So, you want your music to be in a TV show, commercial, or movie. Great! Before you send a cold email, or pitch your music to a Music Supervisor (defined as “a qualified professional who oversees all music-related aspects of film, television, advertising, video games and other existing or emerging visual media platforms as required”), keep these five important sync facts in mind:
Know the difference between being an artist and a library artist
This is more of a “good to know” tip. We all know what a musical artist is and what they do. You might be a musical artist looking to get a song or two in an ad/TV show/film. A library artist is another term for a production music writer. Production music writers write a lot (and I mean A LOT) of music that can quickly be licensed and placed in a TV show, movie, or advertisement. “Think of production music like you would ‘stock photographs.’” Because of the pace of the industry, production music writers must be able to not only write the music, but record AND mix the music very well, very quickly.
It could take 18+ months for money to arrive steadily
Once your song is done and ready for placement, it can take a few weeks or months for the commercial, television show, or movie to air/be released. From that point, it can be around 9 months before your PRO pays out the performance royalties. Is it an overseas project? It could take even longer to see any royalties.
If you’re making library music, be prepared to never get credit
When you make music for production music libraries, the only credit you’ll likely see after a TV show or a movie is the name of the production music library itself. That’s not to say you can’t put your accomplishments on a resume or a portfolio, but know that you’re exclusively working behind-the-scenes. If this doesn’t sit well with you, reconsider choosing a career in production music.
Your music should evoke an emotion the scene is trying to convey
Consider the following words: suspense, intrigue, violence, action, steamy, reflection, melancholy, etc. Do you have anything in your catalog that might reflect some of these terms? If you do: Are the lyrics vague? Is this a final version of the song? If you don’t: start writing! Be prepared to send “stems” (individual instrument/vocal tracks that have not been mixed into a full master); the creative direction of a TV show or movie may change, and your music needs to adapt to that.
It's always best to approach people with whom you've developed relationships. However, if you're jumping the gun and cold-contacting music supervisors, please take a few things into consideration:
Music Supervisors and other people in charge of getting music into films, tv shows, and commercials, will not look at email attachements. Send them links through resources like DropBox, Box.com, or SoundCloud if the download option is on.
Do your best to not waste their time. According to a Digital Music News article, Music Supervisor Lindsay Wolfington says emails like the following are preferred:
Subject: Sounds like (popular artist), for (TV show currently working on)
Body: I’ve been watching your show and I saw you do _____. My music sounds
like ______ (this type of music and maybe these bands). I own 200% of these songs.
- A clear, concise email explaining your music’s sound and what percentage you own (we’ll get into this in a second) might garner a response quicker than a long, flowery email with too many details. Wolfington goes on to say that she “respond[s] to polite and charming. Not assuming anything. Cockiness is really unattractive.”
- Make your percentage of ownership crystal clear to the music supervisor. If you own the master AND the publishing, you own 200% of the song. For this reason, using a “split sheet” before cowriting sessions will help you keep track of the percentage you own. If you do not own all 200% of the song, list out the remaining parties of ownership and their contact information so the music supervisor knows who to contact to get the song cleared for use. Wolfington expresses hesitation in using an unknown artist’s work when they do NOT own the full 200%. This may differ from supervisor to supervisor.
- DO NOT pitch a fee in your email. The fee is determined by the music supervisor, and it is up to you to accept it or pass on it. Budgets are different for every project, so your upfront compensation can differ per project.
- An email like this is not a guarantee. A lot of Music Supervisors choose not to work with people with whom they do not have relationships. It’s nothing personal.
As we stress to our members: there are no absolutes. These are only guidelines to give you a heads up into the world of sync. Let us know if you’ve found success in sync placements!