SYNC – Everyone wants it. Everyone sort of knows about it. But not everyone has a black belt in Sync-Kwon Do. Here are some of the most important terms you’ll want to know when it comes to licensing your music for sync (TV, Film, Video Games, Ads, Etc). Welcome to sync 101.
SYNC 101 – COMPOSITIONS
Any music is a composition as it exists as a piece of intellectual property. Basically the melody, progression, lyrics, rhythmic pattern, or any combination of thereof would be considered a composition. Compositions include all songs, but not all compositions are songs. People often refer to compositions without lyrics as a “Piece.” In almost all cases, the original author(s) own the copyright of a composition unless there is a written agreement between the author(s) and another person or entity (AKA a publishing company).
SYNC 101 – MASTERS
A composition represents the actual recording of a song, known as a master. If five pianists record a composition separately, there will be five recordings of it, and therefore five masters. Write a piece and have five pianists record it separately, and you’ll end up with five different masters. Music labels used to own artists’ masters and only shared profits after the recouped their advance.
In music, a publishing administrator is a person or entity empowered to look after the best interests of a composition or catalog of compositions. Sort of like power of attorney. he publishing administrator (or Pub Amin) represents compositions without owning them but often takes a percentage of the revenue as a commission. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the pub admin to find as many revenue sources as possible for the catalog it represents. If the writers make money, the pub admin does too. Everyone’s happy.
SYNC 101 – COVERS
Existing compositions become new masters through covers. Limp Bizkit’s cover of George Michael’s “Faith” earned both artists money. Clearing the publisher and the label is necessary for sync opportunities for a composition. There is a way to bypass this, for example, in Guitar Hero, re-recording songs avoided high master licensing fees.
SYNC 101 – SAMPLES
A sample involves using a portion of an existing sound recording (aka a master) to create a new sound recording (new master). An artist could sample one small section of a recording and loop it, or sample many different recordings in order to create a new master. Sampling is most common in hip-hop music production, but can be found in almost all genres. If you want to use a sample in your next composition BE SURE you clear the rights before you try to monetize it.
Because the sample itself is a piece of a recording of a composition, you will need to clear rights with both the master and publisher. If you haven’t obtained (and most likely paid for) the rights to use your new master with the sample’s original copyright owners, you will have a very hard time getting any kind of sync opportunities. Music supervisors are sticklers for rights and always play it safe when it comes to samples.
SYNC 101 – SPLITS
Splits on a composition determine the percentage each songwriter receives. The writers can agree upon splits for a composition. Sync fees and royalties are divided according to the split.
Sync fees apply when synchronizing a song to picture. Factors such as the scope of use (TV, web, video game, ad), the term of the sync (duration), and the territory in which it will air (local, national, worldwide) determine the fee. The negotiating leverage of the song or artist also determines the fee. Higher-profile artists may be able to negotiate higher fees compared to lesser-known artists. These aren’t ALL of the points that factor in to how sync fees are priced, but they certainly are the most important.
There are two main types of royalties in music: mechanical royalties and performance royalties.
The rights owner (usually a label) pays mechanical royalties to the recording (master) based on physical or digital copies of a song. In the US, the mechanical royalty rate is 9.1 cents per sale of a physical recording or digital download. For example, if a song reaches 100,000 iTunes downloads, the label owes the songwriter $9,100.
Songwriters and publishers receive performance royalties whenever the composition is publicly performed. This includes performances on TV, radio, or live venues by cover bands. Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) such as ASCAP or BMI monitor and collect these royalties on behalf of the rights holders.
Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) collect royalties on behalf of rights owners. When a venue or network plays a song in public, such as on TV, radio, or in venues, they pay royalties to the PROs. PROs then distribute these payments to the rights holders. In the USA, PROs like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC handle this process. PROs play an essential role in ensuring that songwriters are paid when their music is publicly performed.
- Retail (Clothing stores, Barber Shops, Car Dealerships) – Are priced based mainly (but not solely) on square footage.
- Hospitality (restaurants and hotels) – Priced based many factors including square footage of area where they play the music, capacity, TV vs background music speakers.
- TV – Networks submit cue sheets of all of the music used in their programming to the PROs. These cue sheets list the timings of the usages. The fee rates are different depending on the network and the time of day the show airs. If NBC plays your song during prime time it will earn a higher royalty rate than if BET plays it on Jazz at 2am.
- Radio – The reach and the usages that are reported by the stations directly to the PRO determines pay.
As you can see, it’s really complex. Songwriters need PROs to make sure that if your music is being played in public, you are getting paid. It could be pennies per play, but multiply that by potentially hundreds of thousands of plays and you could be getting some nice mailbox money.
Pre-cleared” music refers to music where all the rights holders have agreed to predetermined rates for its use in projects. This often involves bulk agreements between the rights holders and the licensee. For example, a clothing brand may request pre-cleared music for their Instagram videos, and the rights holders would provide a package of music that has been cleared at a set rate in advance. This simplifies the licensing process and allows licensees to use the pre-cleared tracks without worrying about negotiating individual sync fees..
Sync 101 – ONE-STOP
“One-stop” means that one entity represents all the rights (100% of the master and 100% of the publishing) of a song. This makes the licensing process easier for both parties, as they can clear the entire song through one entity instead of tracking down and clearing rights with multiple rights holders. One-stop representation also provides more flexibility in pricing and deal terms.
Sync 101 – SUB PUBLISHERS
Sub-publishers represent a catalog of compositions in territories outside the original rights holders’ home territory. This allows the original rights holders to have representation in markets they wouldn’t typically have access to. Sub-publishers receive a commission on royalties and sync fees earned in their respective territories..
Sync 101 – MFN
MFN stands for Most Favored Nations. It means that all the involved rights holders (master and publishing) will receive the same fee for a sync. This ensures that all parties receive the same terms and the most favorable fee. It sets a standard for the sync rates of a particular song.
Consider an artist that produces hip hop beats and has 50% writers share on a 2 Chainz song called “Vape Nation”. Pepsi wants to use this track in their next ad. They reach out to all of the rights holders (label & publishers) to get quotes for the use. If the label quotes $100,000 for the use and the publishers quote lower, but cites MFN. Unless Pepsi pushes back on the label to get the quote lower, the label has now just “set the bar” for what the spot rates monetarily.
TL,DR: Always quote with a MFN clause.
PUBLISHING ADMINISTRATION EXCLUSIVITY
Exclusivity in publishing administration is crucial for being taken seriously in the sync world. Non-exclusive deals with multiple publishing administrators can create confusion and make it difficult for sync opportunities. Clearing rights with multiple administrators can lead to inconsistent quotes and lack of market exclusivity. Sync deals often require market exclusivity, preventing a song from being licensed for a direct competitor’s project during the term of the sync.
Lets say you have a non-exclusive pub admin deal with Company A. You can then legally enter into a pub admin deal with Company B (and company C, D, etc). So now you have several people with rights to clear your music for sync opportunities. Lots of boots on the ground. Sounds great right? NO!!! It’s a mess. Whats going to happen when Dunder Mifflin wants to use your song “Paper People Polka” in their new campaign. They look the song up at the PROs and reach out to all of the companies for a quote.
Company A quotes $20,000
Company B quotes $10,000
Company C has no idea what they are doing and quotes $750.
Who do you think they are going to clear the rights with?
Know. Your. Worth.
If you land a nice juicy TV commercial (these are big $$), they are guaranteed to ask for “market exclusivity” at the very least. That means you can not legally enter into another sync agreement with a direct competitor in the marketplace for the duration of the term of the sync. Example: If your song “Drive Me Home, Kevin” lands in a Toyota commercial, you cannot legally clear a sync for a Ford commercial until the term of the Toyota spot expires. Makes sense right?
Now, if your publishing administration deal happens to be non-exclusive, Admin A could clear the Toyota spot while Admin B clears the Ford spot a week later. There is no way for either admins to guarantee market exclusivity for either spot. Ad agencies don’t like this.
Credit to TuneCore.
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