Syncing - An Indie Artist's Best Friend
A sync placement is just as exciting as an artist’s first mainstream radio play. Why? Because people listen for music now more than ever. With technology like Shazam and Siri that can listen to a song and instantly tell you everything about the record, music discovery is no longer solely radio based. Whether an artist wrote music specifically for a strong visual media project or landed a sync placement, they can predict that their music will be heard and discovered. Regina Spektor and Sofi Tukker are two artists in particular who have seen major success in collaborating with visual media.
Regina Spektor is known for her grungy, erie, yet strong sound and the song “You’ve Got Time” is no exception. Spektor wrote and recorded this song solely for the hit Netflix series, “Orange is the New Black”. The show’s creator, Jenji Kohan, gave Spektor free reign of the song and did not give her a specific direction or rules which resulted in a strong piece that audiences could connect to (Buzzfeed). This show is not the first show that Jenji Kohan and Regina Spektor collaborated on. Before “Orange is the New Black,” the two media moguls collaborated on the show “Weeds,” where Spektor recorded a cover of “Little Boxes” for the theme of the show. The “Orange is the New Black” placement was a huge stepping stone and it allowed her to get her first GRAMMY nomination and BMI Streaming Award win, which gave her even more attention as an artist (GRAMMYs). As a result, Spektor has had her music streamed on 190 to 250 playlists over the past few years to this date, earning her a solid revenue stream from streaming services (Chartmetric).
In addition to creating music specifically for a visual media product, there are many artists who focus on landing sync placements in films, TV shows, advertisements, etc. Sofi Tukker, a New York-based duo and'90s house-inspired jungle pop artist, was able to gain a Grammy nomination before they even released a full-length album. This is due to their incredible air time on advertisements for many Apple products including the iPhone X, Apple Watch, and iPhone RED. Their songs “Bats***,” “Drinkee,” and “Best Friend” all were huge hits on Shazam and resulted in 20 million streams on Spotify and 21 million views on YouTube (IEDM). Because the group was able land a sync and relationship with Apple on their first song “Drinkee,” Apple trusted them and synced more of their music with many more advertisements. As of March 2018, the duo has had 4,809,797 Shazams and have been fluctuating between 750-820 playlists on Spotify in the past month (Chartmetric). Spotify has noticed the duo’s success and asked them to record a Spotify exclusive EP consisting of two of their great songs done acoustically and as a result they are gaining 264 new Spotify followers per day. While their Spotify follower count is low (186,257 followers), their monthly listeners to followers ratio is at 18.73. This ratio represents the strong engagement and loyalty of their followers. Sofi Tukker is now currently on a global tour due to their success with Apple’s sync placement, proving that sync placements are an exciting and important revenue stream for artists.
According to Digital Music News, Songtradr is the future of sync placement and will eventually be the sole platform that Music Supervisors will use to find songs for their sync placements (Digital Music News). When a music supervisor is looking for music to sync license, they tend to go for indie artists to give them the xposure and to save on expenses. Sync licenses “involve separate, deal-by-deal pricing and negotiations” ans “there’s no statutory rate” (Digital Music News). Because this process is on a deal to deal basis, music supervisors will find the best deals with new and hungry artists like Sofi Tukker rather than superstars like Lady Gaga. In a way, this part of the business is a win-win. Brands and supervisors save on sync license payments and the artist gains two revenue streams, one from the sync license and one from the amount of streams that they will hopefully gain on Spotify via Shazam. As a result, they will gain a solid and loyal audience organically. Their audience chooses to listen to them by actively Shazaming them and adding their music to their personal playlists and libraries.
As the world becomes more digital every second of every day, there will only be more opportunities for brands to purchase sync licenses from artists. There are industry professionals like Nick Guarino, Director of Film and TV Music at Universal Music Enterprises, is taking his “extensive background in licensing to traditional video games and consumer products” and is “successfully [experimenting] with new licensing models to bring UMe’s music to emerging technologies” (Sync Summit). This is an incredibly exciting time for artists, managers, and media professionals with rapidly growing opportunities.