync?

Sync is an umbrella music industry term for synchronizing a musical composition to moving image. The sync process is made of a number of different steps including the creative side, where the right pieces of music are found and/or created, and the paperwork, where the music is licensed for use from the rights holders of the master recording and publishing rights of the track.

What is a Sync license?

Through a sync license (or licensing agreement), the rights holder(s) of a piece of music give permission to a third party to use that piece of music in a specific way for a specific fee. This can get a bit tricky if there are multiple rights holders involved, as they all need to agree to the usage. This is why, in a lot of cases, music supervisors go for so-called “one stop” tracks. “One stop” means that all the rights can be cleared by one entity.

Simplify the process

The most difficult part is often getting your music to the right places and the right people; it’s a lot of work and it requires a lot of time. You can do it yourself, or you can utilize a professional service whose main focus is making connections and securing licenses. Using licensing agencies is useful because they take the workload off the hands of the artist, leaving them free to focus on creating, and they have established connections and know their way around the field.

How do licensing agents know what to look for?

A client provides a brief to the agency with some information on the type of song and the function they want a piece of music to have. Then, it’s up to the music supervisor to have the final pick on a song that fills that role. Sometimes they're super niche and specific briefs, like those looking for music such as Argentinian Hip Hop, Mexican Ranchera, authentic era-specific music from a certain region or time period.

3 tips for submitting music for TV, film or advertising

1. Fill in metadata

In a lot of cases if a music supervisor likes your music, they’ll save it on their library for later projects. If your metadata is filled out properly, they will easily be able to find the track and be able to contact you. If it isn’t there, you’re potentially missing out on a sync deal. Here are some metadata must-do steps:

  • Artist Name & Song Name: You might think, “Duh obviously,” but you’d be surprised by the amount of tracks submitted without those filled in.
  • Comments: Put your contact details here. Make sure you add those so the supervisor can get in touch if they’re interested in your track.
  • Release Date: This section is gold for year-specific briefs. If a supervisor is looking for tracks released in 2004, and your track fits the bill but the year isn’t in your metadata, it won’t be found.

2. Do your research

When you reach out to submit your music directly to a music supervisor, show them that you’ve put in some time and effort into researching the shows they’re working on. Sources like IMDB and Tunefind will help you get up to speed with the shows and their licensed music. It helps to hint that you know what you’re doing, and doing the research will give you some useful knowledge as to what material to send and what not to send with your submission.

3. Use a well-written e-mail and submission

Make sure that your e-mail approach is short and sweet. Introduce yourself, show that you’ve done your research and provide a link to your music. Make sure that when you submit music, the supervisor can both stream and download the tracks if they wish to do so.

Are you finalizing your own mixes? Learn how to quickly master them for streaming.