How to Make Money from Synch Licensing

Connor McCoy, Spire Contributor | February 21, 2019

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As the music industry changes and physical distribution becomes less common and lucrative, don't get discouraged! Many musicians make a living off of their music through other means like music libraries and synch licensing (and some streaming platforms). Luckily, you too have access to these tools! Learn how to use music libraries and synch licenses to your advantage in this post.

But first, what is a synch license, and what do music libraries have to do with it?

What are Music Libraries?

A music library is a company that represents (not promote) a large catalog of music for the purpose of securing synch licenses for multimedia. Commercial production companies often source their music from a music library.

What are Synch Licenses?

A synch license is needed to allow music to be used within film, TV shows, YouTube videos, video games, advertisements, or any other AV format publicly sold or broadcast. Artists can partner with one or more libraries to secure a synch license.

Synch licenses can be an incredible source of income for artists, especially independent artists because they own 100% of their recordings and publishing rights. One of the greatest benefits of a synch license is that it can create passive income—even for songs that were released decades ago. Once music is written and recorded, it has the potential to generate income for years to come.

Music library deals: exclusive or non-exclusive?

One of the very first things you need to know about a music library before deciding to sign a deal is whether they’re going to represent your music exclusively or non-exclusively.

Exclusive deals, though rare, state the music library is the only company allowed to license your music. Most artist tend to stray away from these companies because your music has a better chance of securing a synch license across several libraries (remember: they can say no to your request!)

More often than not, companies offer non-exclusive deals. This gives artists the freedom to work with other music libraries without breaching contracts. However, these companies usually have a larger music catalog because of this, and your music will compete against thousands of other recordings when trying to secure a synch license.

Exclusive and non-exclusive deals both have benefits and drawbacks, make sure to think carefully about which bests suits your work.


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The fine print of your agreement

When it comes to any official legal agreement regarding your music, know what you sign into. Even the most famous of artists have been screwed over. You should always have an attorney experienced in music law explain the terms of the agreement, particularly:

- What kinds of placements require your approval

- Accounting and audit rights

- Royalty splits

- Termination provisions

When your song gets picked up by a tv show, advertisement, etc., you get paid public performance royalties. These are royalties collected by your performing rights organization (ASCAP, BMI, etc.) whenever your song is heard on the radio or on tv, or in venues such as bars and restaurants. Make sure you’re signed with a PRO so you can accumulate those royalties! Learn more about your options.

If the license deal was secured through a music library company, make sure to read the fine print to understand if the company demands a percentage of your royalty check from the placement—this could potentially last forever.

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How do I get paid?

There are 3 ways you can be paid through synch licensing:

Sync Fees:

A “synchronisation fee” is paid to the music library upfront by the person needing music (an indie filmmaker, for example), and depending on the terms of the license agreement you signed with the library, you’ll get a percentage of that sync fee. A common cut is 50% of the fee.

Performance Royalties:

If the video that used your music is played on TV (cable or online), you receive performance royalties calculated based on the number of plays. (And this is where your PRO comes in! They’re in charge of collecting the royalties for you.)

Ad Revenue:

If your music is used in a YouTube video, you could receive a share of the ad revenue. Just make sure that your music is a part of YouTube’s ContentID program, and that it matches up with your music library! This pathway is a bit complicated, so if synch licensing is new to you, you don’t have to worry about this quite yet.

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How to choose a music library

Now, the hard part: researching music libraries and finding which ones fit your style and preference.

If you’re just starting out, skip libraries that only offer exclusive deals. You wouldn’t want to commit to just one company without experience in the business! Luckily, there are plenty of music libraries that offer non-exclusive deals. Listed below are a few general music libraries that are great for independent artists, no matter what your genre. Try out Audio Sparx, Jingle Punks, Railroad Trax or Warner Chappell Production Music to start. And don’t let the production quality of your tracks stop you from submitting. There are so many uses for many different forms of music, so being a perfectionist could ultimately keep you from making money.

Research some libraries, look into their help/FAQ sections to discover how you can safely submit your music to them, and don’t forget to document what and who you submit to, so you can keep track of your submissions.

Lastly, good luck! You might not see the money flowing in right away, synch licensing is most definitely a waiting game, but if you keep preserving, there’s sure to be someone who will connect with your music and want to use it for their production.

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