It’s All About The Synch (Part 2) – By Joey Stuckey
Last time, we learned about what synch licensing is and what synch licensing is not. In this article, we’ll explore how to get your music into film, TV, and other kinds of placements.
If you haven’t read the first article and aren’t sure what synch licensing is, check out part 1 of the article HERE.
Now, I will provide you with your synch checklist, which includes:
- How to start the process of getting your music placed
- How to find and communicate with those magical guardians of synch: the music supervisors.
Before you are ready to pitch your music, you’ll need to do a few things:
- Make sure you have a professionally recorded and mixed song.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t do it yourself at home on your laptop. It just means that you are honest about what you can do yourself and where you need a pro to step in to take your music to the next level. Rough demos are NOT what is needed here. While that might be fine to pitch to a manager, traditional music publisher or booking agent – in the world of synch, you need to have a FINISHED product.
Typically, electronic music like EDM and some hip-hop can be done well at home. Even recording vocals and guitars can work well with a home studio. Home studios are not usually up to the challenge when recording drums, strings, and horns. Sometimes, depending on the genre, a slick production like Katy Perry isn’t what you want. Sometimes lo-fi is what the genre calls for so you’ll need to truly understand your music and work at home or in a pro studio accordingly.
Don’t be afraid to admit when you are in over your head. You need to make sure you are getting a great performance from all the musicians and sometimes, your best friend that plays sax isn’t the right choice for the session—you might have to pay for a guy that is a master player. Similarly, you might not be ready to mix your song yourself and might need to hire someone that just mixes records. This can be expensive, but in the end -will be worth it.
Now, I am not suggesting that you spend money outside your means. You need to come up with a budget and stick with it. You don’t want to lose a lot of money and have that negatively impact your career long term. Just do the best you can with the resources you have.
There are a lot of ways to get free recording time and/or mixes by working with colleges or universities that have recording programs. Their students need to learn and are looking for bands and artists to work with and this can be a great way to up your game without spending your money.
- You need a professionally mastered project.
For demos, the online mastering services that use an algorithm and are automated is fine, but this is not sufficient in the world of sync licensing. You’ll need to go to a real person that understands mastering. It isn’t about just making the music loud. Mastering is an entirely misunderstood process that I can’t fully address here. Suffice it to say, you need it done by a pro, not a program.
Mastering ranges from $25 per song to $400 an hour, but I promise you – if you use a real mastering engineer, your song will be much better for it.
- It’s all about the metadata!!!
What is metadata? It is all the info you need to provide so that busy people in the music biz have critical info about who you are and about the song – at the click of a mouse.
A couple of important things about metadata:
First, MP3’s and AIFF files are the best candidates for music file types that can hold metadata. You’ll want to have both available when pitching your music for synch placement.
You’ll want the MP3’s for the initial submission and the AIFF when your music is accepted for placement.
Next, you’ll want to include the following (at a minimum) when tagging your files with metadata.
- Song title
- Artist/band name
- Record label (if any)
- Publisher (if any)
- Complete name of the songwriter(s)
- Date of copyright
- Mood (happy, sad, etc)
- Tempo or BPM
- Mix version (we’ll get more into what this means in just a sec.)
- Are you a one stop? This means do you own all the rights to your music. This is important so the music supervisor knows if you can make all the deals for your music. This can be a deal-breaker because if there are too many people with rights to a song, it can take more time than the music supervisor has to clear all rights and they’ll move on to the next artist that is a one stop -even if they like your song better. It is really about who has all their ducks in a row and is professional when it comes to synch – moreso than who has the best song.
- Have lots of extra versions or alternate mixes of each song.
So you should have available not only the main or “full mix” of each song –the one you would release to radio or on your album/EP – but you should also have an instrumental version without vocals. If you produce instrumental music, be sure to have a version without the melody.
You should also do other versions that make sense, for example, an acoustic version with just guitar or piano. For my most recent song “You Know My Name,” I did a version with and without horns, another version just instrumental, and another version without the horns and lead guitar. This version also only used the room mics on the drum kit instead of the usual thing I do with drums which is to have both close mics and room mics combined. This gave the track a more alt-rock vibe and less of the southern blues vibe that the track had before.
You should also make sure to have stems available as well as the raw multi-tracks for each song. You might ask, why do you want stems if I can deliver the raw multi-tracks. Well, the stems have all the E-Q, volume, compression and other effects that you used in the full mix. You are providing stereo mixes of each grouping of like instruments and in this way, the synch gurus can quickly re-assemble your mix and make edits.
- You should have all your files available for download via link by a service like DropBox.
This allows you to provide any or all of your files and mixes at a moment’s notice, wherever you are. I can’t stress enough that timing is everything and music supervisors are busier than you can imagine. They need what they need at a moment’s notice.
Okay, now you are ready to pitch your music so how do you figure out who to speak to and if they need the kind of music you make? We will cover that in our next article, stay tuned!