I study the sync licensing realm (getting songs placed in film, tv, commercials, video games – Netflix and the rest) quite a bit.
Just in this past year, on the New Music Business podcast, I’ve had as guests:
Jen Malone – Euphoria, Atlanta, Empire, Step Up
Lindsay Wolfington – One Tree Hill, To All the Boys, Virgin River
Winslow Bright – Sephora, Beyond Burger, Calvin Klein, Mini Cooper
Brian Vickers – Disney (Star Wars the Last Jedi, Black Panther, The Avengers, Soul)
Chris Douridas – Austin Powers, American Beauty
I’ve also interviewed (read up and attended panels) of dozens more music supervisors and sync agents over the years for research for the book.
And, yes, I’ve had my music synced in around 50 spots over the years and have worked with a handful of sync agents.
The sync licensing world is something I care deeply about. For one, I’ve seen it launch the careers of many, many artists (some of whom I’ve had the pleasure of touring with and opening for). After Lindsay Wolfington placed my song in One Tree Hill back in 2010, not only did my iTunes numbers skyrocket that night, but for years after that placement people at every show came up to me saying they discovered me from that show.
And also because I know how much sync pays.
Typical upfront sync fees for indie artists:
Commercial Campaigns: $20K – $150K+
Films: $10K – $80K
Trailers: $10K – $80K
TV: $500 – $20K
Video Games: $2K – $10K
Theme Songs: $5K – $10K
Not to mention the backend performance royalties. Which can add up to be quite a lot.
Every Netflix show is different, of course, budgets vary and whatnot. But it’s not uncommon for a $10K placement to an emerging artist for a Netflix show. More on this in a minute.
Sync licensing is one of those hidden corners of the music industry that not too many people talk about. Everyone is so obsessed with Spotify and TikTok and Instagram and ticket sales. When, literally one sync placement can pay your entire year’s salary. That’s a hell of a lot of streams!
Now, back in 2010 when I got my song on One Tree Hill, I did it by tweeting it to Lindsay.
This is not possible anymore. Artists are much more savvy and understand that music supervisors are the ones who hold the keys to the sync licensing kingdom. So they flood their inboxes with pleas to listen to their music.
Now, even if you get the perfect pitch down to the perfect music supervisor for the perfect show where your music would fit just perfectly, don’t expect a listen, let alone a reply.
Why? Well, because for one, they don’t know you. But, more so, they’ve been burned too many times by well-intentioned, but ignorant artists.
Artists just don’t understand how sync rights work. They think because they released the song on Spotify that they have the rights to get it synced. They may not. Or they think because they co-wrote it with a friend, they have the rights. They may not. Or they think because they bought their beat (production) off of BeatStars and chopped it up to shit, they have the rights. They probably do not. Or they think, they think, they think, but they don’t KNOW. And if the music supervisor can’t be 10000% sure that the song they are placing in the episode won’t get the network SUED, they won’t place it. Because then they’ll be out of a job!
So, music supervisors RARELY accept music anymore from artists directly.
So, how do you get your music in film, tv, commercials and video games? How do you get it in Netflix, HBO, Prime, Apple+ or Hulu shows?
What are sync agents? Sync agents are the people who are the go between. Sometimes they work at sync licensing companies. Sometimes they work alone.
Sync agents have the relationships with all the music supervisors. And they have their trust. Music supervisors don’t have to worry that sync agents will send them music that isn’t cleared. Sync agents know how to make sure everything is completely cleared. Sync agents usually operate as “one stops.” Meaning, they rep indie artists, clear all the rights to the music, and can offer it, completely cleared, to the music supervisor. So the music supervisor only has to make one stop. (Not, like 12 stops, calling around to the various publishers and record labels).
Music supervisors LOVE working with sync agents because they have music that is great and cleared.
So, how do you get signed with one of these sync agents? And who are they?
Well, last year I had Vo Williams on my podcast. He is a hip hop artist who has had over 1,500 sync placements of just his own music. And he runs the sync licensing company Sound Dose Music Group. I was so impressed with him on my podcast with his generosity at sharing his knowledge that I asked him to teach a course on sync licensing for Ari’s Take Academy.
So last year, we launched Advanced Sync Strategies for Film, TV, and Video Games.
Not only does he teach our students everything they need to know about the sync licensing world. He also, of course, teaches them how to get signed to agents.
But something we’re doing in this course, that no other education institution is doing. We have showcases with top-tier sync agencies in the world. Twice a year, ATA students are able to submit their music (which they have honed and created based on Vo’s incredible guidance) to sync agents that Ari’s Take Academy has partnered with.
Our goal is to get every Ari’s Take Academy sync student signed with a sync agency and get them on the pathway to a healthy music career in sync.
Enrollment is closed but we accept a limited amount of students through application. Enroll here.
Ari's Take Academy: Meet Advanced Sync Strategies Instructor Vo Williams
Here are what some of our students are saying:
“You can’t find this information on Google or YouTube--not presented in such a clear, concise way--by an artist who has the expertise that Vo Williams brings to the table. On top of that, when you join the course you are accepted into a private Facebook group where students can share ideas and ask questions. If you are a beginner to sync, or you are looking to take your music to the next sync level, this course is the best money you will ever spend.” – Nite Owl
“This course is one of the best investments I’ve made in my career as an artist. Vo’s hands-on guidance in addition to the vital information in the course landed me a deal with a major sync agency. This course really puts you in the shoes of a sync agent (or music library/supervisor) and will equip you with all the tools you need to land a deal or placement.” – Janelle De La Rosa
“I went to Full Sail, and this course got me further ahead in one day than two years there. Vo pinpointed everything I needed to do that I wasn’t doing. I included contracts and had all of the split sheets together with the music and BOOM! My first pitch landed in a library for sync with Universal Production Music UK just by following the course. Well worth it, for real.” – Menice New Era
“Before I got into the course with Vo and Ari, I was pretty certain that I had my sync strategy down, because I was doing fairly well with the licensing and getting placements. When I enrolled in the course, I was genuinely surprised at how much I didn’t know. Since enrolling in the course, I have landed several four-figure placements, made relationships and made new music to be published and repped by other agencies and libraries. The course has already paid for itself four times over! Whether or not you’re looking for sync, I recommend this course to anyone because it’s an extremely lucrative way to make money in music.” – Kolby Knickerbocker
“Vo is one of the best teachers I have ever had. Having access to his mind and support has been huge for me in finding a sync agent, which I was able to do. The world of sync has always been confusing to me, but knowing that I have a team of other musicians and Vo to help guide me in the process gives me the confidence and knowledge I need to have a successful sync career.” – Lillian Frances
“This course has given me so much valuable info that I would not have found elsewhere. The hands on, practical approach is so unique and crucial. I got so much more out of this course than the dollar value I paid, even though I was nervous at the beginning. Additionally, the community is really helpful for discussing personal situations and questions, and Vo goes above and beyond to help every single person on a one to one basis.” – Sophia Korz
Enroll in ATA’s Advanced Sync Strategies here.