Five things you can do right now to help your music get licensed!
For independent artists, sync licensing can be a major source of revenue – not only creating opportunities to earn upfront license fees, but also generating passive income through royalties. While our Lolly Box Licensing Guide discusses the basics of music licensing and some of the steps an artist can take to get started, this Sync Success Guide drills down in a bit more detail around some specific things our Lolly Box artists can do to maximise the chances of their music being licensed.
1. Bounce your instrumentals!
More often than not, when we receive a music brief both the vocal and instrumental versions of the song will be asked for. This is because if there’s a voiceover or dialogue over the song, the editor might want to drop out the vocals in that section of the song. The instrumental that is left still needs to offer dynamics and help move the scene or the commercial along.
In the advertising world, having instrumental mixes of your songs is perhaps even more important! In fact, due to their unique structure and sound, they’re often preferable over music that was composed as a standalone instrumental. This is because vocal songs are composed, arranged, recorded, and mixed with a great deal of open space for the vocals, providing the perfect accompaniment for scenes with heavy dialogue or voiceovers. Similarly, vocal tracks tend to have greater authenticity and production value over a comparable piece of production music, which makes them more desirable.
What is an instrumental mix?
If your music has vocals, an instrumental mix is an alternate version that is identical to the original, just without the vocals. It’s as simple as that. So it’s often just a matter of your sound engineer muting the main vocal tracks, bouncing the mix, and running it through the same mastering chain you’re using for the vocal versions – which also means that the additional cost to bounce your instrumentals should generally be low. It’s also worth remembering that an editor may want to use the vocal and instrumental versions interchangeably depending on the density of dialogue, so it’s important to make sure both versions are mastered identically.
2. Check your metadata
When it comes to sync, metadata is incredibly important – so important that we’ve written an entire Metadata Guide discussing the topic! Metadata is what enables music supervisors — those whose job it is to zero in on and select suitable songs for visual-media projects — to quickly find and identify your music. Conversely, without high-quality metadata attached to each of your songs they’re unlikely to be found when they’re needed!
We do however understand that collating great metadata for all of your songs can be a big task, so the good news is that Lolly Box does most of the work for you. When you upload your songs our AI tagging robot automatically applies the majority of metadata tags to each track - including genre, mood, tempo, vocals and featured instruments. But of course, machines being machines, AI robots sometimes get things wrong, so it’s worthwhile visiting your Lolly Box ACCESS artist page to confirm the tags that have been applied to each of your tracks. Are all the tags correct or, just as importantly, are there any tags that we might have missed?
And to borrow a line from our Lolly Box Metadata Guide - keywords, keywords, keywords! These are the words that will assist with your music’s discoverability when a music supervisor is searching our library. Do the keywords on each of your tracks describe the ‘sweet spots’ or scenarios where they might fit – ‘running, chasing, summer, sunshine, playing, beach…’
In our discussion about lyrics below, we’ll touch on one more, seriously important, metadata tag called Lyrical themes. Lolly Box ACCESS enables music supervisors to instantly filter our library by simply clicking on any combination of tags – and Lyrical themes is often one of the first places they’ll go. More about that soon…
3. Send us your lyrics sheets
It’s extremely rare to hear a song in a film, TV show or commercial where the lyrics are about a specific story, person or place. Instead you’ll hear songs that have universal themes like Adventure, Brand new day, Freedom, Home, Winning… and the list goes on. Lolly Box ACCESS provides music supervisors with a comprehensive set of universal sync-ready Lyrical themes to tell them what your songs are about, rather than just what the lyrics say - there’s often a difference between the two. So just like the other metadata on each of your songs, it’s important to check that all the Lyrical themes that should be added, have been added!
Lolly Box ACCESS also allows music supervisors to search on specific lyrics, or combinations of lyrics, to find songs that might fit their particular scene. Suffice to say that attaching the full lyrics to each of your songs is like having an additional, detailed, metadata field to greatly increase the chances of your songs popping up in searches. It’s a really easy step to boost your ‘discoverability’, so if you haven’t already sent your lyrics sheets to us then you can simply email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
4. The Elevator Pitch
Do you have a new release coming up? Was your latest single just picked up by a major playlist? Is there something unique that music supervisors need to know about your music?
Lolly Box regularly updates our music supervisors with new release playlists, feature artists, feature albums/EPs, and other great music that we think they’d love to hear. So help us put your music front and centre by sending us your press release when something exciting is happening! Music supervisors and producers will always gravitate towards clean, concise, organized pitches and EPKs, so it’s important that we make it easy for them to quickly access what they need to know!
Similarly, music supervisors are bombarded with new music every day and it’s impossible for them to listen to every song or playlist that they’re sent. So help them to want to hear your music by sending us a couple of key sentences – an ‘Elevator Pitch’ – that clearly and concisely explains why they ought to take the time to listen to your music. What makes your songs stand out from the crowd? What do your songs offer them that others may not? Remember, music supervisors want to find great music, so don’t be afraid to ‘sell your wares’.
5. Join a Performance Rights Organisation (PRO)
The income from sync is not just from the synchronisation fee! Whenever your music gets used in the production that licensed it, you’ll also receive royalties. For example, every time a TV show or documentary with your music in it gets played, you’ll earn royalties from it! Lolly Box doesn’t take any royalties when your songs are played, so 100% of those royalties will be paid to you directly by your PRO. That is, if you’ve registered your songs with a PRO!
A performance rights organisation (PRO), also known as a performing rights society, collects and distributes royalties to copyright holders (that’s you if you’re an independent artist), every time their songs are performed or broadcast publicly. So if you’re making music and you’re not signed up then you are basically just throwing money away!
In Australia our PRO is APRA/AMCOS and it’s free to sign up to, so there’s no excuse for you not to do that as soon as you’ve finished reading this article.
But wait, there’s more than one type of royalty!
In our Lolly Box Licensing Guide we discuss the two different copyrights you need to understand, but in summary there’s the Publishing rights - which refers to the songs themselves, the actual music and lyrics and melodies and harmonies; and the Master rights – which refers to the sound recordings of the songs, the right to copy and exploit the master recordings hence the ‘master’ rights. Again, as an independent artist you will generally own or control both the Publishing (composition) and Master rights to your songs. And that also means that you can be paid royalties for both!
In Australia APRA/AMCOS take care of collecting your performance (publishing) and mechanical (reproduction) royalties, but what about the royalties for your sound recordings (masters)? That’s where PPCA (Phonographic Performance Company of Australia) comes in. If you register as an Artist with PPCA then they will collect public performance communication and broadcast royalties on your behalf.
Are all these things really important?
While the ‘top end of town’ in music licensing can often involve major Hollywood studios and massive artists, sync also offers significant opportunities for independent artists, songwriters, and composers. The reason is that the music simply has to fit — it doesn’t need to be a hit. A music supervisor’s job is to find the right music for a production – our job is to help them find your music when they need it!
Director, Music Licensing