So last night we sponsored the AIM UK (Association of Independent Music) “Sync Licensing to TV, Film, Adverts and Games” conference.
It was well organised, well attended and informative. The seminar consisted of an evening with six high profile music supervisors (PJ Bloom, Nick Angel, Alex Hancock, Will Quiney, Sergio Pimentel and Sophie Urquhart) from a diversity of use cases (TV, Film, Advertising, Gaming) sharing their views with the audience (supported by two labels – Mute and Bella Union).
We thought we knew a lot about sync but got a hell of a lot of insights. Herewith are the salient points we took away (and a little internal observation at the end):
– Music supervisors tend to view it as a relationship play and not just a one-off synch discussion.
They want to work with people who will work with them. Those that will do best are those that accomodate budget, are helpful in getting the licenses cleared with rights holders, that are responsive and are engaged. There was consensus that a bad previous relationship could be a significant barrier to a further synch. In the end if they look bad because of you, then they look bad to their client and it prejudices their livelihood.
– Supervisors want (with some exceptions who still like the odd CD) digital delivery of music where they click through to listen to a track and get the information they need and, only then, if they are interested do they download it.
Why? Because MP3s clog up their inboxes, their hard drives and are hard to track. Much better that they keep a smaller collection of interesting ‘curated’ music they like rather than everything they’ve ever received. Like you they’re busy and those that help them clearly see through the haze will reap the highest rewards.
– Supervisors want you to interest them with what interests you.
Music discovery requires them to be presented with the best music. They know their jobs but they don’t know the entire music eco-system. Tickle them by thinking about the focus reason why your track is the killer track for them.
– Do your research.
Upcoming projects are well covered in the media press. Music supervision tends to take place in the main post-production so you have great warning (if you read well) of upcoming work. Equally, time your conversation, pitch too early and you’re pitching before the visuals. The visuals inform the final music selection.
– Music budgets are tight. the rule of thumb seems to be that 1-2% of a production budget will (at best) be allocated to the music.
Therefore don’t expect to always make a killing. One supervisor put it “expect to make $0 and you’ll always be delighted, expect to make $50k a time and you’ll always be disappointed”. Per above, the view seemed to be that the best way to make money was through building a recurring relationship with a supervisor such that you get regular business rather than expecting to get occassional but killer fees. Love them and they’ll come back to you.
– Supervisors know their budgets and know your challenges.
They are not trying to squeeze every last living cent out of you. Generally they love music and want music to develop. Where fees are ‘off the money’ try and think more widely about the impact the synch could have on overall artist development/promotion. Maybe the value is wider. In other words, be creative. Take a discount by innovating on terms. For example get the production team to tweet about an upcoming placement of your track in TV/Film. If they have the followers then a small discount of your fee for invaluable promotion could be worthwhile.
– The general sentiment was that most music is syncable, it is just whether or not is is ‘generally syncable’ or ‘niche syncable’.
In other words a piece of music can always have a specific use case, just the more marginal the use case the more challenging it will be to place the sync. The key is intelligently pitching the right music to the right project. Pitch niche when the project is niche.
– Supervisors are most wary of music whereby the music has characteristics that will interfere with the visuals
(in other words audio noises that could be confused for being in the visual itself – accentuated snare drums, clapping, whistling……). That being said if you can provide the music in a way where the ‘niggles’ can be stripped out then that can be overcome.
The point of introspection for us was that despite the fact that digital delivery was such a big thing and that they wanted to be given music on ‘online platforms’, no-one mentioned Synchtank despite it being what we do. And you know what? We were delighted. Why? becasue we power over 50 of the coolest catalogues out there, all done with the branding of the catalogue itself and with us hidden in the background. We are 100% convinced (and we spoke to some clients after) that each of the supervisors had received pitches at some time from our clients and none of them had realised we were there. Super. The supervisor got what they wanted and the client pitched it from their system, direct to the supervisor, under their brand. We are the Switzerland of Sync, just no-one is aware of it!