On Making Music Supervisors Happy: Be Prepared with Instrumentals, Alternative Mixes

1Placement of music in TV and Film via sync licensing is growing into one of the most lucrative means through which artists get their music into the ears of consumers. Music supervisor act as the gatekeepers to such sync deals however. Here we look how to keep them happy and up your chances of a placement.


Guest post by Soundfly Partner Tracks & Fields on Soundfly's Flypaper

Welcome to the first edition of a new series of articles by Berlin-based music licensing firm, Tracks & Fields called How to Make a Music Supervisor Happy. Sync licensing and music placement is quickly becoming one of the most lucrative ways that independent artists can grow and share their music with the world, but it’s a competitive field. So we’ve invited Tracks & Fields to share their hard-earned expertise on a regular basis to help you get your work to the top of the pile faster. 

Getting your tracks synced can often seem like an arbitrary lottery. Why do agencies like one song and not the other? Why did the supervisor pick a song that sounds similar but isn’t yours? Why are bands much smaller in profile than yours landing big syncs?

At times, this highly competitive game can seem a little disheartening — and yes, admittedly, there can be a number of factors beyond your control. There are, however, a few really simple things you can do to ensure that you give your songs the best possible chance to be licensedMaintaining different variants of your tracks should be the first port of call.

In the world of sync licensing and music supervision, the reality is that turnaround times can be very fast. While a spot might take months to air, the music may need to be cleared in a matter of days and, on occasion, a matter of hours. Therefore, it’s vital to have many versions of your songs available to pitch, as it could be the difference between having your song chosen over another. Below, we’re going to talk about the most important versions of your songs to have on hand.

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Quite often, our clients brief us specifically for instrumental tracks. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re looking for an instrumental song from genesis; they’re just looking for something without a vocal track. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard a song that’s instrumentally perfect for a spot requesting “instrumentals only” but the vocals just didn’t fit.

When turnaround time is sparse, having an instrumental on hand means the client doesn’t have to imagine how the song would fit the spot sans vocals. Make sure you get an instrumental bounce every time you finish your final mix and submit it along with the original track.

Clean Versions

Imagine you’re a company promoting a family car, a kids’ breakfast cereal, or a new, secure home loan. Chances are, you’re promoting your product to a pretty conservative section of the market. It’s also even more likely that you’ll alienate a vast section of that market if the music in your next ad campaign features any swearing or questionable lyrical themes. One could write an entire article on song lyrics when it comes to licensing, but for now, we’re going to focus on coarse language.

As I’m sure you can guess, if your song has any recognizable swearing, it’s probably not going to be licensed for a commercial project. That’s why it’s important to make clean versions of any songs that feature colourful language. This can be as simple as creating an alternate version of the song in which the trouble words are either faded or dubbed over. Either way, doing so will ensure that a perfect song is not overlooked because of a single word.

+ Read more on Flypaper: Get up to speed with what’s going on in the world of music publishing with our popular monthly roundup, Music Publishing News

Alternate-Mix Versions

If you recorded the song yourself (or can afford the extra studio time), it’s always worth thinking about alternate versions of your songs. This could be a stripped-back version featuring just vocals and piano or a full blown, beat-driven dance remix. It can be worth investing extra time and/or money if you believe the melody and lyrics hold strong commercial appeal.

Anecdotally, I had an artist with a song that perfectly fit a project in terms of melody and lyrical content, but the instrumentals were too intense for the brief. Upon looking through the alternate versions of the track, I found a downtempo remix that suited the placement perfectly, and I was able to submit.

That brings us to our final point…

Keep Your Stems

Whether they’re our clients or not, music supervisors can be very, um, picky. Curse words aside, there are endless instances in which a song might be perfect, save for one disorienting element. Be it a guitar riff, keyboard line, or even just the BPM, having all of your stems readily at hand will mean any necessary edits can be done quickly and easily. Remember, when you’re licensing a song, you’re doing so to serve the creative purpose of the visual media.

Having access to the stems gives whoever does the final edit a higher level of flexibility and control when syncing the audio and video.

Whenever your song gets airtime, be it in a television or film placement,on terrestrial radio, or streamed on Spotify, you need to make sure you’re set up to collect all the royalties that are owed to you. It’s a confusing industry, but our free course by Ari Herstand, How to Get All the Royalties You Never Knew Existedcan help you wrap your head around it! 

Follow this forthcoming series of articles called How to Make a Music Supervisor Happy.

Tracks & Fields is a music licensing platform for advertising, film, TV, and interactive. We are not a music library. We believe in bringing you the best music repertoire according to your briefing and budget in real time. Getting the best music within your budget and deadline starts with a simple request. It only takes a few minutes. Our decades of experience in the music and licensing business allows us to be sure we can source the finest music for your projects, and to utilize a quick and reliable rights clearance process.

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