Supervisors may share music briefs with labels, publishers and agents who will in turn pitch music and song ideas that fit the brief. They can also work directly with songwriters and composers, and Jen says this relationship can work in a number of ways.
“Music supervisors may be asked to suggest composers to directors or producers to write and record the soundtrack for a film, TV series, commercial etc. From a financial and a creative point of view, it’s very common for any long form project to have a composer involved,” she says.
“Also, when either the budget doesn’t extend to license a song or the perfect song cannot be found, songwriters or music producers may be commissioned to write and record a song that fits the brief.”
Jen worked on this Strongbow commercial featuring New Zealand band The Naked and Famous' song Young Blood. "I was driving home from the office. I heard this track on FBi 94.5 and knew immediately ‘this is the track for Strongbow’."
“There’s a lot of playlisting involved, and for the most part the writer/artist won’t know they’re being pitched at the initial stage unless it’s a brand that may require checking, eg fast food advertising is sometimes an issue for vegetarians,” says Tyler.
“It depends on the job and level of communication from the client as to when the conversation with the writer or their rep begins – loads of songs get pitched and ditched from playlists for every job, so it’s usually not until it’s looking serious that usage details are discussed and worked through. The golden rule for writers/artists is to never spend the money in your head before a licence is signed!”
In terms of fees, there are again many variables that determine how much a creator may be paid for a sync.
“While we have a bit more flexibility on fees in working with independents, a budget may not be feasible for a track getting radio traction from a band with five members and a manager. But it might work for a self-managed solo artist who needs to fund their next record,” says Tyler. “It’s still hugely important to maintain the value of music licensing for everyone by working to minimum fee benchmarks.”
When it comes to negotiating sync deals, particularly for writers without a label, publisher or sync agent, Jen says it can be tricky to know who to trust.
“There are a lot of fantastic, honest, up front music supervisors who will present the best possible terms and fee to an artist, and then there are others who might push for terms that aren’t necessarily fair. You can ask other musicians or friends in the music industry if you are unsure,” she suggests.
“Ultimately, it’s up to the artist or writer if they want to do the deal. There are other factors to consider above and beyond just the sync fee. For example, TV commercials will generate broadcast royalties every time the spot is played on TV, and they can add up and be significant extra income, especially in Europe (writers receive this income via APRA AMCOS).
“Landing a promo on TV can be great additional marketing for a song if timed right,” Jen says.
The sync effect
Empire of the Sun – Walking on a Dream
Some eight years after Empire of the Sun released their single Walking on a Dream, the track stormed the US charts in 2016 – all thanks to its use in a commercial for Honda.
Walking on a Dream topped the Billboard and Clio Music’s Top Commercials chart for months, and became one of the year’s most Shazamed tracks in the US. This generated significant digital single sales and streams, and lead to a highly coveted performance on Ellen.
“The timing of this was perfect, coming into the release of their new album and single,” says Damian Trotter, Managing Director of the band’s publishing company Sony/ATV Music Publishing Australia who secured the placement through their commercial team in New York.
“It’s stories like this that really highlight how powerful a tool synchronisation can be in the way people discover (or perhaps re-discover) music and the undeniable influence this can have on the overall success of an artist.”
Empire of the Sun are no strangers to the impact of sync, having topped the charts in Germany back in 2008 with their song We Are The People which was featured in a Vodafone commercial.