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Part 5: Synchronization Licensing

By August 20, 2014August 26th, 2022Blog

The last bastion of licensing that we will talk about in this series is synchronization licensing. And while many people talk about raking in the dough from ticket sales, touring, and royalties, synchronization licensing is a form of copyright exploitation that is seldom talked about in great detail, but can be the source of significant income for a musician.

Synchronization licensing refers to music that is attached to a moving image, or “synced.” This refers to commercials, films, tv shows, etc. Of course many know there is a lot of money to be made from commercials and such, but people continue to underestimate how boring life would be without music. Projects are always in need of the perfect song. No matter how unknown or obscure, if you ever hear music being played along with something on a screen, chances are someone is getting paid, and you should start thinking about how to get your music played there as well.

This guy’s music could be on a commercial.

Getting placement alongside multimedia has almost everything to do with getting your music out to ears that are making the music selection decisions. Every project likely has a music supervisor who scours the scene for music with the right sound, length, emotion, lyrics, cost, etc. for the project. If you’re a budding emerging artist, you’ve probably already looked into online distribution services such as CDBaby and Tunecore, and with full membership, these sites will also upload your music to their online catalog, where music supervisors can search for that perfect match.

Even still, sometimes there is nothing quite like having a person on the ground, so supervisors also send out regular requests for specific types of music, asking licensing agents if they know of any music that would fit the bill for a particular scene, commercial, etc., If you agree to be represented by a licensing agent, these individuals will pitch your music to supervisors.

But even with a licensing agent working on your behalf, getting placement for a video production is no guarantee. That being said, there are a number of things that are helpful to understand when making yourself available for sync opportunities that may come along.

1.) THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE: in order to land a sync opportunity, ALL owners of BOTH the composition and sound recording copyright have to agree to license their copyright to the video producer. If any owner of either of these copyrights does not agree to the contract in time, be it the publisher or a member of the band, then the sync deal cannot go through. This means it is of UTMOST IMPORTANCE to understand where the ownership of all your rights lie so you can be as responsive as possible to potential synchronization offers.

2.) Be sure to have all your songs tagged properly so the digital files are labeled by artist, album, song title, etc. Licensing agents organize their catalog by a number of different characteristics, from genre, to instrumentation, to the emotion a song evokes. The last thing a licensing agent or music supervisor wants is to get a file in their inbox titled “Track 1.” If anything, tag the metadata in your audio files and make sure your song information is organized and sortable.

3.) Have the lyrics available for all your songs. Certain music supervisors may be looking for specific themes or messages in the songs they pick, and lyrics are certainly good indicators.

4.) Have instrumental versions of your music available for review. As San Francisco music licensing agent and owner of Friendly Fire Licensing Dan Koplowitz shares, there are so many cases where a music supervisor falls in love with a song but has to turn it down because there are no available instrumental tracks. Take a little time throwing down some instrumentals in the studio or mixing instrumental tracks. They could be the key to huge payback down the line.

Synchronization licensing is a matter of being available and responsive to the many project demands that are out there. The only way to break into this sphere is to be polite, professional, and prepared for any opportunities that may come your way. If anything, these three “P’s” should be the foundation for any relationships you make as a musician. After all, if you are a pleasure to work with, informed, and prepared to take your music to next level, then even if you don’t land that sync deal, it could lead to a world of opportunities that you may never have imagined.

Written by Jin Park


“Sync Licensing- Hidden Revenue Streams for Your Music – DIY Musician Blog.” DIY Musician Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2014.

Passman, Donald S. All You Need to Know About the Music Business, Eighth Edition. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2012.

Interview with Dan Koplowitz on 13 August 2014.

Images: Dan Torcivia, Christmas Stock Images