Is Sync Music the Future of Recorded Music Monetisation?

The digital age makes it difficult for musicians to generate revenue, but sync music deals are on the rise, particularly for film,  video games, and advertisements. With the future of live performances still uncertain, perhaps it’s the coming of a new (royalties) age? 

Expanding Your Base

Long begone the days when mentions of “copyright” made us shiver.

According to a BPI report, sync music licensing accounted for 6.6% of industry revenue in 2019, equating to $1.146 billion (a growth of 11% from 2017) in potential annual earnings up for grabs in the sync music sector.

Even before lockdown, royalties drove the big bucks – cue gaming partnerships.

Electronic music label Monstercat is the leading specialist in potential income replacement, most recently leading a partnership between video game Rocket League and world-renowned producer Kaskade.

Sync music and video games are an effective duo not just as a way way to earn money, but also a chance to connect with and  audience, growing your fanbase and garnering exposure.

“We have proven that artists grow through placement in new media, especially when they can be discovered through new mechanisms such as dynamic on-screen crediting, customised in-game content, digital events and cross-game promotions.” – Kaskade

The Fine Print

Like everything else in this industry, the sync music marketplace is exceptionally competitive.

Licensing your music for sync involves a lot of legalities. The biggest hurdle: for a track to be synced, the master copyright and the publishing copyright must both be cleared by everybody involved – “even if someone who owns just 1% of the publishing copyright says no to a sync deal, the song simply can’t be used.”

An alternative is for all the rights to be controlled by a single entity (an individual, a label or publisher, or a sync agent),  a process known as a one-stop. Once you’ve ‘cleared’, your agent will send you the license or quote request, and you can sign off.

Copyrights aside, keep in mind your music must go through a hierarchy of people before it gets placed in anything.  

Understanding copyright and copyright law can sound like a drag, but it’s an unavoidable step. Whether you opt to sign with a music publisher, record label, sync music agent or decide to stay indie, your best bet to getting a successful placement (and not falling into a bad deal),  is to be well informed.

The New Musical Frontier

PRS for music shows that musicians and songwriters in the UK received a record £810m last year (2019), a rise of 8.7%. But they warn that the consequences of 2020 will be passed on to 2021 as live performances continue to be on hold.

Lucky for us, there are still ways for musicians to make money in 2021, including streaming, video games, YouTube, publishing royalties, merch and, yep, you guessed it, sync placements.

For that to work, though, your music must be optimised for sync (for example, understanding that songs are used in sync to support a narrative, not to tell one). If your goal is to pursue the sync placement dream, you must think universally (don’t make the details too specific), keep it clean and above all, keep it “you”.

The technicalities of preparing your music for sync licensing are not easy, but they will give you a head start and hopefully, a path into a new way of showcasing your music!

sync music

It may be a far cry to call it the future of the music industry, but it’s certainly not when it comes to the future of recorded music monetisation. Music synchronisation has opened enormous opportunities for recording artists and record labels, especially now that live gigs are no longer a reliable form of income.

“A couple of years ago, doing a sync deal was seen as signing a contract with the devil,” says Jenny Ring, music supervisor at Swedish advertising agency Forsman & Bodenfors. “Now, a lot of artists and labels, see a value of it in another way and want their music to be synced.”