Sync Licensing and What It Means For Your Music Career

If you’re a performing musician, you probably think of earning money in a few different ways: by playing live shows, by selling merchandise, by selling tracks on iTunes and Amazon and Bandcamp. You’re probably not thinking of sync licensing, or not thinking of it as something you can do yourself — with sync licensing, you have to wait for media producers to come to you, right?

Not anymore. New music databases give you the option to pre-release your music for licensing, adding it to a library that television, film, commercial, game, and other media producers can use for their newest projects. This is a great way to earn additional income for your music, as well as get that big break that will lead to the next step in your career.

How to add your music to a sync licensing database

First, you need to find a music distributor that has a sync licensing database. TuneCore sync licensing, for example, is available to anyone who registers their music under a TuneCore Music Publishing Administration and Music Distribution account. This puts your music into TuneCore’s database, making it available to producers to use in their media projects.

It’s probably a good idea right now to jump back a step and explain what sync licensing actually is. When you sync license your work to a media project, you are licensing your music to be played in the background during that media project. Think of the Sonos “Face Off” commercial that aired during the 2014 Super Bowl: it featured “Hide (Tropkillaz Remix) featuring Aynzli Jones & Rick Rubin” by N.A.S.A. as its background music.

That’s what sync licensing does: it allows media producers and music supervisors to use your tracks as background music in their projects. You get some extra cash, as well as the exposure that comes from having your music placed into another piece of visual media.

Tips to get your music picked up by sync licensers

If you want your music to be attractive to music producers for sync licensing, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Make sure your music has a strong hook. Often, the producer is only going to want to use the hook and edit out the verses.

If your music contains obscenities or other lyrics that are inappropriate for general audiences, consider releasing an edited version. Remember: commercials and TV shows often play to wide audiences, and music producers do not want to sync license tracks that might offend their viewers.

Either include an extended rhythm/instrumental break in your track, or have one ready to go when a music producer asks. Often, music is sync licensed to go underneath other dialogue, which means you cannot have competing lyrics.

Always submit your best work to the sync licensing database. Your goal with these tracks is not to convince a record label to give you money to record a better album; instead, you’re trying to convince a music producer to buy the tracks as-is. That means you need to submit professionally mixed and mastered work. (If you can’t afford a professional, get ready to learn how to mix and master your own music.)

What happens after your music is sync licensed

After your music is sync licensed, be prepared for an uptick or boost in your career. Make sure your music website is ready to go, in case booking agents or labels come to check you out. Make sure it is easy for new fans to purchase your music, especially the track that they may have heard on the commercial or television show.

Don’t forget to promote the item for which you were sync licensed. If your music appears on a commercial, for example, make sure you post the commercial to Facebook as well as to your music website. Send it out in a mailing list blast. Tell everyone you know. Getting a sync license credit helps establish you as a professional musician, and will get you opportunities that you might not otherwise have had.

Most importantly: keep submitting new music to the sync licensing database. It is always good to have fresh content available; every time you submit a new track, that’s one more track that could become a music producer’s favorite. Likewise, regular, fresh content shows producers that you are actively working as a musician and may be as good for them as they are for you. (How many of N.A.S.A’s fans are going to check out Sonos, after hearing N.A.S.A’s work in the commercial? More than you think.)

If you have additional questions about sync licensing, ask a sync license database distributor directly. They are there to help you get the best licenses possible, and to help you grow your career.