Music Business

Do TV Show Music Placements Lead To Greater Artist Awareness?

Tunefind-resizedBy Liv Buli, Resident Data Journalist for Next Big Sound.

You’ve just tuned in to your favorite television show, be it Gossip Girls, Grey’s Anatomy, or Glee, and are enthralled by familiar characters and gripping plot, but how often do you take note of the songs that score these scenes?

In the right instance, television syncs can serve as an incredible opportunity. Beyond the obvious benefits in terms of additional income and branding opportunities for an artist, in a single spin on a popular show, new music that may not have had much far-reaching exposure is suddenly impressed upon a massive audience. If you are part of or managing an emerging act, you might wonder which shows are the best venues for featuring new music. Combining data from Tunefind, a crowd-sourced website that tracks television spins, with Next Big Sound artist data, we took a closer look at which shows are more likely to play music from relatively unknown bands, and in turn are most likely to result in a greater return.

With all the hype that floats about the industry when it comes to the popularity of certain shows, we first approached this data under the assumption that obvious trends would emerge. Either there would be particular shows that would bring a significant return to artists in terms of growth, or that artists with a fan base of a certain size would see a typical increase. Our first pass at the data showed that this was not necessarily the case.

For instance, Frank Ocean scored an entire episode of the hit show Gossip Girls in November, which marked the first time his music was ever synced on television. Ocean, who got his start as part of Odd Future and has done exceptionally well with his debut solo album Channel Orange, already has a solid fan base with close to 2 million Twitter followers and around 27 million views on YouTube. His overall statistics are definitely on a steady rise, but the spike in data following the television sync, pales in comparison to that of other events since his album release.


On the other hand, Golden State, a much smaller band in terms of fan base and consumption, with only 1500 Twitter followers and close to 350,000 video views on YouTube, featured on a season finale episode of Gossip Girl in May, and what constitutes a significant spike in their numbers immediately follows. As these two examples would indicate, the return on television syncs in terms of numbers is not necessarily consistent and can depend on factors that are impossible to quantify.


What we were able to identify by looking at this data is which shows typically see an immediate positive impact for the artists featured, by breaking down the percentage change in Wikipedia page views for an artist two days after a sync, compared to seven days before. The visualization below illustrates which shows can be considered most beneficial for an artist. Each dot represents the artist or band, and the position from left to right indicates the percentage change. The line within the box plot shows the median, or typical percentage change.


The top 10 shows, from Glee to Life Unexpected, all typically resulted in a return greater than zero for the artist, whereas those below had an insignificant or even negative impact.

Knowing which television shows on average bring the biggest instant boost, we took a second stab at the data with utility for the music industry in mind and took a closer look at the existing following of acts that were featured on the various shows. Looking at Facebook page likes as a metric indicating fan base, and normalizing these numbers to account for network inflation, given that the size of the network on the date of sync would have an impact on the overall numbers, we found that certain shows were more likely to feature bigger artists and more familiar music, where as other were more likely to feature up-and-comers. Here the position from left to right indicates the size of a band’s fan base.


It is perhaps not surprising that performance shows such as The Voice and So You Think You Can Dance rank high on this list, and do not fall in the category of tastemakers. These shows are not taking risks on new, unfamiliar artists and music, but rather tend to feature more established acts such as Maroon 5, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry.

The television shows that do fall in the category of those that typically feature more up-and-coming artists are at the lower end of the chart. These are MTV shows such as Skins and Awkward, as well as Ringer, and Pretty Little Liars. One might argue that a shows such as Pretty Little Liars and Awkward, which often features the music of relatively unknown acts like Tan Vampires and Mates of State, and also appear on the list of shows where artists have typically seen a positive impact, would be prime targets for those attempting to get new music out there through television syncs.

Ultimately, licensing to television is a great way to get new music out there. So next time you turn on your favorite show, make sure to pay attention to the soundtrack – you might just be listening to the next big thing.

Photo Credit: Traced by User:Stannered via Wikimedia Commons

Liv Buli is the resident data journalist for music analytics company Next Big Sound. Buli is a graduate of New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and her work has appeared in Newsweek Daily Beast, The New York Times Local East Village, Westchester Magazine and more.

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  1. This is the best way for artists to make revenue other than gigs these days.
    Music libraries and publishers are one of the most important contacts to have in this day of the music industry.

  2. Liv,
    Two questions
    1. Were the TV shows ratings factored in to this analysis? I can’t tell.
    2. Whether a particular synch is successful in a scripted show usually depends on the placement in the story line of the show. The Soprano’s season finale, essentially launched “Don’t Stop Believing” into another stratosphere, yet I don’t think most people could name another song in that episode besides the opening theme. I’m not even sure if there is another song in the episode.
    When Anna Nalick’s Breathe was used in Greys Anatomy it was during a powerful montage in a “special” episode. If it was background in a forgettable scene I don’t think it would have mattered as much.
    I could go on with many examples like this, and they all boil down to context within the show.
    Taking context into account, is it possible to further segment this analysis to the placements of songs played in the last act of an episode? I would assume that the last act is when the most emotionally resonant scenes occur and therefore when songs have the most impact. I’m sure there are exceptions to that rule, but over a large sample range it should not be a factor.

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