24th August 2017
The Wonderful World of Synchronisation
Finally, there is the wonderful world of synchronisation. Sync is basically ‘putting music on stuff’, that said stuff being adverts, TV shows, movies, computer games, online promos, apps and all the rest of it (we once ‘synced’ one of our artists’ tracks as hold music for a boiler company in Norwich for a tidy £1k, imagine that).
More than ever artists and copyright holders are increasingly eager to land sync deals because of the money they can generate and the invaluable exposure they can offer.
In this post, we’ll cover three areas of sync. Firstly…
Now these are the ‘big’ syncs that everyone in the music industry is fighting for (and I mean everyone), it’s an extremely competitive marketplace and to increase your chances of landing one it’s best to work with a sync team who really know what they’re doing (like our sync team at Sentric Music who have been nominated five years running as ‘Best Indie Publisher’ at the Music Week Sync Awards *drops mic*).
For your music to be synced on anything at all two copyrights need to be cleared; the master copyright and the publishing copyright. Be sure you know who controls both of these copyrights and that they know how to get hold of one another in case they need to discuss clearing the track in question for a sync opportunity.
Stereotypically the master copyright is controlled by whoever paid for the recording. So traditionally this would be the record label, but in the modern emerging music industry we all know and love, this is now quite often the artist themselves.
The publishing copyright is controlled by the publisher (which is what we are here at Sentric), but keep in mind that a track might have a number of songwriters who may all have different publishers and those publishers might have sub-publishers in various territories – all of which would need to give permission in order for a sync to go ahead depending on where the license is being generated. And I mean all of them – even if someone who owns just 1% of the publishing copyright says no to a sync deal, the song simply can’t be used.
The upfront sync fee is split between the master & publishing copyright holders (which, again, in the emerging artist world is commonly the artist themselves). So a £10,000 sync fee is split £5,000 to the publisher and £5,000 to the label. These two parties almost always receive the same amount of money as one another and this is referred to as ‘MFN’ – Most Favoured Nation – which essentially protects either party from being taken advantage of.
This is why it’s imperative that the two copyright owners are in cahoots and communicating regularly. If a sync deal worth £10,000 (£5,000 per side) was on the table and the publisher said ‘yes’ but the label said ‘no, we want £6,000 for the master rights’ then the client would have to match that and also pay the publisher £6,000, therefore, the original offer of £10,000 would have to increase 20% to £12,000
Oh, look! Another real-life example: Here at Sentric, we represent an artist who released an album which went through a subsidiary of a major label in the States. One of their tracks was up for a small movie trailer for a reasonable enough fee of $35,000 (so $17,500 for each side). We were happy and the band were bloody chuffed (as they had actually split up at this point so this was essentially bonus money), but the label tried to push it up to $20,000 for the master rights and the client didn’t want to pay $40,000 in total so they pulled out of the deal and everyone lost out. Bad times.
This is also a reason why it’s extremely attractive to music supervisors and sync agents to license music which is ‘one-stop’. This means that the master & publishing copyrights can be agreed and licensed from a single contract which makes their life significantly easier. Here at Sentric, if we’re working with an artist who owns their master copyrights we always ask to also represent those rights for sync so therefore we can pitch the track as ‘one-stop’ and therefore significantly increase the chances of landing a sync for the song.
Remember that the bulk of a music supervisors’ job (especially Stateside) isn’t actually creative; it’s clearing copyrights and tracking down who represents what copyrights in which territories. If you can make their job as easy as possible for them then they’ll bloody love you for it. Because we’re all slackers at heart, right?
So what DOES sync pay?
Well, the factors that influence the fee you can charge for a sync include:
- Territory. The more territories the more money you can charge. A worldwide license will be significantly more expensive than a UK only one and you can even go as specific as regions, I.E; North-west only, Scotland only etc.
- Length of license. The longer the license, the more you get. We’ve done three-day long film festival licenses right up to those which are in perpetuity (never run out).
- Media. Is it an advert for TV? Is it going to be on the radio? Is it just for YouTube? The bigger the usage, the larger the invoice.
- Profile of the artist. Ultimately this is still the key. The big money syncs still go to the big profile artists. The majority of syncs we do here at Sentric for emerging artists range from £1k to £20k with the occasional £100k+ deal making a pleasant appearance, but until you become a household name don’t expect to be banking any huge cheques in the immediate future.
In order to get your music synced on UK TV, you need to get your music correctly registered with the PRS and MCPS which cover your publishing copyrights AND ALSO with the PPL which covers your master copyright.
I stress the word correctly because signing up with these societies is one thing, but registering and administering your copyright properly with them is another thing entirely (thus, sentricmusic.com, yeah?). For example, if there are four writers of a song and one of them isn’t published or hasn’t registered their share of the copyright properly with the PRS/MCPS then it goes into intellectual property limbo known as ‘Copyright Control’. Whilst in ‘Copyright Control’ no TV programme or broadcaster will ever use that song. Even if it’s just 1% of the song in ‘CC’, it’ll be avoided like a musical plague.
A quick note on the PPL
The PPL has nothing to do with your publishing income, but it’s important that you’re on top of this for your music (and bank accounts).
The PPL is an income stream for two people; the master copyright owner (traditionally the record label) and people who performed on the recording itself. So, therefore, if you’re a drummer (again, it’s always the drummer) who doesn’t write any of the songs and therefore isn’t eligible for any publishing income, but you play the drums on the master recording which people buy, then this is where you make your money. And of course; if you both write the songs and play on the record, then you get both sets of income.
PPL income is split 50/50 between the master copyright owner and the performers on the record. The 50% which goes to the performers is weighted 65/35 in favour of the ‘featured artist’, ergo, if you were Adele then you would be the said ‘featured artist’.
So if £100 was generated, £50 goes to the label, £32.50 goes to the ‘featured performer’ and £17.50 is split between the rest of the performers on the record.
If you own your master rights then you need to sign up to the PPL twice; once as a performer and once as a master rights owner (or ‘repertoire owner’). It’s free to join so please be sure to do that. Or, again, Sentric can do it for you if you so wished.
The PPL, PRS and MCPS are paid hundreds of millions of £££ a year by TV stations and broadcasters in order to be able to use the music they represent and by registering your copyright with those societies you are effectively giving them permission to license your music to the broadcasters in exchange for a royalty.
As covered in an earlier slide, you’ve seen the amount of money available from the PRS when your music is used. Again, if you’ll allow me to reiterate the rule of thumb once more; the more people who hear it the more money you get. You’ll get a PRS royalty every time a TV show with your track in is broadcasted so it also includes repeats. For example, each episode of Hollyoaks is aired seven times (nuts, eh?) and you’ll receive a royalty for all seven of those broadcasts. That royalty will fluctuate depending on the channel; so you’ll get more money for when it’s on Channel 4 primetime than you will for the E4 Sunday morning omnibus slot.
The MCPS royalty you receive however is a one-off payment which is for the ‘commitment of the music to the picture’, I.E the reproduction of your copyright (just like the other aforementioned mechanical royalties). Depending on the broadcaster or production company using the music will result in the amount of MCPS you get, sticking with the Hollyoaks example; as I write this it’s currently around £140 per thirty seconds of music they use.
The amount of PPL income you’ll receive is tougher to estimate as their figures aren’t public like they are with the PRS & MCPS, but it’s similar to what you’d get from the MCPS.
As the TV stations and broadcasters of the UK have access to millions of songs they can use for the same price it is essential to really concentrate on approaching the right people in order to best help your chances of landing a sync. It’s pointless trying to get your track on a show which only focuses on using music which is riding high in the charts if you’re an emerging artist, so you’re best off pitching to shows who actively promote new music. Made In Chelsea is a great example that; regardless of what you think of the quality of the show itself, there is no denying the soundtrack is genuinely brilliant. This is proven by the fact it’s the most Shazzamed programme in the UK so getting your music on that will always bring in new fans who won’t have heard your tunes before. Here at Sentric, we’ve averaged about two of our artists per episode on Made In Chelsea for the past four seasons, and yet me and Binky are still no closer to being mates. Criminal.
There are a few types of usages which aren’t covered by these ‘blanket licenses’ between broadcasters and the collection societies. These include…
- Opening Titles Music. If they want to use your track over the opening credits of the show then they must pay an upfront fee.
- Closing Titles Music. If they want to use your music over the end credits then they need to cough up more cash.
- ‘Contentious’ usage. If the scene they want to use your music on features sex, drugs, violence (all the fun stuff) etc. then they need to get permission first as to not upset the songwriter of the track in question.
As with the first slide about sync, for a track to be used on a TV show in America they have to license the song up front, clearing both the master and publishing copyrights with a license fee.
A music supervisor for a US TV show will get a set budget for music, say $100k for 100 tracks to be spread out across 10 episodes. They then need to stretch that budget out so it works accordingly, knowing that songs by bigger profile artists will cost more than songs by emerging artists. They might spend $50k of their budget on a single track for the key closing scene of the whole series, which means they then have $50k left for ninety-nine other tracks. This is where you as an emerging artist can make yourself really attractive to them by being a) cheaper than a chart-topper and b) easy to license, so this is where making your music the aforementioned ‘One Stop’ can significantly increase your chances of landing a sync.
Another thing to consider when licensing to a US TV show is the performance royalties that are generated every time the show is broadcast. If you land a track on a huge show like Grey’s Anatomy then that episode will then be aired in hundreds of territories around the world, generating a performance royalty each time it is broadcast. Therefore, if you can get on the show by only charging $1k up front, but knowing you might get $5k or more from the subsequent performance royalties it’s often a clever and savvy deal to do.
And to bring it back to the beginning of this rather lengthy post; each one of those territories the show is broadcast in will have their own PRO, therefore having a publisher who registers your copyrights in many PROs around the world as possible will mean you get paid quicker. Yet another reason why you should use Sentric. Lovely.
Now you know how sync works, why not read this post on ‘How To Land A Sync Deal In 9 Steps’.
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