Steven Cleveland — of the electronic band Ping Trace who I’ve worked with — has started a podcast titled Sync-Club. As I understand it, the podcast is Steven’s journey in better understanding the worlds of publishing, licensing, and synchronization with the listener along for the ride. The podcast will feature interviews with professionals working in synch as the knowledge gets dropped. It’s a great concept. The synch world could use some demystification from a learner’s point of view.
I’m honored to help launch this podcast by being the interviewee on the first episode. Steven and I have a fun and informative conversation. I go deep on a variety of licensing-related subjects, and towards the end, I reveal a few tactics for the best ways that an independent artist can reach out to music supervisors.
One of my favorite riffs concerns how an artist should not overthink the synch market, falling into the trap of creating music that might be ‘great for licensing.’ Music your fans love will end up being the music that supervisors love, so don’t abandon both by writing music to some imagined spec. Here’s a transcription of this riff from the podcast, edited for clarity:
There is a market for creating music specifically with sync in mind, and that’s called library music. And if you want to make library music that’s fine if that’s your prerogative. But if you’re looking for something beyond that, then you still need to create the best music you can for your fans, your audience.
A music supervisor, a showrunner, or a director will want their project to be cool and distinctive. So they’re going to look for cool and distinctive music to match their perception of what the project should be. When you’re making music to spec or to what you think someone is going to want to hear, you’re not making distinctive music. It might sound cool, but it’s not going to be distinctive.
And another issue is I feel like the library music industry is in jeopardy because of AI music. Creating music to spec — for example, songs with glockenspiels and handclaps with the lyrics, “you can do it!” — is intentionally generic. But people make songs like these because they’re the kind of songs used in a lot of videos. It’s a race to the bottom, and nothing is going to be closer to the bottom and able to do spec better than a computer in two or three years.
I feel bad for people that are making a living in the library music industry because I think they’re the ones who are going to be hurt by this. But on the other hand, artists and bands with distinctive sounds and sticky stories — a story behind the band and who they are and what they’re about — are going to stand out in the synch world. Those kinds of bands may even see an increase in the money they’re making from synch as the field of distinctive, story-driven artists will actually narrow in a crowded marketplace.
You also have to think in terms of who music supervisors are when you’re pitching music. You have to put yourself in their shoes and understand where they come from. Music supervisors are music fans. That’s the reason they got into the profession. I was thinking earlier today about how a lot of newer executives in the record industry are tech people rather than music people. It’s almost like music supervision is the last area that’s entirely populated by music fans, and I don’t see that changing.
Your average music supervisor was in a band once, or they were a DJ on a college radio station or at a nightclub. They might have worked at a label or written about music professionally. When you realize that you better understand how to pitch your music. Music supervisors want to discover bands. They want to support a band that has a story that they connect with. And obviously, they also want a really good song that fits the project. But if you have a compelling story, then you have a greater chance of getting your song to them.
Check out Sync-Club’s website here, and be sure to subscribe to the podcast’s newsletter — and the podcast itself via your favorite listening platform — as I’m sure it will provide a wealth of useful information.