There was a time when artistic integrity could disuade artists from agreeing to their music being used in a commercial or promotional context. But as music-industry business models change, this revenue stream is becoming important. Stuart Dredge reports

GLOBAL revenues from music synchronization grew by 2.8% in 2016 to $364.1m, according to industry body the IFPI. Although down from the 7% rise in 2015, it showed continued growth for this music-industry sector.

Sync has also become an established and welcome segment of performers’ and songwriters’ incomes, at a time when the wider evolution of the recorded-music market from sales to streams has sparked discussions about the fortunes of artists below the top tier of stars.

“A couple of years ago, doing a sync deal was seen as signing a contract with the devil,” says Jenny Ring, music supervisor at Swedish advertising agency Forsman & Bodenfors. “Now, a lot of artists and labels, see a value of it in another way and want their music to be synced.”

Ring points to music publishers putting even more effort into the sync side of the business, working more closely with supervisors to connect them with composers and respond to briefs.

Labels, too, see the growing value in their sync divisions, as they compete to forge partnerships in the film, TV and gaming worlds, as well as new frontiers including online video.

In revenue terms, the US remains the big beast of the sync market, accounting for 56% of global sync revenues in 2016 according to the IFPI, with a long drop to Japan (9%), the UK and France (both 8%).

VonKotze Curley ScudellariThere are some encouraging signs elsewhere in the world, according to Patrick Curley, president of sync-licensing and copyright administration firm Third Side Music. “We’re seeing way more action in the international advertising sync market than we were a few years ago. It seems that agencies in international markets are increasingly seeing the value of licensing interesting music,” he says.

“We’ve had ad placement opportunities recently in Turkey, Brazil, South Korea, Australia, UK, France and Holland, to go along with the numerous placements in the US and Canada.”

For Charlotte Von Kotze, director of music at Vice Media, there is also a trend for supervisors to cast their nets wider to find great tracks to license. That’s partly fuelled by the supervisors’ ability to use various streaming services to discover new material.

“There’s an overwhelming quantity of music available online, which gives the opportunity to select up-and-coming, international, local and indie artists that have yet to be discovered,” Von Kotze says. “I’ll also actively listen to radio podcasts, go to record fairs and explore local markets anytime I travel. It’s always good to expand my knowledge and network as I might have specific needs for specific campaigns at any moment in the future.”

WP Artists and label services

That’s good news for the labels, publishers and artists who’ll be pitching tracks to Von Kotze and eight other high-profile supervisors in Midem’s Global Sync & Brands Summit, presented by A&R Worldwide/MUSEXPO and part of the Sync Day sponsored by SynchAudio, on June 7.

Another key trend in the sync market is the continued growth of video-on-demand services, for example Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which between them are expected to spend $10.5bn on shows and films in 2017 alone.

Tony Scudellari, senior vice-president of television music for Sony Pictures, says that the ‘originals’ being commissioned by these companies offer a broader creative canvas for songwriters, composers and artists.

“Music budgets tend to be a bit better, so you have a bit more creative freedom. Having to create a unique musical voice provides more opportunities for new artists or for placement of deep cuts. There is also more of an opportunity for creation of original songs for in the body of a show,” he says.

“Because Netflix, Amazon and online content providers usually don’t have the same types of restriction on time, main title sequences tend to be longer, which means the return of the theme song, which is something that makes me very happy!”

Third Side Music’s Curley agrees that the growth of video-on-demand — Netflix alone has more than 100 million subscribers now — is providing opportunities for sync executives and the creators that they represent. “We’ve had great placements recently for our represented writers in high-profile series such as Handmaid’s Tale for Hulu and 13 Reasons Why and Girl Boss for Netflix, and also a really cool long use of Can’t Leave The Night by Badbadnotgood in the opening sequence of the new season of Better Call Saul on AMC,” he says.

Vice Media is a good example of another trend around the sync world: the blurring of the boundaries between online video — its roots making content predominantly for YouTube distribution — and traditional television.

Von Kotze says that the occasional bumps of licensing music for online video should not be taken for granted by either side of the synchronisation equation.

New formats also present a challenge for music supervision, as well as new opportunities. TrueView, Shazam, Snapchat, Prommercial, VR, branded content vs. commercial, the rise of web TV series… all of these are new media concepts I need to understand and explain to rights holders to keep the negotiations fair,” she says.

“The online budgets are definitely not high as TV, but this also provides opportunities to get creative and use smaller, indie bands. With the internet speed, timelines are also tighter. I have to anticipate my teams’ needs and count on my personal trustworthy relationships which are crucial to avoid the risk of un-cleared samples sometimes coming from internet bedroom-artists.”

Online video is varied: the longer tail of YouTubers and small- to medium-sized businesses making video for Facebook and corporate use is also coming in to focus as an opportunity for smaller, often self-service syncs.

“To me, video is an explosion like desktop publishing was. You can shoot high-quality video on your phone in 4K,” says Matthew Hawn, head of product and customer experience at production-music firm Audio Network. “You’ve got amazing high-resolution tools that everybody can use, much in the same way that desktop publishing changed print.”

Audio Network has a growing part of its business providing licensed music to the creators making use of those tools, as does Swedish company Epidemic Sound, whose head of growth Edward Hoglund also points to the corporate sector. “Every marketing department in every company makes video for the internet, for social networks… and everyone needs music and a reliable music source where you know you won’t get into trouble for using the music,” he says.


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