Music Ontario, a non-profit organization committed to providing musicians with resources and career development, put on another excellent panel discussion- this one focused around sync placement and song licensing.

Panelists for the discussion included:

Adaline (Musician)
Chris Budd (Bearsuit Publishing)
Jeremy Von Hollen (Music Supervisor, Instinct Entertainment)
Jason Irvine (Music Editor, Epitome Pictures)

The workshop touched on many aspects of sync placements, from owning rights and collecting royalties to how music makes it’s way into TV and film. Here are 4 strong takeaway tips from the panel.


Always Register Your Work With a Performance Rights Organization

Adaline - Mojito MasteringIn Canada this is SOCAN, while in America the most common choices are BMI, ASCAP, or SESAC. While the panel encouraged artists to work with Music Supervisors to negotiate their own “front-end” licensing fees, when it comes to collecting “back end” royalties (getting paid every time the song placement is aired), that’s a job for SOCAN.

SOCAN will attach a code to each song and collect royalties on behalf of the artist every time that song is played on an episode, and then distribute the money to the artists or band members according to the ownership rights of that song.

Always register your works with SOCAN to ensure you get paid royalties off your music.


Cue Sheets Are Gold

Bearsuit Publishing- Mojito MasteringCue sheets are forms that list which songs were used in a production. After every show is aired, the producers (often the TV network) must submit all cue sheets to performance rights organizations. SOCAN uses those cue sheets to track which songs receive airplay, and collect royalties accordingly.

As an artist, you should always keep track of your cue sheets whenever one of your songs is licensed. Music supervisors are legally obligated to provide them when asked, so don’t hesitate to collect them. They can be used as proof-of-purchase should something ever happen, or get lost elsewhere in the collection chain.

Though in theory an artist shouldn’t need to deal with collecting royalties, it’s always a good idea to protect your interests by staying on top of your cue sheets.


Have Stems & Instrumental Versions Of Your Songs

InstinctE - Mojito MasteringYour song might sit really well in a scene with no dialogue, but once the actors start talking the music editor may need to cut the vocals and keep the track playing in the background.

Before you leave the studio make sure to have stems (tracks of individual instruments) as well as instrumental versions of the songs. Music supervisors have to work quickly, and if they require an instrumental version of your tune, there likely won’t be time to go back to the studio to collect it.

The panel mentioned a few occasions where placements were lost because the artist couldn’t provide instrumental versions of the song. If you’re pitching Music Supervisors, let them know if instrumentals are available.


Be Strategic When Pitching Music Supervisors

Many of the guidelines for pitching Music Supervisors mirror the ones we’ve suggested for pitching music blogs. Do your research before sending out an email. Don’t assume every Supervisor will find your music relevant. Like a music blog, research the type of shows they work on to see if your song fits the content of the show.

Anything that makes the Supervisors job easier is a positive. Offer a description of your songs, genre, and mention similar sounding artists that the supervisor may have placed.

Other quick tips include:

– Keep pitch emails short and to the point.
– Mention the focus track.
– Include both a streaming and download link.
– All downloads should include proper metadata (including contact info on how they can clear the song, year, genre, tempo, lyrics).
– NEVER send songs attached to the email. They clog up inboxes and are never appreciated.
– Make your music available on social media


(Almost) Never Give Away Your Publishing Rights

Epitome Pictures- Mojito MasteringYour publishing rights are your ownership of the musical compositions themselves. They’re your ticket to collecting royalties from your work. Master rights apply only to a specific recording of a song, and are often handed over in record label or publishing deals.

It’s important to know the distinction between the two. Be very careful when dealing with your publishing rights. Unless you’re working with an incredible publisher, or someone that you fully trust, be cautious that you’re not signing away the ability to make money off your own work.


Big thanks to Music Ontario and all the panelists for putting on an informative workshop. For more information on sync and music rights, check out the SOCAN website. For more info on future Music Ontario panels, head over to their website

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