First of all what does sync mean as it pertains to the audio and video world? - Sync (or synchronization) is a process where songs or instrumental cues are combined with moving images – film, TV series, adverts, video games, trailers etc. ... The sync license gives someone the permission to use your composition in a moving picture, subject to contract regulations.
Film and TV sync has been a thing for a very long time now, it's only more recently it has become a lot more prevalent in today's music industry. I remember the first time I really felt that songs made a real difference and emotional impact in a movie and that was in Top Gun. From Kenny Loggins "Danger Zone" to Berlin's "Take My Breath Away", you can feel the emotions of the pilots going supersonic to the romantic story between Tom Cruise and Kelly Mcgillis. Even to this day I still talk about and perform the song that came on in the background when Tom was talking about his parents in Kelly's backyard. It was perfect and none other than Otis Redding "Sitting on the dock of the Bay". My point is all of the emotional moments in the film are supported by great emotional songs and it was an incredible job done by the music supervisor Michael Dilbeck to be able to clear all that music with the record companies. He told the perfect emotional story behind the dialogue of the scenes that made it so memorable.
These days you don't have to be a signed major artist to be able to get your music into TV or films, in fact music supervisors like to use a lot of the indie artists' music because it costs a lot less to license. This gives people like you and me hope! So does that mean if you've released an album that is Indie you're ready to go ahead and pitch it to Film and TV? Not necessarily…
There are a lot of things that music supervisors, producers and directors look for in songs that will work for TV shows and movies nowadays. For example, songs will support the dialogue and not get in the way. Universal lyrics will also help get your song through more doors when you are pitching. Meaning no dates, times places or names etc. If it's about a cowboy in Texas who loves his horse Bill, it's probably not going to work for a scene of a couple on the beach by the ocean. Thinking like a Director or Producer of a show is key in helping you get more song placements to support what's going on in the scenes. The best book on the market right now for universal lyrics and Film/TV songwriting in my opinion is Robin Frederick's book "Shortcuts To Songwriting For Film and TV" that you can buy on Amazon HERE.
Once you have your songs written with universal lyrics then it's time to work on the production, either learning those skills yourself like I did or hiring a producer that knows the contemporary film and television side of the music business. Watching television and movies on places like Netflix or Amazon prime and listening and studying how songs and instrumentals are placed is the best way to get your music ready by listening to what has already been used, if you want to get your music placed. There are a few things that I can pass on to watch out for when you are recording and producing your music for Film and TV. Make sure you have a short intro and get into your song vocal within a few seconds of it beginning and make sure your song has a button ending, so no long fades anymore. Make sure that your song has natural sounding points where the editors can make a cut if they need to and use just a verse or chorus of your song or sometimes even your bridge. Lastly, make sure when you mix the vocals they are not too far upfront in the mix so they sit nicely under dialogue. It's also important to make sure that if you're using sample instruments that they are not dated sounding. Do some research and invest in some current sample packages which you can get licenses for to use in your productions. Before you do that though, have a good look in your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). If you're a Logic user like me, all you need to get started are samples right from Logic.
You can also license your instrumental music as well (background track without your vocals) which you can send with your song so they always have them on hand for more possible placements. Another part of the business too is actually writing instrumental cues which are different from instrumentals for songs. Instrumental cues are usually about two minutes long and have an ABA or AAA format written for underscore. The same rules apply with short intros button endings and edit points for these.
Lastly, it is really important to understand the music business side of the equation. If you don't understand what "one stop" means or "cleared both sides" then you could be setting yourself up for disaster if you're pitching your music directly and you are not informed. I always recommend speaking to a music lawyer when you receive your first contract to make sure that you know what everything means. It's also a really good idea to start off by joining a music A&R pitching service like TAXI music, who can really help you understand many aspects of the music business that you may have not known about before especially when it pertains to film and television sync. I've been a member of taxi for eight years now and highly recommend them, they have really helped me to make connections with music libraries and publishers and industry professionals that I would've been able to make myself otherwise, or at least would've taken a lot longer. It is also a fantastic music business education with a great community of people to connect with along the way. If you have your own studio and you were able to record and turn your music around and broadcast quality within 30 days, or if you are working with a producer that can do the same, then it would be a good time to join TAXI.
Now you're ready to pitch, there's a lot of competition out there but if you find a niche that really works for you you can develop a lot of long-standing trust relationships they can help you to earn money from your songs and instrumentals in film and television sync.
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