How to Get your Music in TV, Movies and More

Pete Rogers, TuneCore

In 1997, a 15-year old album by a previously obscure (at least in the US) German techno band received a rush re-release in order to sate a sudden surge of demand. Why was the public suddenly clamoring for a recording that had been totally off the radar for a decade and a half? Because that long after it peaked at #33 on the Billboard Dance charts, the song “Da Da Da” by Trio was used in a Volkswagen commercial.

Traditionally most musicians don’t exactly dream of hitting the big time by being background music, however any time a film or TV studio, production company or someone else wants to use your composition, they need to pay you for the synchronization license. This practice of Sync Licensing remains one of the most exciting revenue opportunities in the business. It’s an incredible chance to get additional exposure, and in some instances, it even pays off in huge record sales. Take, for example, Fun’s “We are Young:” it jumped from #63 to #3 on the Billboard charts after it was used in the Chevy Sonic’s “Stunt Anthem” Super Bowl ad.

While there’s no accurate statistic on how big this market is, it’s safe to say that it’s money that no artist would want to leave on the table.

But how does one get in on this potential rent (if not career) making position? As a creative at TuneCore, Pete Rogers works with music supervisors and songwriters every day to place songs in movies, TV shows, commercials and more. He’s provided a few key tips to help songwriters to have a better chance of getting noticed…and paid.

  1. Maintain a social media presence so Music Supervisors can see how actively engaged your fan base is.

It’s growing increasingly common for the music in TV shows, commercials and movies to be considered more than just background – it’s part of the whole promotional pie.

A songwriter with a sizable, pre-established network has an immediate edge beginning with the pitching process. For example, the fact that TuneCore artist and songwriter Alex Day has over a million followers on YouTube makes music supervisors much more likely to consider licensing his music. And if it’s a choice between two songs by two different artists, it’s this ready-made social audience that could be the deciding factor.

  1. Create a cappella and instrumental versions of your songs before the session is wrapped.

While music is sometimes in the forefront of a scene (think “Crystal Blue Persuasion” in Breaking Bad), it’s usually secondary to other audio like dialogue. Over half of the license requests received by TuneCore’s creative team are for instrumentals. While the version that is ultimately appears on screen may be the one with lyrics, the vocal-less version is frequently used throughout the editing process.  While negotiating with the music supervisor for NBC show Growing up Fisher, TuneCore Songwriter Anthony Watkins from the band Mobley had his song Torch selected over other options largely because this alternate version was readily available.

  1. Create clean or alternate versions of songs that include profanity so you’re not limiting yourself to R-rated projects only.

This one is probably the most no-brainer of the lot. It’s pretty safe to assume Glee would not have had Gwyneth Paltrow singing the original version of Cee Lo’s hit. While the R-rated version gave the single huge viral appeal, it’s “Forget You” that will be paying Cee Lo’s bills for years to come.

  1. Don’t jump at the offer before you know all the facts.

While the promise of a quick paycheck may have you ready to sign on the first dotted line you’re presented, that’s an easy way to sell your craft short. In fact, it’s advisable to get the assistance of a professional who knows the nuances of licensing and will make sure you get the best deal.

Sync licensing fees are based on multiple factors like length of the use, how the composition is being used (background or up front), the format and the popularity of the production. There are no industry-wide standards for fees and the range is a few hundred to hundreds of thousands of dollars. You’re likely to get a much better deal if someone in the business handles your one-on-one negotiation. For example, TuneCore helped one songwriter license a song for use in the commercials for a major mobile device manufacturer in Europe. While the original $40K offer was certainly nothing to sneeze at, the TuneCore team was able to nearly double that amount by leveraging their vast knowledge and experience with similar deals.

Synchronization licensing can be an incredibly lucrative revenue stream for a songwriter, and it’s an opportunity we think every songwriter should be able to take advantage of. But finding and negotiating these deals is complicated and often involves several parties. Partnering with someone who knows the in and outs such as TuneCore helps you to be sure your best interests are represented.

About TuneCore Publishing Administration

TuneCore’s Music Publishing Administration offers Songwriters & Publishers a simpler and more viable solution for managing the rights to their compositions. The in-house staff has over 100 combined years of experience in Music Publishing Administration. They excel in registering, licensing, pitching, promoting as well as processing the royalties due for a songwriter’s compositions. 

TuneCore Publishing Administration maintains an online sync and master licensing database that is used exclusively by Music Supervisors and other licensors on an invitation-only basis to find music to fit their projects. TuneCore Music Publishing Administration also negotiates licenses on a case by case basis, which allows the company to command higher fees for clients.



About The Author

Vinny Ribas

Vinny Ribas is the founder and CEO of Indie Connect, an artist management, consulting and training company. The company also hosts networking and educational events and has published an app that connects people to the Nashville Music Industry. During his 40+ year career, Vinny has been a full time musician, artist manager, booking agent, songwriter, studio owner, producer and the Entertainment Director for the NV State Fair. He has also coached over 1000 artists and songwriters. He is a sought after speaker and has authored over 400 music industry articles. Vinny is also the CEO of Top 4M Entertainment, an independent film and television production company.