Heard Music

Sync Licensing Decoded

Sync Licensing is a billion-dollar industry. A well-placed sync can make careers!

What is a sync license?

It can be as simple as permission to use an existing song in synchronization with anything else – a YouTube video, ad, film, tv show, etc. In formal terms, it’s a license issued by the copyright holder to synchronize his/her music with visual media.

Andreas Forsberg on Unsplash

From the filmmaker’s perspective, licensing an existing song can prove to be beneficial and ground breaking in several ways.

  • An artist and/or their songs have their own true sound and audience.
  • In most cases, recall value of the ad or scene increases multi-fold.
  • Licensing a song from a real artist (especially independent) shows a connection to youth culture, which can make the film feel authentic and current.
  • In some cases, sync licenses can be cost-effective in acquiring original & fresh music.
  • It helps musicians maximize revenues.
    [Yep, you heard it, a leveler of sorts] 

So, who selects your song? 

Music supervisors are charged with the job of finding the perfect song that brings out the emotional core of a scene. The supervisor, upon receiving a brief from the filmmaker or production house, looks for music from record labels, publishers, music libraries, sync agents, and sometimes even services like Bandcamp, Apple Music or Spotify. When a supervisor finds the right song, he or she has to first figure out if the song can be licensed or not. Same goes for cases where the filmmaker already has a specific song in mind. It’s the supervisor’s job to negotiate the license from the concerned rights holders.

Sam Moqadam on Unsplash

Any sync deal looks at two kinds of rights: 

1) The Master Rights – for the sound recording.
2) Publishing Rights – for the underlying composition.

Generally, both need to be licensed for a sync to happen.

If you are an unsigned independent artist who uses a distributor like CDBaby, Distrokid or OkListen, then you own all your rights and will have to negotiate the deal yourself. 

If there are more players in the mix like co-writers and composers, it is imperative that you establish the master and publishing splits upfront. 

Lack of Awareness and Education 

The lack of education regarding sync licensing and publishing rights is the reason for the apathy of so many indie musicians today. Artists often lack the guidance and information related to the copyright of their songs. The jargon itself can be fairly daunting, let alone going through the grunt of the paperwork.
We at heard, help artists explore avenues to maximize their scope – both with respect to reach and revenue. We’re here to facilitate collaborations between indie artists and visual storytellers, which we believe will be the next big breakthrough in the Indian music and film industry.

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