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Breaking Into the Big Screen: A Musicians Guide to Sync Licensing for TV, Film, Video Games, and Beyond

November 28, 2023TRAKTRAIN


Welcome to the harmonic world of sync licensing, a hidden gem in the vast expanse of the music industry. You’re about to discover how this under-explored avenue can not only amplify your music’s reach but also transform your career.

Imagine your music setting the mood in a blockbuster film, a trending TV show, or even a viral video game. That’s the power of sync licensing – it places your tracks in various media forms, offering you mass exposure beyond traditional platforms. But the benefits don’t stop at visibility. Sync licensing is a lucrative stream of revenue, a factor not to be underestimated in today’s dynamic music landscape.

Moreover, the ripple effect of having your music featured in popular media can open doors to bigger collaborations and opportunities. It’s not just about getting your track played; it’s about creating a brand, a presence, and a demand for your unique sound.

In this blog post, we’ll dive into the heart of sync licensing. We’ll explore how it works, why it’s essential for modern artists, and share insider tips on how to navigate and succeed in this realm.


Understanding Sync Licensing

Sync licensing, short for synchronization licensing, is an integral aspect of the music industry, though it often goes unnoticed by the general public. This type of licensing refers to the agreement that allows music to be synchronized with visual media, such as TV shows, movies, advertisements, video games, and more.

Unlike other forms of music licensing, such as mechanical and performance licenses, sync licensing is unique. It specifically pertains to the pairing of audio (music) with visual content. This form of licensing is necessary whenever a creator wants to incorporate a piece of music into their visual project, ensuring that the rights of the original music creators are respected and compensated accordingly.

Sync Placements include Film, Video Games, TV Shows, Commercials, and more!

Preparing Your Music for Sync Licensing

Creating music that catches the attention of sync licensing agents and music supervisors demands a blend of artistry and strategy. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  1. Versatility and Themes: Your compositions should showcase versatility, adapting to various moods and themes. This flexibility is crucial as it allows your music to seamlessly fit into different scenes or projects. It’s important to be able to evoke specific emotions or atmospheres, whether it’s joy, suspense, or tranquility. Understanding the narrative power of music and how it complements visual media is essential.
  2. Technical Quality: Pay close attention to the technical aspects of your recordings. High-quality recordings are non-negotiable – music supervisors want tracks that are professionally produced and ready to be placed. This includes clear, crisp sound quality, balanced mixing, and mastering that meets industry standards.
  3. Track Length and Structure: Consider the length and structure of your tracks. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, having a variety of lengths can be beneficial. Shorter tracks might be ideal for commercials, while longer ones could suit TV shows or movies. Additionally, having clear, editable sections in your music can make it more adaptable for different sync purposes.
Submission Guidelines for a Sync Placement
Example of Submission Guidelines for a Sync Placement


Crafting a Compelling Pitch

Before you start, know who you’re pitching to. Research the company, the types of projects they handle, and the music styles they usually seek. This insight helps tailor your pitch to their specific needs and preferences.

  1. Choosing the Right Samples: Include a selection of your best tracks that are relevant to the company’s projects. Ensure these samples showcase your range and fit the themes commonly sought in sync licensing.
  2. Presenting Professionally: Your pitch should be as professional as your music. This means high-quality recordings, well-organized presentation, and attention to detail. A poorly formatted email or a low-quality music sample can be a deal-breaker.
  3. Providing Essential Information: Make sure to include clear contact information and easy access to your music. Whether it’s links to your tracks or a well-organized digital press kit, the goal is to make it as easy as possible for music supervisors to listen to and contact you.


Legal Considerations

A sync license agreement is a legal contract between you (the rights holder) and the entity wishing to use your music (like a TV show, film, or advertisement). This contract outlines everything from the scope of use to the duration and territory of the license. It’s essential to read and understand every clause to ensure your interests are protected.

  1. Rights and Royalties: Know What You Own: Sync licensing involves two sets of rights – the master recording rights and the composition rights. You need to have clear ownership or permission to license both. Royalties from sync licenses can be a significant source of income. These are typically a one-time fee for the use of your song, but the contract may also include clauses for additional royalties depending on the usage.
  2. Negotiating Terms: The terms of a sync license can vary greatly. Pay attention to how and where your music will be used. For instance, a track used in a major film’s opening credits might warrant a higher fee than background music in a TV show. Duration, exclusivity, and territory are other critical terms to negotiate.
Example of a Sync License Agreement between Producer & User

Success Stories and Case Studies

The world of sync licensing has been a launchpad for many artists, propelling their music into the limelight through TV shows, films, and advertisements. Let’s delve into some notable examples and the lessons they offer.

  1. Dirty Vegas – “Days Go By”: This song gained immense popularity after being featured in a Mitsubishi Eclipse ad in 2003. The catchy chorus and the vibe of the song matched the sleek and modern feel of the commercial, making it a memorable hit. This sync placement was so influential that it led to a Grammy win for Dirty Vegas, although the group’s success was short-lived afterward​​.
  2. Fun – “We Are Young”: Featured in a Super Bowl ad for Chevrolet Sonic, this song is a prime example of how a sync placement can catapult a song into fame. The energetic and uplifting nature of “We Are Young” made it a perfect fit for a wide range of advertisements, leading to multiple syncs across various brands​​.

What Made Their Music Fit Well? Mood and Theme Matching: The success of these sync placements largely hinged on how well the music complemented the mood and theme of the media. For instance, “Days Go By” matched the modern and stylish essence of the car advertisement, while “We Are Young” exuded a vibrant energy fitting for a high-profile event like the Super Bowl.



As we wrap up our exploration of the sync licensing landscape, here’s a word of encouragement for all the aspiring artists out there. The journey into sync licensing is filled with opportunities and challenges, but with the right approach, it can be incredibly rewarding.

Remember, your music has the power to elevate stories in films, TV shows, and games. With determination, creativity, and a willingness to learn and adapt, you can carve out your own success story in the world of sync licensing.

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