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Sync Licensing Explained: How to Make Money from Your Music

What is Sync Licensing?


Sync licensing, also referred to as synchronisation and licensing, in the creative industry, refers to the process of obtaining legal permission to synchronise a piece of music with visual media, such as film, television shows, advertising commercials, video games, and other online content. It plays a vital role in enhancing the overall impact and storytelling of visual productions.

When a filmmaker, advertiser, or content creator wishes to use a specific song or composition in their project, they seek a sync licensing agreement to ensure they have the necessary rights. This allows them to synchronise the music with their visuals, creating a cohesive and engaging experience for their audience. From a business perspective, sync licensing offers a valuable opportunity for musicians and songwriters to gain exposure, generate revenue, and reach a broader audience by having their work featured in popular media outlets.

By collaborating with a music management company experienced in sync licensing, artists can maximise their chances of securing these valuable licensing opportunities and reaping the benefits of increased visibility and recognition.

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How Does Sync Licensing Work?

Sync licensing refers to the legal agreement between a music copyright holder and a visual content creator that allows the use of music in their works. This includes movies, TV shows, advertisements, and other forms of visual content. In sync licensing, the copyright holder gives permission to use their original recording or song to ‘synchronise’ with the visual content.

The idea is that the visuals and music will complement each other to enhance the overall effect. As independent artists, sound recording copyright owners, and music publishers seek sync opportunities, they must be well-versed in copyright laws and understand the details of the sync licensing agreement. Sync fees are often involved, with negotiations between the music supervisor and the rights holder being crucial in determining the value of the deal. Master use licenses and composition rights are key factors as well.

Successful sync placements can provide financial rewards and exposure, making the sync industry an essential part of the modern music business.

The Growth & Benefits of Sync Licensing for Independent Artists

Sync licensing as a practice has gained increasing popularity in the music industry, with independent artists and rights holders being the primary beneficiaries of this new wave of revenue generation. By obtaining a sync license, an independent artist can earn royalties and sync fees for the commercial use of their music. Successful sync placements can lead to increased exposure, new fan bases, and a significant boost in revenue.

Sync licensing also offers a win-win opportunity for rights holders, music publishers, and production companies, who can obtain the right music to complement their visual content, progressively enhancing the viewers’ experience. With the help of a sync team or a network of music supervisors, unknown artists, and rights holders can now gain access to a multitude of potential sync opportunities, opening previously unknown doors to their music.

The benefits of sync licensing are evident, as modern-day music consumers are consistently exposed to music in various forms, and the sync market continues to grow.

Sound Recording & Composition Rights

In sync licensing the sound recording rights holder, which is commonly the record label or the independent artist, owns the actual recording. The music publisher owns the composition rights. As a working example, a content creator looking to use a piece of music would need to get clearance to use a song from both the sound recording rights holder and the music publisher. Once the appropriate parties provide their approval, you’ll have to pay sync fees, which vary based on the type of visual content.

the difference between the composition rights and the sound recording rights in sync licensing deals

Music supervisors often handle sync deals and sync placements, connecting networks of music supervisors with potential sync opportunities, and facilitating successful sync placements. Sync royalties are split between the sound recording rights holder (for the actual recording), who receives the master use license payment, and the music publisher (for the composition), who receives a publishing administration fee.

The sync industry has grown exponentially in recent years, creating more sync opportunities for even relatively unknown artists.

Understanding the Copyright Owner

In sync licensing the copyright owner can either be an independent artist or a music publisher, and both the composition and the sound recording can be licensed separately. The copyright owner negotiates sync fees, sync rights, and sync placement with the licensee. Understanding the copyright owner’s role in the sync deal is vital as they hold the rights to the original recording and song.

As per universally accepted copyright laws, anyone wishing to use your music for sync purposes must obtain permission from the copyright owners or their publishing administrator. Therefore, the copyright owner plays a crucial role in every sync licensing agreement.

Understanding the Composition Rights

Music publishers are responsible for administering the sync licensing process, ensuring composition rights and copyright laws are adhered to. The majority of sync deals are brokered by music supervisors who manage a network of contacts within the sync industry.

While sync licensing fees vary, the potential sync opportunity for successful sync placement can be lucrative. Understanding sync licensing agreements and the role they play in the market can be challenging, but with a robust sync team or publishing administrator, unknown artists can increase their chances of getting their music heard and securing a sync placement in a blockbuster movie or network TV series.

Music Supervisors

Music supervisors are music industry professionals responsible for selecting and licensing music for use in movies, television shows, commercials, video games, and other forms of visual content. Their role is to find the perfect piece of music that fits a film or TV show’s mood, genre, and overall aesthetic.

They work with independent artists, copyright owners, music publishers, and production companies to acquire the synchronisation licenses needed to use the music in visual content. They are involved in negotiating sync fees and licensing fees, ensuring that the rights holders receive the proper compensation for the use of their music.

what is a music supervisor?

Music supervisors are highly knowledgeable about copyright laws, publishing rights, and composition rights. They have a vast network of trusted connections to tap into in order to find the perfect music for any sync opportunity. Overall, music supervisors play a critical role in the sync industry and are a key component of the music business.

Sync & Licensing Managers

A Sync & Licensing Manager is someone who specialises in obtaining and managing synchronisation licenses for film, television, video games, advertising, and other visual content. They work closely with music publishers, artists, composers, labels, and production companies to secure the sync rights that are necessary for their projects. The Sync & Licensing Manager also negotiates the terms of the sync license agreements as well as the fees that are paid to the copyright holders. As such, they must have a good understanding of copyright law and publishing rights, as well as an extensive network of trusted music supervisors and other industry contacts.

Additionally, they must stay up-to-date on all sync regulations and trends in order to ensure that their clients receive all the necessary licenses and permissions for their projects. In short, Sync & Licensing Managers are the professionals responsible for bridging the gap between music and visual media.

So, what's the difference between a Music Supervisor and a Sync & Licensing Manager?

The primary difference between a Music Supervisor and a Sync & Licensing Manager is the scope of their work.

A Music Supervisor specialises in selecting the music that will best enhance a visual scene or sequence.

A Sync & Licensing Manager specialises in obtaining the necessary licenses required to use that music in the media.

The Music Supervisor has knowledge of popular music and can find songs that match the mood and style of the project, but they do not negotiate or manage the licenses.

The Sync & Licensing Manager focuses on identifying and obtaining the appropriate sync rights for a particular piece of music and negotiating the terms of the license agreement.

Both professionals play an important role in ensuring that all necessary licenses are acquired and that copyright holders receive proper compensation.

Obtaining a Sync License from the Copyright Owner and/or Music Publisher

Independent artists and rights holders must negotiate sync deals with production companies or the network of music supervisors who are searching for the perfect track to complement their visual content.

A successful sync placement can lead to exposure and a reasonable sync fee for the unknown artist as well as a potentially increased profile in the industry. The sync licensing agreement permits the composition rights to the music publishers, and the master use license grants synchronised use of the actual recording by the sound recording copyright holders.

Sync licensing is a crucial aspect of the music business, with the majority of sync deals offering the potential to re-create an artist’s profile and provide them with sync opportunities and increased licensing fees.

Negotiating Fair Sync Fees and Royalty Rates

The negotiation of fair sync fees and royalty rates for commercial music placements is crucial for independent artists and copyright owners since it can generate substantial revenue. Sync fees vary based on factors such as the popularity of the music, the scale of distribution, and the sync rights required.

experts negotiating a fair sync licensing deal

Music publishers and production companies often act as intermediaries between the copyright owners and music supervisors, who manage sync deals. As an unknown artist, securing a sync deal can be highly beneficial, as can obtaining a fair licensing fee. Therefore, hiring a management company who have a  sync team or a publishing administrator can help to handle negotiation processes and maximize potential sync opportunities for your original recordings.

Working with a Network of Music Supervisors to Increase Sync Opportunities

Working with a network of music supervisors can help independent artists and rights holders increase their chances of landing a successful sync placement. These supervisors are experts in the field and have established relationships with production companies, networks, and studios. They can provide valuable insights into the sync market and help negotiate sync agreements, sync licensing fees, and master use licenses.

By partnering with a sync team, unknown artists or those without publishing administrators or major label backing can access potential sync opportunities and gain exposure for their original songs or cover versions. Ultimately, collaborating with music supervisors can be the key to tapping into the highly lucrative market of sync licensing and securing a spot on a blockbuster movie or TV show or even a popular commercial.

Find out the most professional methods to contact music supervisors here.

Understanding Synchronisation Licenses and Production Companies

Production companies, which create visual content, often seek sync licenses from copyright owners, who may be the composer, lyricist, sound recording owner, or music publisher. Independent artists also have the potential to secure sync deals for their original songs or cover versions.

Sync fees are typically paid upfront, and the amount varies based on the intended use, the popularity of the song, and the negotiation skills of the parties involved. Music supervisors, who are part of a network of professionals in the music industry, are responsible for finding and selecting music for sync opportunities.

Understanding sync licensing agreements and potential sync opportunities can help rights holders and publishing administrators maximize their earning potential and even provide exposure to unknown artists.

Licensing Representation Contracts

Licensing representation contracts are an essential component of the sync licensing process, which involves securing permissions to use copyrighted music in film, TV shows, commercials, and other types of visual content.

Music licensing agencies, music supervisors, and production companies often work with independent artists and sound recording owners to negotiate sync deals, which come with sync fees that can provide a major source of income. In these agreements, the copyright owner or music publisher grants the sync rights to the original song or recording for use in the specific project.

The scope and duration of the sync license can vary, from a one-time use in a movie trailer to a broader license for all forms of distribution. Licensing representation contracts can help unknown artists gain exposure and build a successful sync placement history, while protecting their copyrights and ensuring that they receive a fair licensing fee for their work.

How do you make money with Sync Licensing?

Sync licensing is a lucrative revenue stream for both independent artists and copyright owners. It involves licensing music for use in visual content such as movies, TV shows, and ads. Music supervisors and production companies seek out original recordings, cover versions, and instrumental versions of songs to create a compelling audio-visual experience. Sync licensing fees can vary widely depending on the scope of the project, the market, and the popularity of the original song.

The majority of sync deals involve the master use license and composition rights, which allows the licensee to use the actual recording and the publishing rights. To increase the potential sync opportunity, building a network of music supervisors may be necessary. Successful sync placement allows for increased exposure, royalty fees, and the possibility of being associated with a blockbuster movie or a hit TV show. As a copyright holder, it is important to have a publishing administrator or music publisher to manage sync licensing agreements and fees. The sync industry is constantly growing, and there are endless opportunities for known or unknown artists to make money with sync licensing.

how to make money from your music in sync licensing

Commercial sync placements do not normally direct the creative process for the artist’s works. As a rule, Music Supervisors look for existing songs that fit the visual media’s overall theme, tone, and aesthetic. As such, there are opportunities for unknown artists to get their music placed, as long as the original recording meets the production’s requirements. Synchronization license fees reflect the contemporary nature and business trends of the music industry today. They represent a way for rights holders and publishing administrators to earn significant passive profits from their existing works.

How to get a Music Sync Deal

Getting a music sync deal is a great way for independent artists to get their music heard and potentially increase their revenue. However, the process can be quite complex and involves a few steps and legal requirements. Firstly, it’s important to make sure that your music metadata is up-to-date and accurate, including information about the copyright owner, music publisher, composition, and master rights holders. This will enable your music to be correctly identified and monetized by collection societies.

Make sure you and your works are registered with your country’s relevant collection societies. Any potential deal will need to be cleared, so having this in place is essential.

how to get a music sync deal

It’s important to build relationships with music supervisors who are responsible for placing music in TV shows, films, video games, and adverts. Appropriate representation can get you ahead of the game and get your music heard by the right people. You can also attend industry events, reach out via email, and being active on social media.

It’s also vital to ensure that you have all necessary sync rights and are aware of potential legal issues such as copyright laws.

Keep hold of all your production assets. It’s hugely beneficial to have the main song, an instrumental version and all of the stems available. Any of these could be requested as part of a sync placement.

Finally, being represented by a sync licensing company can increase your chances of a successful sync placement as they have an existing network of music supervisors and production companies. They have well rounded expertise in negotiating sync deals and sync licensing fees.

Types of Visual Content Requiring a Synchronisation License

Sync licensing refers to the process of obtaining permission from the copyright owner to use their music in visual content, such as movies, TV shows, advertisements, and video games. The use of music in these productions requires a synchronisation license, also known as a sync license. This type of license grants the right to synchronise the music with the visual content, meaning that the music and video will play at the same time.

The majority of sync deals involve the use of an actual recording or master recording of a song, but cover versions or instrumental versions can also be licensed. Production companies and music supervisors often work together to identify potential sync opportunities for unknown artists, and successful sync placements can significantly elevate an artist’s profile.

Sync licensing fees vary based on factors such as the popularity of the song and the prominence of the visual content. Therefore, copyright holders and publishing administrators must carefully consider each sync agreement to ensure that they are being fairly compensated for the use of their music in the sync industry.

Film, TV, and Web Series Placements

This involves obtaining the rights to synchronise music with visual content such as films, TV shows, and web series. This is one of the most common areas of sync licensing however specialist negotiation and advice is needed. To achieve this, the copyright owner of the sound recording and the music publisher must grant permission to use the music in these specific ways.

Film, TV, and Web Series Placements can be lucrative in sync deals

The sync fees are often determined on a case-by-case basis and can vary depending on the length of the placement, the type of media, and the potential audience reach. Music supervisors play a crucial role in the process, as they are commissioned by production companies and connect the production companies and networks with the rights holders to help secure successful sync placements.

For unknown artists, landing a sync deal can be a valuable opportunity for gaining wider recognition and exposure in the industry. It’s important to have the correct management representation, a sync team and or, a publishing administrator who is experienced at handling sync licensing agreements and fees. This will ensure a smooth process and avoid any future legal issues relating to copyright laws.

Advertising Campaigns

For advertising campaigns, sync licensing is an essential process to enhance visual media. Advertisers need to ensure they have the appropriate sync license, which specifies the kind of use and length of time the music can be used, for the specific type of advertising campaign they are planning. Typically, this license covers the master recording, composition rights, and composer and publisher copyrights.

Advertising campaigns require music to be secured in sync licensing deals

To avoid any legal issues, it’s necessary for brands to get the correct sync license in place before launching their advertising campaign. By adhering to copyright laws, brands can ensure they are legally allowed to use music in sync with their visual content, maximizing the impact of their advertising campaign without any legal or financial consequences.

Video Games

Video games, in particular, often require a synchronisation license for the use of recorded music in the game. Generally, video game developers require two kinds of sync licences: one for the musical composition (the melody and lyrics of the song) and another for the sound recording rights (the actual recording of the song) in the game.

Video games often need music to be secured through sync deals

The music publisher or the copyright owner of the song holds the composition rights, while the master rights of the sound recording are held by the record label or the artist who made the recording. Developers need to obtain both licenses for each song used in the game.

Since a majority of sync deals are handled by music supervisors, game developers need to have a dedicated sync team or a network of music supervisors to handle potential sync opportunities. Relatively unknown artists have had successful sync placements with the correct representation.

Movie Trailers

In most movie trailers, a sync license is required from the copyright holder of both the sound recording and composition rights. The sync license will grant the licensee (production companies, movie studios, etc.) the right to use music in conjunction with their visual content. this will normally be agreed upon for a specified period of time.

The sync license fee is usually negotiated based on various factors such as the track’s popularity, the length of the use in the trailer, and the nature of the project. Music supervisors play a critical role in this process as they help to connect copyright holders (music publishers and independent artists) with potential sync opportunities.

Movie trailerss need music to be secured through sync licensing deals

The majority of current sync deals being negotiated are for pre-existing music. So, it is rare for an unknown artist whose music hasn’t been released to get a successful sync placement for a movie trailer.

Micro Licensing for Independent Cinema and YouTube

Micro licensing is an increasingly popular option for independent filmmakers and YouTubers who want to use copyrighted music in their productions. This type of licensing grants permission to use a song or sound recording in a limited way, typically for non-commercial purposes such as student films, low-budget projects, or YouTube videos.

Micro licensing can provide more flexibility compared to traditional sync and master licenses because it allows for shorter terms and lower fees. For independent filmmakers and YouTubers who are just starting out, the ability to secure music at a more affordable rate can be invaluable.

Independent cinema and YouTubers need affordable music to be secured through sync licensing

When considering micro licensing as an option, it is important to research how the rights are allocated and what restrictions may apply. Some micro licenses may include limitations on commercial use, so make sure you understand the exact terms before entering into an agreement.

Alternatively, these users often turn to sound libraries or ‘soundbanks’ such Audiio or Soundstripe for royalty free music at a hugely reduced cost.

AI in Music Sync & the future

Music sync and licensing is a crucial aspect of the music industry that enables independent artists, sound recording copyright owners and music publishers to earn money from their work. Artificial intelligence (AI) has recently been incorporated into sync and licensing to analyse compositions and sound recordings with networks of music supervisors and experts for potential sync opportunities. Even though AI is currenet being incorporated into sync & licensing, there is also a huge raging debate on the controversial subject.

AI tools enable music supervisors to be more efficient in their work, and can help identify emerging or unknown artists for sync placement. The majority of sync deals involve popular tracks from well-known artists, so AI algorithms can help level the playing field for new artists trying to break into the market. AI has also paved the way for more accurate and scalable recording identification and tagging, potentially leading to more successful sync placements and increased sync fees.

In the future, AI will likely become an even more integral part of the sync and licensing process, aiding in the identification of potential sync opportunities and even negotiating sync agreements.

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