Getting Started in Sync
Or: How to get your song in a TV show
Having a song placed in a TV show or movie or ad is a great way to introduce new listeners to your music and a great way to monetize your artistry.
Everybody wants it. How do you get it?
There was a time, many years ago now, when nobody was paying much attention to music supervision or the songs used in film/TV — it was almost seen as a sell out to agree to license your music to companies to use in their ads. Can you even believe it? We all know it is not that way anymore!
Now, film and television licensing is widely seen as one of the last bastions of income and exposure for artists. Everybody from the indie DIY singer/songwriter (like me!), all the way up to the major label big budget artists are vying for the same few, coveted placements.
And the music supervisors are the rock stars we all want to rub shoulders with.
Everybody wants that lucrative spot in the iPhone or Nike ad, or on a show like Grey’s Anatomy or This Is Us. Because we’ve all learned the value of getting our music heard that way — it can mean huge growth of our fan base and a significant boost to our income.
So, how do you get there?
How do you land a song in a film or tv spot? There are many avenues you can take, but I’m going to share the avenue I took, since that is the experience I can best speak to. I hope that sharing my experience helps you get started on your journey.
You Need Music to Pitch, Obviously
First, and definitely most importantly, is: you must have recorded music to pitch! If you are still in the early stages of your career and don’t have professionally produced, high quality recordings…well…you’ve got to start there.
Crowd funding through Kickstarter, Pledge Music (RIP), and selling pre-orders on my own website are how I’ve funded every record I’ve made in my 15 year career, so if you don’t have a big budget that’s ok. Ask for help. And If you don’t have songs written yet, write some!
After you have a few great recordings of your songs (one or two is perfectly fine, no need to jump into a full length record), the next step I’d recommend is listening and doing research.
Do Your Homework
Pay attention to what kind of music is on certain shows. Shazaam songs you hear on ads. Google that artist and see who represents them for sync licensing (that info is usually listed on an artists “contact” page on their website.) Make a list of music licensing companies that you aspire to work with in the future.
Finding Your First Licensing Opportunities
I always recommend artists who have never had a placement start with the broader, music library type services, that are a little less selective about the artists on their roster. Songtradr.com and Audiosocket are good places to start. Google is your friend here, there are a ton of these services! Use these companies to build a track record of placements, no matter how small, to show that your music is licensable.
Finding A Boutique Licensing Agency
Once you’ve landed one or two small placements, then start to email that aspirational list you’ve made of the more boutique, selective licensing companies. Tell them what placements you’ve already had and that you are looking for new representation for film/tv.
When reaching out, ALWAYS give a link to Soundcloud or Spotify or YouTube versus attaching mp3s of your songs to your emails.
I cannot emphasize this enough: DO NOT SEND YOUR MUSIC AS AN EMAIL ATTACHMENT.
Keep the email brief and be clear about what you are asking for from them. Also, be prepared to give up some of the revenue to the licensing agencies that represent you. 50/50 is pretty standard for the larger music library formats, and 60/40 or 70/30 is more standard for the smaller, boutique firms, with the larger share going to the artist (that’s you!).
An important word of encouragement:
Don’t be afraid of a few “no’s”. You will almost certainly be told no in a dozen different ways. Get used to it. Don’t try to change anybody’s mind, just accept it and move on. Any time you waste focusing on a “no” is time better spent getting to your next “yes”.
Don’t Be Afraid to Change Agencies
Now you’ve got it! But nothing’s happening! What do you do?!
Even after you’ve landed that boutique licensing deal that you’ve been after, don’t be afraid to make a change! If no placements are coming after one or two years on one company’s roster, it may just not be the right fit for you, so shop around!
Always remember — though agencies choose who they work with, ultimately they work for you, not the other way around. So if they’re not working for you, find somewhere that does.
I’m a huge fan of not getting stuck in one place and it has really benefitted me. I’ve found that proactively chasing something is infinitely more productive than waiting for it to come to me, 99% of the time.
There Is No Better Tool for Your Career Than Hard Work Done Consistently Over Time
Yes, sometimes things might seem to just fall into your lap. But it’s not Universe Magic(TM) — it’s almost always the result of the hard work you’ve been putting in. Someone heard your song somewhere else, and found another one that’s perfect for a scene on their show. Or one supervisor mentions you to another (yes, they do talk to each other — they have their own guild and awards show and everything).
My point is this: keep putting in the work, day after day, even when you don’t feel like it. You have to be in it for the long haul, because there’s no such thing as overnight success, and you never know just how your consistent hard work is going to pay off.
That’s A Wrap!
I hope these tips benefit you and inspire you to get out there and chase the dream, and may you hear your own song in a tv show or movie one day soon!