Sync Licensing- Hidden Revenue Streams for Your Music

What is sync licensing?Nowadays, independent artists are earning money with their music from revenue streams outside of normal sales from an album release (CD and download sales).

Over the past decade, many traditional sync licensing opportunities (film & TV, games, and commercial placements) have opened to indie musicians. Sync licensing is a lucrative and growing business, with over 10,000 music supervisors and more than 250k licensing requests sent to labels each year.

But the future for indie artists isn’t just in traditional sync opportunities; there is also money to be made from social media music licensing. With 2 billion internet users and 4 billion mobile phone users, plenty of people are looking for music to use in conjunction with their video and photo uploads, apps, presentations, and games. That opens BILLIONS of new licensing opportunities for you. 

So, what is synchronization licensing?

In music industry terms, “synchronization” is the process of playing an existing composition and/or audio recording in conjunction with a moving picture of any kind: TV show, commercial, film, video game, corporate presentation, YouTube clip, etc. (Or on radio commercials with voice-over).

In order for someone to “sync” a particular composition (the song, melody, lyrics, etc.) to their new project (the show, commercial, movie, etc.), they must get permission from the publisher/songwriter and acquire what is called a “sync license.”

In return, a synchronization royalty (also called a “sync fee” or “licensing fee”) is paid to the publishers and songwriters. This process grants the new content creator the right to use the music and lyrics from an existing song in their work, but NOT the existing audio recording.

For THAT, a person wishing to sync an existing recording to their new content must acquire a “master use” license from the owner of the sound recording (usually the label). In the major label world, the publisher, the songwriter, and the owner of the master recording could all be different entities. If you’re in the independent music world, it’s likely that YOU are all three people in one.

 How to earn money from licensing your music

For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume you ARE all three entities in one, and that with one breath you could grant someone permission to use both your song AND your recording in their next project; what do you do next?

Well, you’ve got to find some folks that want to pay you for sync rights, right? And there are several ways to do that:

1) Begin building direct relationships with music directors for TV and film. – This method takes a lot of hustle and networking, since you’re essentially going to have to be a salesperson for your own music.

2) Join a service or list-serv (like Taxi) that posts frequent sync opportunities. – While this approach is simpler on the networking side, it generally requires that you have the ability to quickly compose and record new songs in hopes that they will be the closest fit the music director can find.

For instance, on Monday morning you see a notice that Danny Director wants a 45 second song that sounds like Johnny Cash mixed with NIN. Got that in you somewhere? If so, you could make some decent dough.

3) Find a music manager, label, agent, angel, CEO, or dictator of a small island nation who can muscle their way into the lucrative sync opportunities FOR you.

4) Or,… combine these methods AND let CD Baby do some of the work. Through our new partnership with Rumblefish, (which we’ll be officially announcing tomorrow) we’ll be able to include your music in the database of a great digital music licensing company, making it available for use in film, TV, commercials, video games, etc.

Best of all, this new partnership will ensure that you’re paid for your music’s use on YouTube, which is quickly becoming the world’s most popular place for music discovery.

I hope this overview of sync licensing helps. More details about CD Baby’s Sync Licensing program coming soon!

-Chris R. at CD Baby

CD Baby: offering digital and physical distribution, sync licensing, cover song clearance, disc duplication, web hosting for artists, and just about everything else you need as a DIY musician.


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