As the demand for sync licenses grows, it’s essential for musicians and catalogue owners to get strategic about pitching. Seasonal and holiday periods provide plentiful and potentially lucrative opportunities, but knowing how to find them and pitch for them can be tricky.
At Synchtank we host regular webinars to help our clients (we generally publicise these via twitter, email and on our website). Our most recent webinar was with music supervisor John Melillo, where we discussed how to make the most out of sync opportunities in festive periods. John’s extensive career in music has seen him produce and place music for major brands like Absolut, Pepsi, and AT&T, as well as numerous TV shows, video games and films. Here’s what we learnt from him:
1) Timings involved in holiday and seasonal opportunities
“This is super varied depending on the type of project, who the clients are and what their development cycles are like” says John. Retail style campaigns can vary wildly, with some making final music choices just a few weeks before going live, and others beginning their search the year before. Although it may seem like a strange time to think about Christmas, the summer period is when “most of the work is being generated, at least from a concept side”, so that’s generally a good time frame to go on.
2) Profiling for pitches
“Knowing who you’re pitching to is going to exponentially increase your opportunities” he explains. “Everyone has their own style, and certain brands have an affinity for certain types of sounds, so building a really good profile of who you’re pitching to is paramount to success.” Learn how music supervisors like to receive music, what type of music they usually go for, what metadata they like, which websites they will and won’t stream/download from.
He personally dislikes using systems where you have to click on an individual file to download, preferring to download the whole bunch in one go. And the thing he likes least, he explains, “are all these applets that work on proprietary systems that aren’t adequately tested and won’t load or require you to install.” This is an unreliable method of presenting your music, leaving “too much mess between you and the track.”
Whilst he will open emails from unknown sources, the people who have done their homework and built relationships with him are his priority. “One of the biggest problems in the industry right now”, he says, “is that tools have become super automated so people forget to use the system in different ways”. Don’t just send out a generic email blast, be personable and tailor to individual preferences.
3) The fine line between persistence and pestering
If you’ve been unsuccessful in reaching him, persevere but don’t bombard. If someone is persistent at working towards getting to him in a variety of different ways, he’ll usually end up connecting with them.
“A lot of times people manage to connect with someone I know and who’s work I respect”, he explains. “We all know each other and we all talk all the time. If I see people at other agencies and production companies, the first thing that comes up is “what are you listening to lately, or who are you working with lately?” This has happened before – someone got in touch with a guy I know and then dropped his name in an email to me. Immediately I got in touch with them”
It’s also important to remember that rejection is part and parcel of working in the creative industries. If you don’t like unreturned phone calls and the word no, this probably isn’t the place for you.
4) What he looks for in a seasonal track
“I think so many folks have a misconception about what type of music is really good to be promoting around the various cycles of the year”, says John. “I can’t tell you how many playlists I get of random “Christmas holiday songs” with super dense lyrics that refer to very specific things. Those are obviously going to find themselves less placeable than things that are a little bit more general and simply allude to topics of the season”.
According to John, there are 2 things that are really important when considering the type of music that might be used in a holiday spot:
– Doing your homework
Do your research and be aware of the trends. “You do hear a lot of “Christmas” music but rarely do you hear the type of Christmas music you might hear in a mall”, he explains. “It’s not “Santa Baby” constantly in advertising. You might hear that in a short term retail spot that runs for 6 or 8 weeks, but you hear it less in the more brand based campaigns.”
– Value for money
With high production costs and budgets decreasing, advertisers are naturally looking to get value for money. They don’t want to make a spot they can only use for 4 to 6 weeks, even if it’s fantastic. On the other hand, you don’t want to run an advert that screams Christmas for too long. “One thing that drives me insane as a consumer”, says John, “is when you see a Christmas spot that runs until the 3rd week of January – at that point I’m done.” By using songs that simply suggest seasonal/holiday themes, you’re going to get a lot more mileage for your campaign and it won’t feel dated by January 1st.
There are tonnes of different options out there for licensing and commissioning music, so if you’re going to focus on generic holiday songs people will find those super cheap elsewhere in production music libraries. “Really you’re looking for something that’s a little bit more special” says John.
5) Case Study: Lowe’s “Lights Across America” spot
John worked on this spot for American retail chain Lowe’s several years ago. “To me this spot embodies very simply what the holiday stuff can be like without it being over the top Christmas”, he says. “You recognise it pretty quickly as a song that has that warmth of the holiday season – it’s got some key words that when you lay against visuals are highly indicative of the types of imagery that you’d expect (“shining lights” and “singing songs”) without screaming of Christmas.” These are the types of songs that are increasingly appearing in seasonal advertising. You’ve got the right tone and warmth without being too explicit in your message.
At the end of the day there’s no easy formula for finding yourself a seasonal sync, but the advice above is a fantastic guideline for your festive strategy. Just make sure the sleigh bells stay on the sleigh.