How To Land a Sync Deal, as explained by Simon Pursehouse

Sully, our Student President, tells us all about one of the talks he attended during the BBC Music Live Introducing conference...


At the end of October, a group of ICMP students attended the BBC Music Introducing Live conference taking place at Tobacco Dock, London. Among the many talks, panels, and workshops available, they selected some and collected key information to be shared with the ICMP Student Community.

Sully, our Student President, was one of the lucky attendees of the 3-day conference. On October 31st, he sat in on the Sentric Music Presents: 9 Steps To Landing A Sync Deal talk, during which Simon Pursehouse from Sentric Music discussed how artists can get a sync deal.


1. Get your product up to scratch & apply self-censorship
Now, this is the tricky one, as it requires us to step back and listening to our material devoid of any bias.

“I’m sent an astonishing amount of music which simply sounds terrible – and this has absolutely nothing to do with personal taste; we’ve had plenty of music synced on big projects which I’d never personally listen to – this is purely a matter of production quality”

Unless we’re electronic artists then it’s pretty much safe to say that bedroom recordings are rarely ever going to be at a high enough production standard to be syncable. Unless, of course, you’ve invested *a lot* of money turning your bedroom into a pint-sized Abbey Road.

Simply listen to the music you hear on TV, films, and games, and ask yourself if your music is as sonically sound as that? Honestly now? If it is then lovely, you may proceed. If not – get into the studio, please. 

2. Have instrumentals at your disposal
Every single time we record a new track we should be getting an instrumental version done at the same time.

“Be sure to agree this with the studio/engineer at the beginning of your session as they might charge you a bit extra for this. As expensive as mastering might be, consider using online platforms to master your instrumentals as that can save you several pounds.”

3. Get your metadata right
When you send an MP3 to someone you need to make sure that when they play it in their media player of choice it tells them who they’re listening to, what they’re listening to, the genre of what it is they’re listening to and how to get in touch with whoever is responsible for what they’re listening to.

“Pretty much every music supervisor I’ve come across uses iTunes, so be sure all this information shows in that and you should be laughing. If you hate iTunes; stop moaning and wind your neck in, you’ve got to play by the music supervisors’ rules on this one.” 

4. Know your rights… Or, at least, who has them
For your music to be synced on *anything* at all, two copyrights need to be cleared; the master copyright and the publishing copyright. Be sure you know who controls both of these copyrights and that they know how to get hold of one another in case they need to discuss clearing the track in question for a sync opportunity.

Stereotypically the master copyright is controlled by whoever paid for the recording. Traditionally, this would be the record label, but in the modern music industry, this is quite often the artist.

The publishing copyright is controlled by the publisher, but please remember that a track might have a number of songwriters who may have different publishers – all of which would need to give permission in order for a sync to go ahead.

“There are many examples of huge sync deals that have fallen through because the publishing copyright was split between a large number of people and some chancer who had 2% of the track for contributing a forgettable throwaway line couldn’t be found because he no longer lives in his mum’s attic (actual true story that – for a six-figure deal as well)”

5. Research the right people to approach
The synchronisation chain of command often looks like this:

Music supervisors usually have two types of filters where they source music from for their various projects.

Professional filters: These are the people they approach when they have a brief from the project manager and need a selection of music.
Personal filters: These are the friends, blogs, magazines, radio stations, DJ’s etc who have a knack of recommending music that tickles their fancy

Basically; as an artist, you don’t personally fit into either of those filters. So it’s your task to ensure you’re hitting the music supervisors via the people and mediums that do.

Put yourself in their place; would you want to chat directly to 10,000 artists or artist managers when you’re looking for a track for a certain project?

No. Of course not…

You want to talk to 20 trusted people who represent 500 artists each to send over a handful of tracks from their catalogue.

“Don’t approach the music supervisor; approach the people who approach the music supervisor"

6. Get your first impression perfect, it’s the biggest hurdle of them all
First impressions are astonishingly important – if you get it wrong at step one then you rarely get a second chance. If you get in touch with any supervisor or publisher, and are either rude or make it incredibly difficult for them to listen to your music, then they’re going to move onto the next email in their ever-expanding inbox.

7. Sell yourself by saying why other people who are more established than you, like you

“When sending music to music supervisors tracks for a project I’m not just sending them the MP3s – I’m telling them why these songs are exciting and why they should want to use them over the thousands of other ditties they’ve received. There are a few things that turn them on..."

And they are:

  • Key radio airplay from stations such as BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, 6Music, 1Xtra, XFM etc.
  • Blog exposure from reputable sources such as Pitchfork, DrownedInSound, The 405, The Line Of Best Fit, Artrocker, amongst many others.
  • Notable live shows and tour supports (festivals are great and if you’ve supported someone noteworthy that’s also worth a mention).
  • Previous syncs – if your music has been synced before then be sure to talk about this!

Also, at this point, don't forget that your online presence should be well maintained (and pretty).

8. Be patient
If you’ve done points 1-7 then congratulations! You’ve officially done everything you can and you’re now playing the waiting game. Syncs can take a long time to come; there is one particular artist we work with where nothing landed for three years and then within the space of a month three different syncs came in; the ended up earning them more money than they'd ever done throughout their careers to that point.

So be patient. Please.

9. Once you’ve landed the sync – milk it for all it’s worth
Certain syncs can be gifts that keep on giving if you perform a few simple bits of housekeeping to exploit the exposure to its full potential. It’s astonishingly frustrating to see an artist receive placement on a high profile TV show and then do nothing in terms of promotion/awareness to try and convert those viewers into record sales or simply just new fans.

“Basic SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is utterly key here. Put yourself in the viewer’s place; you’ve just heard a great song and you want to discover who it was, you weren’t quick enough to Shazam it (get your music on Shazam by the way); so what do you do? You Google the show name and the lyric you heard hoping to find out what it was.”

If you whack your song on SoundCloud with the lyrics and “as heard on [TV SHOW]” in the description with a link to buy, then you’re going to capitalise on all those impulse purchases.

Thank you Sully for your time and comprehensive report - and thanks to Simon for sharing his extensive knowledge about the sync world. Now get on it and good luck!

Find out more about the music business

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by ICMP staff writer
December 6, 2019
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