You see it everywhere, the VIP ticket options to meet your favourite artists with sometimes prices much higher than they need to be. We are here to show you the good things about VIP-ticketing and the bad sides.
It shows your fans you’re willing to meet them. The die-hard fans will obviously jump at this possibility to meet their heroes.
It’s nice if you give fans something extra. Many bands and artist put a lot of time into thinking of a way to make a full package of the VIP ticket. Try to give them more than just a hug and a picture with their favourite band or artist. Consider giving them something extra like a merchandise package. Give them the chance the chill out with you with a pizza party or something else like this.
You see pop stars exaggerate with the prices and some people will actually pay for it. But not everyone gets the chance to buy them. Fans will feel left out and may get mad at the artist. This is never good, because you don’t want to lose fans. This is the same for concert tickets.
It eliminates the fans with a smaller budget. Of course, it all depends on the age of your fans attending your gig. If the age is, let’s say 12, you wont earn much for VIP-tickets if they are really expensive. You’d have more chance with teenagers of 16-18 year-old. Because that’s when many start earning more income of their own.
All in all, its a good idea to use VIP-ticketing. Just be careful not to do what Ozzy Osbourne did at Graspop Metal Meeting in 2016. He asked $950 for a meet & greet at the festival for 15 minutes before the show. Which is crazy and no one paid for it. Just be mindful of the price for your fans and give them that little extra that will make it the best night of their lives.
The following includes sections from a blog written by Music Fibre – an online music industry directory and blog posting tips, tutorials and useful information for anyone working in the music industry. In this blog, they have delved into the world of Smart Links. This may be something you are already familiar with, or you may never have heard of them; either way, this blog will tell you what they are, why you need them and how you can use them to drive more sales of your music.
What Are Smart Links For Music And Why Should I Use Them?
The internet has made the world a very small place. Even if you are making beats in your bedroom or recording from your mates shed, your fans can be anywhere in the world.
Smart links will help you make sure that when they find your music, they are taken to the right music download or streaming site and can shop in the right language and currency. A smart link can offer your fans a choice of store or you can automatically direct them based on their location or device (e.g you may wish to send iPhone users directly to iTunes.)
It’s not just about making sure the shopping experience is good for your customers, it’s also an opportunity to track and monitor your fans. You can find out which stores they like best, find out where in the world your fans are and keep track of your marketing. The advanced analytics that smart links offer let you see exactly how your fans are discovering your music. If you have ever wanted to know if your Facebook campaign is working or if you should stick to Twitter, this will help you find out.
How Smart Links Can Save You Time
Smart Links save a huge amount of time. To get started you simply enter one link to your music in one store. The smart link provider will scan other stores for the same release and you then decide which stores to show on your landing page. When promoting your music you simply share one link instead of having to enter details for Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, Beatport etc.
What Do Smart Links Look Like?
Help For Bands is aware of the ins and outs of Smart Links because Horus Music use them for their marketing campaigns. These are created for the artist to post and makes it easier for fans to access the artist’s music.
They also make it easier for publications to talk about the artist and their music. By having a smart link ready to go, a publication will find it easier to integrate into anything they write. Overall, it makes it much easier for anyone to listen to an artist’s music on their preferred platform. The easier the process is, the more likely someone is to listen to the music on offer.
Below, you can see an image that shows how the smart links work in the Soundplate Records website:
Want To Create Your Own Smart Links?
There are several providers that can help you create smart links for your music. These include SmartURL, LinkRedirector, LinkFire and Hive amongst others. The best part is, they are free to use! If you want to make it easier for fans to listen to your music, Smart Links are the way forwards!
You can see the original blog post by Music Fibre here: http://musicfibre.com/smart-links-music-101/
Merchandise usually comes as an afterthought to people embarking on the journey of their music careers, but it’s a major revenue stream for many musicians and labels. Merchandise isn’t just a means to make money. It’s how your fans connect with you as an artist and as a brand, show their support and capture memories. Having merchandise allows people to express who they show they are part of your journey
Setting up your own line of merchandise doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t have to do it alone. You just need the right partners to help you deliver on this aspect of your music business. Before you start, you need to know the five steps to building your line. We’ll walk you through these below.
1. Get your Merchandise Designs Made
Kanye West managed to sell plain white Egyptian cotton T-shirts at $120 a piece, but most artist merchandise needs a little bit of decoration to entice people to buy.
You need to create artwork that captures your values, the emotions you create, your beliefs; your brand, and it needs to connect with your fans on an emotional level. Not to mention your artwork has to be visually appealing and your fans have to be proud to wear it.
Think about what you want done before approaching an artist or designer to create your artwork. The more you can tell your designer about yourself, the better equipped they will be to create merchandise that you will be proud to sell and that your fans will actually want to buy.
2. Decide Which Products you Want to Sell
Once your artwork is complete and you’re satisfied, the next step is to choose which products to sell. Bare in mind, not all products are made the same. There are standard T-shirts and there are premium T-shirts for example.
Every category of products from T-shirts, sweaters and hoodies right through to varsity jackets, backpacks and beanie hats will have various manufacturers and product ranges within them and it’s your job to decide which ones you want to use. Consider the following when deciding:
- Quality of T-shirt; Standard or premium?
- Is the garment easy to re-label?
- How much does it cost?
- Does it fit nicely? Will your fans want to wear it?
- What does the fabric feel like and what is it made of?
These decisions will affect production costs which will impact your retail price. Don’t get me wrong, Beyoncé can sell her merchandise on a cheap Gildan Softstyle T-shirt for £35.00, but she’s Beyoncé. We have to be practical here and choose a product that looks and feels the way you need it to in order for you to feel comfortable selling it at the price you’re asking for.
3. Get your Samples or Mockups Made
Now your designs are made and your products are selected you need to be able to show people what the product will look like. There are two ways you can do this.
Get Mockups Made
This is a more cost effective way of showing people how your products will look. You can put the mockups on your website and use them to promote on social media. We can also provide you with images to produce your own mockups on. Just ask for access to our Google drive.
Get Physical Samples Made
Having a physical item that you can take photos of and promote on your social media channels and at your gigs may be a little more costly, but it’s certainly much more effective at getting people to trust and buy your products. Now they can feel the garments before making a purchase. People won’t buy a product from you if they can’t see it – unless maybe you’re Beyoncé.
4. Set Up your Sales Channels
Once you’ve created your products, you need a way for your customers to buy them.
A sales channel is simply a way of bringing products or services to market to make them available for purchase.
Selling online is essential if you want to reach more customers than you could offline. Get an e-commerce website built so that your customers can buy your products online. Research on the range of e-commerce platforms available and choose the right one for you. See suggestions:
- Big Commerce
- Woo Commerce
Selling Merchandise at Gigs
If you have a gig and you have a chance to take some of your merchandise with you, then do it. This is a chance for you to connect with your customers, talk to them, sign copies of your EP, take photos with them and make it a memorable experience.
If you can’t get a table, then wear your own merchandise. Bring a duffle bag or two and sell your merchandise to people straight out of the bag. After you’ve delivered your performance, people will want to become a part of your brand and your story. Don’t deprive them of this. Not everyone will have cash, so be prepared and get a portable card reader. We recommend the iZettle.
5. Production & Fulfilment
You will need a means by which to produce and distribute your products so that your customers will receive them. There are a few ways to approach this depending on your circumstance.
You can sell your products online without having to get them made in bulk and keep inventory and still earn a profit on your sales. You sell the product first and then we print and ship it to your customer on your behalf with you lifting a finger. It’s a good way to get started on a low budget and test out which of your products are most popular. Learn more about print on demand here.
Ordering in bulk is higher risk due to more cash being spent upfront, but will give you a higher profit margin. If you have a growing fan base and you’re selling regularly, this may be the route for you. Paying £5.00 per T-Shirt and selling them at £20.00 will give you pretty good margins with a relatively low breakeven point. It’s a good idea to learn about the different printing methods as well, which you can do here.
You can choose to keep your products yourself and ship them to your customers manually, but may consider outsourcing to a fulfilment centre when your operation grows.
So now you have everything ready, why not get started?
It can take a while to get everything prepared to start selling your merchandise, but once you’ve reached that stage then you’ve crossed a real milestone. Having the right guidance during the process is essential, and that’s why we’re here to help and offer our expertise.
We believe you should be able to earn a living from your craft and want to help you do that, so get in touch and let us know what we can do for you.
Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 0116 350 0321.
Written by Kieza Silveira De Sousa from Wear Your Heart Out
To become a successful artist, you need to work hard on building your fanbase, until you reach a point where you can sell your products to sustain and grow your career. A loyal fan is built from multiple, valuable connections with you. Therefore, it’s very important to make sure you get the contact details of those people who have invested their time in you by either watching you live, liking your fan page or browsing your website. It all starts by building your mailing list.
Firstly, get yourself signed up to Mailchimp. This is a free platform that organises your mailing list and helps you create professional looking mail outs. You can create the best looking content for your subscribers.
At Live Shows…
After your performance, make sure to have a printed mailing list sign up sheet prominently displayed at the merchandise stand, or even better, go round the audience asking people to sign up. If you’re too busy after your set to do this, (or too shy), ask an outgoing friend to help you. It usually helps to have some sort of incentive for people signing up, such as a free demo CD, digital single download code or a badge for example. You’ll then need to add in those contact details into your mailchimp list.
Something that we have found has worked well for larger scale events is a text marketer. This is where you ask audiences to text a keyword (selected by you) to a short number, and they get an automatic text response. The response may contain a link to your website, a free music download or tour dates for example. Think of the old Orange Wednesday 2 for 1 deal on cinema tickets where you texted FILM to 241 and got a code in reply.
Look at www.textmarketer.co.uk which is free to set up an account. You then pay a small subscription fee for a chosen keyword and then purchase a number of credits. For every automatic response that sent is out, a credit will be used up. If you then make it so that in order to access the incentive, an email address is required then you can then collect email addresses for your mailing list too. Noisetrade is a useful site for this.
All of the numbers of people texting in are stored on your account, so when it comes to releasing your EP for example, you can send out a text marketing message with the download link to all of those people directly to their phones.
We highly recommend setting up a Sign Up box to your website. Mailchimp helps you integrate a sign up button into your website easily. Make this prominent on the home page. Add a clear call to action and make it obvious what the benefits are for subscribers.
Use social media to get people signed up to your mailing list. With Facebook making it ever harder to reach your fans without spending money, it is well worth working on migrating as many Facebook followers to your mailing list as possible. Again, use incentives such as raffle give aways, priority on tour tickets etc. You can get creative with this!
What To Do With Your Mailing List?
- Make sure to put out regular, quality content to your mailing list subscribers.
- Send exclusive and engaging content. Anytime you have a major announcement, such as a new release, festival appearance etc – announce it to your mailing list first. They will appreciate being told before anyone else and value the subscription to your mailing list.
- Run competitions exclusively open to your mailing list subscribers.
- Don’t over do it – You’ll see large numbers of people unsubscribing if you’re bombarding them with promotion. Keep things engaging and interesting, which means you have to keep yourself busy doing fun and interesting things!
Pay-to-Play gigs are becoming less and less common (thankfully!) but they do still exist. Essentially they are deals made between the gig promoter and the unsigned band/artist wanting to play at the gig. The band/artist pays the promoter and also pay to sell tickets for the gig and all the money goes back to the promoter – the band/artist only gets money after they reach a certain level or once the promoter has covered a certain amount of costs. This level often doesn’t get reached, and when bands/artists are already incurring costs in order to play the gig (travel, accommodation, time out from work etc.) having to also pay to actually play there just adds to this!
There are some examples we have heard of where an opening act on a tour paid £2000 PER SHOW and all of this money went back to the promoter, not the act. Another band paid £50,000 to join a major band on a UK tour.
In theory, having the chance to support a major artist on tour is one that we all dream of (except being the major artist yourself, obviously!). You have the chance to perform to a huge number of people who have likely never heard of you so this gives you a chance to get some new fans. Right?
Well, how many times have you been to a gig where you haven’t really been bothered about the support act? Or thought “this act isn’t even in the same genre as the main act”? For example, I went to see Muse perform and Dizzee Rascal was the support act… weird! Bands and artists too often pay for a slot on a tour or at a gig where the audience isn’t even their target audience, so it is highly unlikely they will convert these people into fans of their own and in turn monetise these fans in order to one day make back the money they paid to perform the gig in the first place.
How Can You Get a Gig Otherwise?
There are also competitions that bands and artists pay to compete in as they give them the chance to perform in bigger venues than they may normally have the chance to perform in. For example, the Live and Unsigned Competition in the UK provides this opportunity. Often, acts pay to be in the competition but they aren’t actually ready to be performing such large venues so the opportunity is completely wasted!
No, pay-to-play gigs aren’t all bad. If no band or artist ever benefitted from them then they would’ve stopped doing it and these kinds of gigs would’ve been extinct a long time ago. The truth is, there is a reason promoters and competitions feel they can charge… because they normally provide an opportunity that unsigned acts would never normally be able to get on their own. But there are some questions you need to ask yourself before considering chasing these opportunities. If any of your answers reflect the ones given below then you need to consider whether the gig is worthwhile! :
- How much is the promoter wanting you to pay? Probably more than we can afford or an amount that would take us a long time to make back.
- What type of audience will be at the gig? Does this reflect your target audience? No it doesn’t, the act we are supporting/playing alongside is from a different genre.
- Is the size of the venue reflective of the ones you already perform in/larger than normal but a manageable progression? Is it a lot bigger than you normally play e.g. you normally play to 100 but the venue is 1000? It is a lot bigger than we’re used to, we’d struggle to fill it.
- What are you wanting to get out of the gig? Is it possible to achieve this through performing at this specific gig? I’m not sure what we want to achieve or I’m not sure we can achieve what we want to.
If your answers are the opposite to those above and you feel confident and happy about going ahead, then good for you! Grab it with both hands and milk the opportunity.
As with anything you do with your career, do your research. Whey up your options and make sure you are knowledgeable about what you are entering into before taking the leap. Otherwise it is very easy to get scammed and taken advantage of!
Influencers are individuals or companies in the industry that are considered tastemakers. They look out for new music and blog/tweet/post/discuss and basically talk about what they think of this music or at least give it some exposure. They are (usually) trusted names in the blogosphere or across social media and people look to them for guidance on what music to listen to. If you get picked up by an influencer, this can obviously do you some favours!
The first influencers were the fanzines of the 1980s such as The Sounds, NME and Melody Maker. Music fans found new music from printed publications such as these. Now, in the digital age, most of this has moved online in the form of blogs and social media. But, contrary to popular belief, being an influencer doesn’t necessarily mean having a large number of followers, it’s to do with having an engaged and relevant audience that interact and appreciate the opinions of influencers.
Accounts on SoundCloud
Accounts that repost songs from new artists are an example of a modern day influencer. There are many accounts that do this but the key is to find the ones that aren’t too spammy. On some accounts, all they do is repost and you can see that even though these accounts may have a large number of followers, there actually isn’t that much engagement with the reposts because people just get bored of seeing them being posted all the time. The accounts worth targeting are the ones who are more selective of what they repost and therefore have a higher engagement rate. Even if they have a lot less followers than other accounts, if the engagement is there then it is a lot more worthwhile to try to contact these accounts and negotiate a repost. This article gives you an in-depth analysis on SoundCloud reposts and their value.
People on Twitter and Facebook
Connect with those who post about the music industry and about new music are another example. Direct message these accounts and see if you can get a dedicated post. Analyse who they talk about and see if you can figure out where they are finding these bands. If you can present yourself in a similar way to what they’re interested in, you’re more likely to get exposure.
Some are dedicated to music are another obvious influencer. Digital Music News posted the Top 20 Most Influential Music Blogs, all of which have a loyal and active following. A lot of blogs are genre specific or have a certain type of audience or feel about them. Most also focus on the particular country in which they are based so check where they are from beforehand… there’s no point approaching a blog in Australia if you’re in the UK (unless they’re posting about artists internationally).
Research into what you think is most relevant to you and target these blogs for exposure. A good way of doing this is to find out who the specific writers are behind the blogs and reach out to them individually via social media or email rather than the general blog accounts. Your message is probably more likely to be read and considered.
When reaching out to anyone in the industry, you need to be ready to take advantage of the opportunity. You could get some A&R attention if you manage to get exposure from an influencer, so if you are not ready to receive that attention then it’s a waste of all that effort and it will take a long time for you to be featured again. By then, the momentum will have passed. Check out the blog I did for Music Gateway on what you must prepare before approaching anyone in the industry.
It is obvious that building a fan base is essential when making a career for yourself in the music industry. To monetise your fan base you need a pretty established following (not a large following!) of people you interact with. For example, if you have a following of 10,000 on Facebook / Twitter but no one likes, shares or comments then these aren’t fans you can monetise. If you have a following of 1000 and you get a good amount of interaction then there is potential here. So, if you want to make money from fan relationships, you need content for them to interact with.
Once there is interaction, you can start introducing ways of earning money. Before you can ask fans to part with their hard earned cash you need products to sell:
Make some noise about any and every gig you have coming up (see part two: live performances). This can encourage your current fans to buy a ticket and help to bring in new audience members. These could later become fans who pay for more gigs and other offerings. And if it’s a free event that’s fine too. Okay, they won’t directly provide a revenue stream, but you can increase your fandom and build loyalty.
Get in the studio and make some music! Get physical CDs you could sell at your next gig. Distribute your music online to streaming sites and download sites. Set a release date and make a fuss over it to increase excitement over your new music.
T-shirts, key-rings, artwork, whatever you can think of. This is for artists with fans who’re willing to buy, so don’t go investing until you know it’ll get sold. It’s hard enough to make money as a musician without throwing away what you earn!
Now you’ve got the basic products, you need a way of selling them. Asking fans to join a mailing list will help you understand who are the most enthusiastic about what you’re doing. You can then alert these fans when you have a new gig or music and / or merch available. You will be directly selling products to your most likely of customers.
Why not also start a subscription fan club for your most loyal of fans. Charge a small amount for entry to the fan club and in return provide them with exclusives. This could be news from you, direct interaction, and gigs/releases announced before anyone else. Basically like a VIP mailing list.
You can use both or either of these to talk about extra developments with the 3 basic products. For example, send over sneak peeks of merch / artwork designs. Sell VIP live experiences where they can meet you for a chat before the gig. Set competitions where the first 5 people to buy your album get a free ticket to your next gig etc.
Making Money from Fan Relationships
These are all just examples. You need to be fully aware of your reach, your budget and the likelihood of building fan relationships. Create campaigns specific to you and never ask for too much! If you are constantly trying to sell to people, they will quickly get bored of you. Provide enough free content to get them interested and then ask for them to buy things every now and again.
In an age where music is basically free, the live music industry has become a bigger revenue stream for artists. As music sales has decrease, income from live performances have risen. Therefore, this means you should be striving to tap into this industry. Don’t forget to read part one of this blog!
However, your ability to make money from this depends on where you are in your career. It is all too familiar that artists rarely get paid for gigs, or even have to pay to play! When you’re incurring costs to get the gig in the first place, it can be costly to carry on gigging.
But, the algorithm is simple. Gigs mean new fans; new fans means bigger audiences at gigs; bigger audiences means more interest from venues. The more interest there is the bigger the pay check you could potentially receive. You do have to milk every opportunity you get though. If you do gigs months apart then the interest will fade and you may have to start this again.
Be ballsy as well… don’t always assume that you are playing for free. Don’t be afraid to ask “how much will I get paid for the gig”. If nothing then ask “could I at least get paid for my expenses or get a guarantee that if you’re impressed you’ll pay me to come back”. You could even try and negotiate getting a percentage of the bar sales in the venue! The venue needs to make money and if they pay you and no one turns up that’s a problem. Deals like this mean they can ensure they cover their costs before paying you. At the end of the day, sell yourself!
Making Money from Live Performances
As in the last part of this series, you can earn copyright royalties for your performances. If you are signed up to PRS and perform a song you’ve written, PRS will pay you for this performance. Every venue has a PRS license to cover the costs of paying out these royalties, so take advantage of this. Do your research on PRS to make sure you do what you need to get paid and don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you’re unsure, ask the venue as they should know how it works. They aren’t paying you this royalty themselves so shouldn’t have a problem telling you how to get what is owed. Even if the venue is paying you to perform, you can still get money from PRS too!
As with most things discussed in the industry, promote, promote, promote! You should have active social media accounts and content to show what your music is like. This way venues will feel more comfortable putting that investment into you. If they are unaware of how good you are as an artist then it’s a huge risk to pay you.
Admittedly, when you are just starting out your main source of income will probably come from your intellectual property. However, it is still worth looking into other revenue streams such as live performance.
Here at Help For Bands, we are always trying to write blogs that musicians of all styles and abilities can relate to. We are also always trying to find international marketing opportunities for our Help For Bands subscribers in our monthly opportunities newsletter.
With this in mind, we thought we would catch up with one of the companies who gave us an international opportunity for our newsletter, and ask his opinion on the importance of building relationships worldwide in the music industry.
Jonas Olsen works in communications, PR and marketing for No Angel Records in Denmark. This means he promotes music daily and scouts for new music for the label. He also works with creative media producers such as directors, editors and ad agencies. Here, he gives his insight into the making international relationships in the industry, and the international marketing advice advice he would give to artists.
Have you ever worked with musicians outside of Denmark?
“We work with musicians from all over the world. Estonia, Canada and the U.S. are just a few examples. This goes not only for musicians but other publishers as well. We don’t believe in borders when it comes to musicians and music.”
How did this relationship come about? i.e. did they approach you or vice versa, how did you find each other?
“Well, both actually. We’ve reached out to some bands and others have reached out to us. Lately a lot more have reached out to us and we’ve made it very easy for artists to submit their music to us via our website. A lot of them have found out about us via our digital campaigns and we’ve found a lot of bands via independent music blogs and international music / media events such as SXSW and Tallinn Music Week.”
Do you believe there are benefits to creating relationships with people in the industry internationally?
“There are many benefits. I think musicians underestimate the power of an ‘international audience segment’ approach which an international network can give you. What doesn’t work in Denmark might work in Russia and vice versa. One of our Danish artists is quite popular in Poland, a country with a population of approx. 40 million people – 8 times more than Denmark. This was only possible due to our international network.”
From your experience in promoting music, what advice would you give to artists about making themselves and their music marketable in such a competitive industry?
“Consumers yearn for substance and meaning right now, and underground musicians aren’t good enough at delivering. To me, one of the most frustrating things is a musician that doesn’t know what they’re really good at or lacks a clear idea of what he / she wants to convey with his / her music. ‘I can play all genres and sing about everything’ just doesn’t cut it. Identity and individuality is key. That doesn’t mean that your music can’t evolve. It can. But you have to have a clear message and an identifiable style every time you promote your work. The artist’s message and personal identity is just as important as the music itself. Identifying popular and topical subjects is also an option if you want your songs to be more relevant and relatable to a broad audience.”
So, there you have it. Assessing yourself and the music you want to create could be the key to identifying whether you have a marketable product. Do you have an individual identity in your music? How would you describe yourself?
Knowing this could help you find international marketing opportunities as well. Just because the country your from isn’t taking much notice of your music doesn’t mean that another one won’t either. Find the right market for your music.
For the chance to find some international opportunities with labels, managers and publishers from around the world, sign up to our monthly opportunities newsletter where you can get the contact details of these companies.
No Angel Records make it easier for great upcoming bands and artists to get noticed via media placements while the media industry gets an easier time finding great affordable bands for their commercials, TV productions and films.
A Brief Music for Sync Background
In recent years, ‘Sync’ or “Synch’ has become a buzz word in the music business. Music sales (or ‘mechanicals’) in the old sense of the word have diminished to the point where bands, artists and writers are looking for additional income streams. It seems the entire industry are looking to get a piece of the ‘music for sync action’. Most publishers now have a dedicated music for sync department whose sole purpose is to pitch their back-catalogue to sync opportunities. It’s a very competitive sector of the music market. Sometimes the Music Supervisors (the people choosing the music) are seen as having God-like power over music creators. Make sure you read one of the previous blogs about music synch deals.
Here’s a simple guide to the world of Film and TV music for sync, and writing and pitching music for Sync opportunities from my own personal experience. This is a very rapidly evolving part of the industry, but hopefully this will be a useful introduction.
For simplicity, we’ll assume a ‘sync’ or ‘placement’ means music used for Film, TV, Games, Adverts, etc.
There are a few different paths, in my experience, to take to get your music ‘placed’ or ‘synced’.
1. Music Supervisors
Music Supervisors are generally part of the major Film, TV and Games Companies’ world. This is where music is crucial for a particular scene or title sequence. Music Supervisors are in the business of ‘knowing’ music and knowing what will work. This is based on the emotional impact needed to enhance the visuals. After all, that’s the whole point of music for sync.
Here’s the good news. Music supervisors WANT to hear your music. Honestly, they do! They don’t have time to listen to your album from start to finish, and they definitely don’t want to be hassled with ‘follow-ups’. They do, however, LOVE music. That’s why they do what they do. Most of the supervisors I’ve met like to receive music via a link – don’t send them files via email. A download (e.g. ‘Dropbox’) or streaming link is the best plan. Some supervisors are actually still OK receiving audio CDs.
Music supervisors will hold on to your music if they think it may be useful in the future, even if it’s no use for their current project(s). Again, they don’t like to be reminded that you sent them a link to your music. They will listen, and if they think it could be good for a project, they will file it for future reference. Don’t expect a call to let you know they’ve received it.
2. Sync Agency
A Sync Agency is a useful link between you, and those looking for music to sync. They will send out a ‘who’s looking’, ‘tip sheet’ or ‘listing’ for opportunities in the business. Some may charge membership, or charge per ‘submission’, or both. A Sync Agency could also act as A&R, and actually evaluate your music before sending it on to the opportunity or even send it back as being ‘not on target’. Their reputation is on the line with the Libraries or Supervisors they are feeding. So understandably, they won’t want to send music which they consider to be below standard or irrelevant.
Sync Agencies generally supply music to Music Supervisors (Film, TV, Games), Music Libraries, Producers or Artists looking for songs (not for Sync in this case, obviously), Independent Film Makers, and Editors.
3. Music Library (or Publisher)
Music libraries can contain MILLIONS of tracks. BMG publishing, for instance boast having over 2 million in their ‘Catalogue’. Often, these large publishers buy-out smaller libraries to add to their own catalogue. Some libraries are more ‘Bespoke’ or ‘Boutique’, which generally means they have a smaller number of tracks. Music libraries are often called publishers, because they usually own a portion (or all) of the copyright of their catalogue. They therefore make their money by sharing the ‘sync fee’ and ‘performance royalties’ from the placements with the creator. (More about the money later.)
If your music is in a library, then hopefully they are pitching to every suitable sync opportunity out there. You will have an agreement with the library with regards to percentages, plus ‘exclusivity’ etc. If they have your music ‘exclusively’ then you’re not able to offer it to any other libraries, obviously.
4. RELATIONSHIPS – The most useful word in the music business!
After listening to successful publishers and music supervisors, you start to notice the same of advice cropping up:
Relationships are absolutely the key to the music business. My most successful syncs have been the result of relationships. Picture this. You have a 9 o’clock meeting with the Director of a major television documentary film, which is in the edit stage, to discuss the music he needs for a particular scene. He gives a brief outline of what he wants then he shoots off to the editing studio. You have something you think may work by around 2pm, and send over a rough mp3 mix. He, and the Editor get back with a few ‘tweaks’ by 3pm, and by the end of the day you have secured over a minute of music synced to the film. Then, the following morning he’s back. He wants more!
This happened to me, and together with my co-writer, we ended up placing almost 30 minutes of music in a 60-minute film. This only happened because we had a RELATIONSHIP with the Director. He knew us, knew our work, and trusted us. Also, there was no Music Supervisor on the film, and it was quicker for the Director to join forces with us to supervise the music and create it on the fly, than to spend days listening to track after track on music library websites.
So, get out there and meet people. I confess, I’m normally quite shy, but I recognise that relationships are vital in this business. I have no choice if I want to increase my chances.
A good start would be to find local independent Film Makers or Production Companies making corporate video. Mostly, they need music, but are not sure where they can get so-called ‘copyright-free’ or ‘royalty-free’ music and use it without problems later. Just point out to them the fact that music isn’t ever really copyright-free, but you can provide them with yours, without worry, for a ‘sync fee’ and you will still retain full ownership of it. (This is presuming you own or control your music 100% in the first place). Film makers love the security of being able to do this directly with the writer or artist.
I’ve known film makers edit for days to a track which they believe they have free license to use, only to find that their film is blocked on certain devices in certain countries if they upload it to YouTube.
On the plus side, a sync fee could be as much as tens of thousands (especially for a high profile ad campaign). It could be even higher for a famous artist singing the theme to a blockbuster film. On the downside, these days the sync fee for a placement in, say, a reality show on MTV is often zero. Sounds unfair, but for most of these shows they will often use over 100 instrumental ‘cues’ (another name for a sync – but more background type use), and for a few seconds each. There’s millions to choose from, so it’s a simple case of supply and demand.
Your income will come from the ‘back-end’ royalties. This is your Performance Royalties, usually through PRS membership for UK writers. This could be pennies per sync, so it’s a numbers game. You have to rely, therefore, on multiple syncs, and lots of repeated episodes if this is your market.
For a placement in a feature film which is ‘source’ music, such as music playing from a jukebox in the background of a bar scene, you can expect £100-500, to give a general idea.
The actual amount of performance royalties you receive will depend on the channel, country (territory), time of day, etc. When you have music out there in various placements, your royalty statement can be an absolute lottery.
Often, a film or TV production company working on a reality-type show will have a ‘blanket license’ with a library, and their Editor will work incredibly quickly, putting a 30-minute show together, acting also as Music Supervisor. He will have a ‘bin’ (I hate that term!) of music on a hard drive to use, categorized for ease, crammed full of music from that library, and use as much as he wants. Any sync fees are worked out later for the writers involved.
So, all told, it’s very difficult to put a figure on the value of sync. It’s all down to the individual placement.
Some Useful Tips on the Music for Sync Business
Make sure all your Metadata is in place for every track. If a Music Supervisor comes back to your music months down the line, they need to be able to contact you or at least know who you are.
It is YOUR music. You should never have to give away the ownership of your music entirely. In fact, you shouldn’t ever need to give up more than 50% to a publisher (library) to get your music placed.
If you have secured a placement or got a song cut with a major artist, and you need a publisher to deal with the administration and royalties’ collection, a 90/10 in your favour is pretty standard.
Music Supervisors generally won’t want any part of the ownership in your music.
Music Supervision is taken VERY seriously in the Film Industry. They also love to be part of ‘Discovering’ new bands and writers. They will spot ‘less authentic’ music and songs a mile away and they want the real deal!
If you are un-signed and un-published, you are at a real advantage, since clearance for use of your music is far simpler for the Supervisor. Clearance is a major part of using music in film and TV, and top Supervisors have a legal department within the film company to deal with this. If you own 100% of your music, they love it!
100% ownership means that you (or your band as a collective) own the copyright (the song or composition) AND the master rights (the ownership of the recording or ‘master’). This is often called ‘both sides’ in the business. Make sure that if you use a studio, they pass the master rights to you upon payment for the recording session. Get it in writing.
If you are published, it just means that your publisher is part of the clearance and negotiation process for your music to be synced (and they will be receiving their percentage of the sync fee and performance royalties).
If you sign to a library or publisher, you need to weigh-up the pros and cons of exclusive versus non-exclusive. Non-exclusive library music sometimes makes supervisors nervous that another library will claim ownership of the sync because they also have it in their catalogue. Exclusive could mean that your music is tied to a single library, and may never achieve its full potential. It’s a difficult one, but at least make sure there’s some kind of ‘reversion clause’ so you can have your music back after a couple of years if there’s been no placements from an exclusive deal.
Remember that it is the Music Business. Take time to take care of Business.
You might not like the idea of library taking 50% of your sync income, but remember that they are in the music business to do business, and make money. They won’t make a penny if you don’t. 50% of a decent sync fee or performance royalties is better than 100% of nothing.
Gary White is an Independent Music Producer, Composer and Songwriter 1994-present. He plays guitar, bass, keys, drums, whistle, banjo.
For the ‘Techies’, I use Protools, Studio One 3, Logic Pro X, and Cubase 8 – depending on the client’s preferences, Studio One 3 being my ‘go-to’ DAW.