Going out on a limb – simultaneously scary and exhilarating, it’s also an essential step for new businesses to be born.
Licensing pro Leigh Henrich is experiencing all these sensations and more with the recent launch of Sweets & Pop. She started her NYC-based sync representation firm at the dawn of 2018 and has quickly found herself in the driver’s seat, with a growing roster of clients that includes entertainment management firm The Glita Group, publisher Luna Music Group, marketing company Music City East, plus the labels PRMD and RT Industries. Artists and songwriters on board include Chip Johnson & Kit Carlson, Lean, Luc, Michael Shepard, P.J. Pacifico, and R.A.M.P. On the placement side, Sweets & Pop has recently placed tracks on the likes of Cloak & Dagger, Grey’s Anatomy, and MTV’s Teen Mom: Young & Pregnant.
All of these victories come on the heels of hard-earned experience. After starting out with the original music house JECO Music, Henrich kept on adding meaningful posts to her resume: Rights and Clearances Manager for Greenlight, Sr. Director Film & TV Music Licensing at Razor & Tie, then Creative Director at Memory Lane Music Group.
Add up all the above, and you have a licensing specialist that was ready to set up her own sync shop. How has Henrich’s daring adventure unfolded so far? Read on to find out.
What were some of the major skills you would say you picked up in the jobs you held before starting Sweets & Pop? What did you learn from working for other people?
Every place I’ve been has been an excellent learning experience, and each one built on the other. When I was at JECO I was working at the studio, helping composers collect their SESAC royalties and also working with JECO’s library of songs to get those licensed outside of some of the projects they were working on in-house.
And then at GreenLight I got a full education in licensing in a broader sense. I was licensing not only music, but copyrights, trademarks, and celebrity rights.
I always knew I wanted to swing back to just focusing on music. The opportunity at Razor & Tie just came at the right time and was the perfect transition into music, where I was using all the skills I learned in licensing but also had the opportunity to move into more of the creative role.
Then I was able to take that on more fully at Memory Lane. Their catalog was so different that it added a new level because I was learning about reversionary rights and the different concerns in working with more classic copyrights, which meant I had to approach the creative side of things a little differently.
From Employee to Owner
It’s a big leap to go from having gigs for other people to starting your own shop. What led you to the decision to start Sweets & Pop?
I had thought about going out on my own, on and off, for a long time. It just came to a point where I felt like if I was going to do it, now was a good time.
I knew I had the relationships with the music supervision community and I’d built enough of a reputation with artists, songwriters and managers where I felt I could develop a strong roster to work with. I had done sync pitching for years so I felt like it was a natural place to start, but I also have that long history and background in licensing negotiations and agreements and I’ve done a bit of music supervision along the way, so there’s definitely some room to grow into more of a full-service music consultancy as well.
Tell us your elevator pitch for Sweets & Pop: What’s your vision for it?
I wanted to be able to work with artists and songwriters that I felt I could help in some way. I don’t want to find tons and tons of clients just to have a huge roster — I prefer really to focus on clients that I feel strongly about, and to try to help them along their way, by helping them with this one aspect of their career.
I think there are so many things that artists and songwriters need to be focused on. If they feel that sync is a part of the picture for them, then I want to try and help them reach those goals, which I think can help them reach goals in other areas as well.
At this point Sweets & Pop is fully about sync representation, so I’ve really focused on signing independent artists and songwriters and working with managers that have rosters that need help with sync. I’m also working with some independent labels and publishers who need help with pitching and licensing. It’s about trying to get their music out in the right way and guiding them as their licensing point person by leveraging relationships in the sync world, finding creative ways to distribute the music and building from there.
What’s the philosophy behind the way you work that you feel makes you unique? What’s going to move an artist to decide to work with you, as opposed to another sync representation firm? Or perhaps simply putting their music in a library?
First, it’s the experience and relationships that I already have, I think that’s important. It’s very much a relationship business. But it’s also about being open to opportunities and showing clients where I can help them. And sometimes that can even be something outside of sync because I have built relationships over the years and I’m out in the community meeting people.
And I really like to be involved with my clients so they have some say. If they see a show, and they think “Oh, my music might work for this,” I can look into that for them and say, “Yeah, you know what, I do think that would be a good fit, let me get it to them for you.” Or, “I don’t think that’s quite right for them, but have you thought about this? And maybe we should try this direction for your music.” I like it to be very one-on-one. My clients all have direct access to me if they have questions.
Shaping the Agency
What lane does a sync representation agency fit into in today’s musical ecosystem? Which artists are they right for?
For sync representation you have to find somebody who makes sense for you, somebody who’s maybe worked with your genre of music before and has experience. I do think it’s different for various genres and specific to what artists are doing creatively.
I’ve been very fortunate when it comes to building the roster I’m working with now. Before Sweets & Pop was a fully formed thing, I started consulting for Luna Music Group which has an amazing roster. I knew a few managers with rosters that needed help with sync that I signed on fairly quickly. From there it was really all word of mouth, so everyone I have signed so far has come from a recommendation from someone else.
I’m really excited about the roster — the music that’s coming in on a daily basis is so, so good and I’m excited to get it out there. My experience has been in singer/songwriter, alternative rock, alt pop, indie rock —that has really been my wheelhouse so far. I’m excited to see what else is out there and where I can go with it, and take on other kinds of things. But I think if you focus on a certain lane and get that going, those other things come naturally.
Tell us about the nitty-gritty of running a sync representation agency. What are the glamorous and not-so-glamorous parts of the job?
I have a lot of new music coming in. So it’s getting the music in, making sure it’s in the system, it’s got all the metadata and everything’s tagged correctly. That’s half the battle so that when a brief comes in you can put together a link and turn it around pretty quickly.
So part of the day is answering briefs and sending links. Another part of the day is strategizing with my clients about how to get their music out and where it might fit. If they have a new album coming out, do we want to send a blast? I’m also doing some proactive research, finding out what music has been used in a certain show or project and then matching that up with the music from the roster and sending proactive pitches that way.
Making an Impression on Music Supervisors
Tell us about a recent music supervision project that came together where you scored a sync.
The one that was the most exciting, actually just aired at the beginning of August on Cloak & Dagger on Freefrom, and it’s really a testament to how important timing is when you’re pitching for syncs.
At the very beginning when I was just starting Sweets & Pop, I was only working with a few clients and had just started to reach out to music supervisors to let them know what I was doing and to send a sampler of some of the music I had started to represent.
I sent a playlist over to Jonathan Christiansen at Hit the Ground Running, and shortly after he came back with an opportunity on “Cloak & Dagger” for a song called “Wolves” by 8 Graves. It was the first track on the playlist, and it just worked out that he was working on a spot that he thought it could work for, and he wanted to try it out. Had I sent him that playlist three months earlier or three months later, that opportunity might not have been there. It really shows how important timing is. It was also the first sync I landed, which makes it kind of cool and special too.
What have you found about marketing to music supervisors or contacting them. What’s the way to get on their radar and stay there when they’re so inundated today?
I think it’s hard to do. They’re so inundated and even if you have relationships with them, they can’t get back to everybody all the time. I’m sure they want to be able to answer all the people that they know and have worked with as much as possible, but there’s just not a lot of time to respond to everyone. It’s a very demanding job.
I think you have to, Number One, walk the fine line between making sure that you’re visible and not overwhelming them or bothering them too much. And Number Two, just making sure you’re really researched: I’ve found that it always works a little bit better when I can say, “Hey, I saw you used this song in a trailer and I have a song that’s kind of like this, maybe you’ll have another project at some point where this might work.” That as opposed to just, “Here’s all my new music.” On the flipside, if what you do is something that they use often or fits a certain sound used for a project, a link with all of your new music can work in that case so they can just do one click and download the whole playlist. That’s when the tagging is so important because then it’s in their library so if they go back to it later they can find you.
Also adding into the complexity of things is the fact that there are more and more outlets than ever for music. With the aggressive content creation buildout of outlets like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Apple, does that make things easier? Or conversely are you seeing that the more content, the more the budgets are going down per song — what’s the give and take that’s going on in the wider content creation universe that you’re working in?
I certainly think there’s more opportunity. There are definitely more things being made and so the more projects that are happening, the more opportunities there are to find a place for what you’re working with in terms of music. Budgets I feel like are varying, in some cases they’ve gone down, in some cases they’re kind of where they have been. It just really depends on what the project is.
And I think people are trying to figure out from these new platforms what types of rights they’re going to be asking for, and where the budgets should be falling. Sometimes it seems to make sense, and sometimes it doesn’t, so there’s really a feeling of figuring all of that out.
On a 10,000-foot level, who do you look to right now for inspiration in the business world? Who are some of your guiding lights?
I’ve been really lucky because I’ve had so many great mentors. In particular, some of the women that I worked with during my time at Razor & Tie, who I’m still very close friends with. Whenever something comes up, or I have a question, or even starting this new business they are some of the first people I go to and I know they really have my back. That’s a good feeling, especially with how things are going, women helping other women is a positive thing.
Now here’s a chance to do a shout out: If you could work with any artist, who would you love to welcome under your umbrella?
Oh, good question! I’d have to say Bishop Briggs, I just think she’s so cool with what she’s doing.
Here’s my last question. There’s a lot of people in sync who have had a similar career path to you, working for other people. What do you want to let them know about starting their own business — what advice would you give them?
You have to just keep in mind that it’s going to take some time. It’s not going to be an overnight thing, but it’s not like starting over either because you have all the tools and all the relationships. When you’re building your own thing there’s trial and error, and it takes some time to get back on people’s radars and for them to realize what you’re doing and what your lane is.
In terms of getting the briefs that people are sending, if they need something specific they’ll send to the people that they think might have that music. There is a bit of working up to that, where you have to let people know what you have so you can get on the correct lists.
Ultimately, you’ve got to really want to do it. You need to have a lot of patience to build things, let it grow and take that time for it to develop.
Find out more about Sweets and Pop here.