Navigating the Sync World: Understanding Your Role as a Writer vs. an Artist

Navigating the music industry, especially when it comes to sync opportunities, can be both exciting and complex. Sync licensing—placing your music in films, TV shows, commercials, and video games—offers great potential for exposure and income. However, there’s a significant distinction between being a writer for sync catalogues and an artist whose original music is selected for sync opportunities. Both paths come with their own set of advantages and challenges.  What are the key considerations for each role?

Writing for Sync Catalogues

1. Focus and Versatility
Writing for sync catalogues requires a broad approach. You need to be versatile, creating music that fits a wide range of moods, genres, and settings. Sync music often demands pieces that are instrumental or contain minimal, non-specific lyrics to ensure they can be seamlessly integrated into various contexts.

2. Production Quality
Sync catalogues expect high-quality production. Your tracks must be ready for immediate use, which means investing in professional mixing and mastering. The production needs to be polished to compete with other submissions.

3. Understanding Trends and Needs
Stay informed about current trends in the sync world. What genres are in demand? What moods or themes are trending in commercials or TV shows? Tailoring your compositions to these needs can significantly increase your chances of placement.

4. Volume and Variety
Since sync catalogues often require a vast library of music, you’ll need to produce a large volume of tracks. This demand for quantity means being prolific and disciplined in your writing process.

5. Rights and Royalties
Typically, when writing for sync catalogues, you might be working on a work-for-hire basis, which means you may give up some or all of your rights to the music. Understand the contract terms thoroughly—know what rights you retain and what royalties you can expect.

Original Music for Sync Opportunities

1. Artistic Integrity and Authenticity
As an artist, your original music is a direct reflection of your unique voice and style. Sync opportunities here often arise because your music stands out and resonates authentically with the project at hand. Maintaining your artistic integrity is crucial.

2. Targeted Placement
Unlike the broad approach required for sync catalogues, getting your original music placed is more targeted. Your existing tracks need to perfectly align with the vision of the sync opportunity. This often means having a distinctive sound or lyrical content that matches specific scenes or narratives.

3. Promotion and Networking
Landing sync deals for your original music involves active promotion and networking. Building relationships with music supervisors, licensing agents, and other industry professionals is essential. Your manager plays a critical role in facilitating these connections.

4. Creative Control and Revenue
With original music placements, you typically retain more creative control and a greater share of royalties. This can include synchronization fees, performance royalties, and mechanical royalties. Understanding these revenue streams and ensuring your music is registered with the appropriate rights organizations is vital.

5. Long-Term Impact
Successful placements of your original music can have a lasting impact on your career. It not only provides immediate financial benefits but also enhances your visibility and credibility as an artist. A well-placed song in a popular show or commercial can significantly boost your fan base and streaming numbers.

Key Considerations for Talent

1. Know Your Strengths
Assess where your strengths lie. Are you more adept at creating diverse, adaptable tracks, or does your strength lie in producing original music that reflects your personal artistry?

2. Time Management
Balancing both paths can be challenging. Sync writing demands consistent output and adaptability, while pushing your original music for sync requires focused promotion and strategic networking.

3. Legal and Financial Aspects
Understand the legal implications and financial structures of each path. Ensure all contracts are clear about rights, royalties, and revenue splits. Consulting with a music lawyer can be beneficial.

4. Long-Term Goals
Align your sync strategy with your long-term career goals. If you aim to establish a distinct artist brand, focusing on original music sync opportunities might be more advantageous. Conversely, if consistent income and broad exposure are priorities, writing for sync catalogues could be the way to go.

5. Collaboration and Support
Collaborate with other musicians, producers, and industry professionals. Having a supportive network can provide opportunities, feedback, and guidance, enhancing your chances of success in both arenas.

Whether you choose to focus on writing for sync catalogues or aim to get your original music placed in sync opportunities, each path offers unique benefits and challenges. Candidly, it is difficult to be successful in both writing for sync and pursuing an artist career simultaneously. Know your strengths and what you are passionate about, and then you can strategically outline a pathway to maximize your potential and ultimately achieve your artistic and financial objectives in the dynamic world of sync licensing.