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Sync Agents: How They Help Musicians And Songwriters Make Money

May 30, 2023 
BY DAN SPENCER

Music fans often get curious about how their favorite artists make money from their songs. Well, earning money from music can come from different sources.

The primary source of revenue for musicians is through live performances, tours, shows, merchandise, and record sales. Artists also get paid royalties by licensing their written songs.

That said, one aspect of the music industry that usually confuses rising artists and fans is sync agents. Do all singers and songwriters need sync agents?

Read on to learn more about sync agents and their role in making stars out of artists.

What Is A Sync Agent?

Closeup of a table and man's thumb with the word agent on it.

Sync agents are entities in the music industry helping artists put their music in the spotlight. These agents can be a person or a company.

If you’re an artist, a sync agent will represent your music and pitch it for project placements. Simply put, they help advertise your music for film music supervisors to pick up.

There are several types of sync agencies in the music industry. Each of them works slightly differently from the other, though their overall goal is the same... to make you money.

Sync Agents And Visual Media

One typical route for songs represented by sync agencies is to land on the big screen. Movies and TV shows use tracks and songs for scenes pitched by sync agents all the time!

So the songs playing behind your favorite Netflix shows? Yes, sync agents help music directors find and place them in each scene to create the perfect background music.

Sync Agents And Artist Revenue

Every visual content featuring someone else’s music needs a sync license. And, a sync agency will ensure artists receive a synchronization fee for using their music.

Such agencies are also helpful for busy artists who want to expand their revenue streams. You keep doing your art, and they ensure you get paid by placing your songs on the screen.

They also provide additional exposure to rising artists. After all, we often search for that one song behind our favorite film and inadvertently discover phenomenal bands and singers!

So, if you’re the type of artist that wants to create musical content for TV shows, movies, advertisements, and video games, working with a sync agent is your best option.

Sync Agents Vs. Musical Libraries

Music agencies handling sync licenses typically fall into two primary categories: sync agents and music libraries. So, what’s the difference between these two?

The primary distinction between a sync agency and a music library is how artists advertise and how music editors search for songs.

Music libraries contain a vast collection of songs, forming a catalog of available recordings. Those who want to use music for their projects can search for the type of music they need.

These models work best with instrumental music and genres. Libraries are more of a detached arrangement for musicians, unlike a sync agency that works more closely with the artists.

Nevertheless, a music library is a viable choice for indie musicians and songwriters. It’s an excellent way to build connections and seek licensing opportunities.

Sync Agents: How Much Do They Cost?

Agencies typically ask for a certain percentage of the sync fee as service payment. The typical rate for sync agents in the US is around 10% of an artist’s sync revenue.

Other companies can go as high as 25% depending on several factors. Some agents may also require upfront fees from their clients, though that rarely happens.

Music License: What Is Sync Licensing?

Blue question marks with the word "sync licensing" printed.

As their name suggests, sync agents will secure “synchronization” licenses for artists. A sync license is an agreement between a music user and the copyright owner regarding the use of their songs.

However, unlike other licensing agreements, a sync license only pertains to using an artist’s music in visual and moving image products, such as films, ads, and TV shows.

The copyright owner has the sole right to grant synchronization rights for songs. These proprietors can either be the songs’ writers, singers, or record labels assigned to them.

How Does A Sync Licensing Work?

The Internet is producing content after content of media every second. This makes it difficult for artists to regulate how people use their songs.

A sync license would prevent other people from using a piece of music for commercial purposes without permission. Content editors don’t have official permission to use the music without a synchronization right provided by the copyright owner.

Conversely, producers may hire artists to create original music for their projects. In such cases, the employer owns the musical rights under the “work-made-for-hire” agreement.

How Much Do Artists Earn From Sync Licensing?

Sync licensing is a lucrative revenue source for singers and songwriters. Getting a successful placement for their music can provide considerable exposure and generate stable earnings.

Synchronization royalties will vary on several factors. The project size, length of a licensing agreement, and client budget can contribute to how much artists earn.

Generally speaking, payment for a synchronization right can cost a few dollars to thousands of dollars. Artists can earn in two ways: individual royalties and copyright collectives.

Individual Fee

An individual fee is usually a one-time payment for using an artist’s music. The amount can depend on the song and the manner of using it.

These music royalties will be divided proportionately between the copyright owners. However, artists who own all rights to their songs can collect an individual fee without deductions.

In some cases, an artist can choose to hand in their music rights to copyright collective agencies. In these instances, the company will negotiate and collect sync royalties.

These agencies will track venues and events that use copyrighted music. They then ensure that the artist receives appropriate remuneration for their intellectual property.

Copyright and licensing concepts deal with musical rights and ownership. However, they differ vastly in scope and purpose.

In simple terms, a copyright is an intellectual property protecting the original creation of an artist. It means you have all the legal rights to reproduce, sell, publish, or distribute your music.

There are two types of copyright in the music industry. These intellectual property rights involve a singer’s master recordings and a songwriter’s musical compositions.

A sync license, on the other hand, is merely an artist granting access to use their music. And this permission can be limited to a specific project or a time frame.

5 Other Types Of Music Licensing

Licensing through sync agents is only the tip of the iceberg when discussing an artist’s revenue stream. In reality, musicians and songwriters earn through several licenses granted by law.

1. Master Recording License

A master recording license is similar to a synchronization right. The only difference is that this license transfers the rights of the original song, partial or entirety, to the customer.

2. Public Performance License

A performance license permits clients to use a piece of music for public broadcasting. Reproducing songs on radio, television, and any public platform would require this license.

3. Theatrical License

A theatrical license is an exclusive agreement between the copyright holder and the client to perform the song on stage or at any venues and events with audiences.

4. Mechanical License

A mechanical license involves manufacturing and distributing media in any format or platform. Examples of these formats include CDs, cassette tapes, or vinyl.

5. Print License

Songs aren’t limited to digital formats, so people can still unlawfully distribute a piece of music on paper. So, anyone planning to distribute printed copies of a music score needs this license.

Should You Work With A Sync Agent?

Sync agent in a suit and tie pointing at the viewer.

Licensing their music is a fantastic way for independent musicians to build promising careers. And sync agents definitely provide several advantages for exposure purposes.

Most of these companies have close ties with media producers. So, you’ll have an easier time getting your song to places that matter.

That said, recent sources suggest a rising revenue growth of syncing licensing with the rise of online media platforms such as YouTube and Netflix.

A report from the RIAA showed a considerable 25% increase in artist revenue from sync licensing. And experts are now considering synchronization as the “next wave.”

So, if you want a secondary income avenue with your music, investing in sync agencies is a great long-term plan. And which artist would refuse to hear their masterpiece on the big screen?

Of course, you should also consider the musical path you want to take. A sync licensing gig is a viable revenue source, but nothing is stopping you from taking center stage as well!

Final Thoughts

An artist putting their music on Spotify or Apple Music doesn’t guarantee consistent royalty revenue. Regardless of our tech skills, we all need a little touch of expertise sometimes!

Sync agents are experts in helping musicians and songwriters earn by promoting and representing their music. They help build connections in the industry—and isn’t that what the trade is all about?

If you found the information in this article helpful, please consider subscribing to our blog for more music production tips, tricks, and advice!

"Some of the links within this article are affiliate links. These links are from various companies such as Amazon. This means if you click on any of these links and purchase the item or service, I will receive an affiliate commission. This is at no cost to you and the money gets invested back into Audio Sorcerer LLC."

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