Revenue For Indie Artists In Unlikely Places
Changes in the structure of the music industry over the past few years have precipitated the rise of third party publishing companies. Here we speak with the CEO of one such company, Lip Sync Music, who is working to help smaller groups of DIY artists with the promotion and syndication of their music.
By Diana Hereld of Pathways in Music
Over the past few years, the music industry saw a remarkable shift to DIY methodology and third party involvement in artist growth and revenue. The decline of ‘top down’ infrastructures created ample space for artists to have their music heard. Those who once relied on serendipity in an expo elevator or badgering music sups to land a coveted syndication now find hope in services offered by third party publishing companies. In this post, licensing expert and Lip Sync CEO Lauren Harman weighs in on revenue streams for indie artists.
This month, Lip Sync Music celebrates their six-year anniversary, where since 2009, they have generated millions of dollars in sync revenue for independent artists. Heralded as “The sounds of today’s TV, advertising and film,” their work spans an array of international brands including Apple, Nike, Target, Amazon, Samsung, Honda, and all major TV and film networks. Lip Sync artists are heard in films and television shows such as 21 Jump Street, the Scream franchise, Showtime’s Shameless, House of Lies, Girls, The Newsroom and Entourage, Orange is the New Black, Breaking Bad, and many more.
In addition to their new publishing division Very Well Music Group (VWMG), Lip Sync recently announced the creation of Scissorbox, their in-house sound design library. Bringing a substantial amount of talent to the board, the company enables the creation of customized works for syndication from their own roster. Because Lip Sync works with their composers to source sounds and stems from within, they generate a highly innovative source of revenue for their artists.
You all have been in business six years now, so I’d like to talk about some of the 'ins and outs' of how this sector of the industry works. Lip Sync has a stellar roster and impressive list of alumni – Bloc Party, The Antlers, Frenchkiss Records, Zola Jesus… How did Lip Sync come together in the beginning? What was the vision?
LAUREN HARMAN: I wanted to create a small and focused roster of uniquely talented artists. … I wanted to put time, energy, and enthusiasm into the artists we signed, which you just can’t do with a larger catalog. So it really [became] about [using discretion] in the A&R process.
I understand that the majority of press and attention to this part of the industry is often given to music supervisors. That being said, who typically is more involved in A&R and development? How does this affect new and burgeoning artists?
The supervisors [must stay] on top of what’s out there … to compete with each other for jobs. We compete with other licensing agents for the bands … getting attention, and we need to know what’s good and new out there before they do. Every band on our roster has an agent in charge of them. I also make sure my agents are commissioned on what artists they have because I want that “you eat what you kill” mentality deeply ingrained in the [success] of everybody who works for me. We gotta eat. Our bands gotta eat. I sure am hungry.
Speaking of A&R, Lip Sync has had some killer placements recently, like the new Apple commercial, which features the instrumental band Badbadnotgood. I’m especially interested in how one of your own came to land such an infamous scene of a TV season finale, however. Tell me about The Taalbi Brothers.
My friend Monty found them playing on the boardwalk one day and convinced them to give him a free [CD]. They were two teenage brothers from the Midwest, calling themselves The Sweet Tooth and playing instrumental flamenco music (ala Rodrigo Y Gabriela). I eventually got the [CD], liked it, met with their brother / manager who was the door guy at the London hotel and we decided to throw a showcase for them. So I sent out an invite … with a video attached of them performing. Only 4 people came to that showcase but Thomas Golubic (Six Feet Under, The Sopranos, KCRW) who was doing Breaking Bad at the time called me ecstatic about the band, having watched a follow up video from the London showcase. Three weeks later we had a significant offer for … one of the most pivotal scenes and one epic montage in the Breaking Bad series. It was amazing to watch, and I just love when innocent/deserving people make the money in this business.
As someone who used to perform on the same promenade, that’s incredible, and very cool to hear.
Let’s talk revenue streams. Lip Sync recently unveiled its very own in-house library for sound design. This sounds like an extremely inventive method of creating additional revenue for your artists. How did this come about – was it one of those “Why didn’t we think of this sooner?” moments, or had this idea been brewing for a while?
I am slow moving and apprehensive with new business expansions or anything involving important relationships. Once I felt confident that we were a well-oiled machine … we had to look at which avenue streams were our weakest. Trailers.
Most “indie” music isn’t the right format or nearly as recognizable as a trailer editor needs in order to sell his product. Trailers are the most competitive field in this business probably… I swear the budgets on these things are higher than the actual film sometimes.
So all in all, what kind of financial benefits 'package' does being with a company like Lip Sync bring to independent artists?
Lip Sync prides themselves on helping bands and artists quit their day jobs … after one or two decent syncs a band can take some time off to focus on music, and that’s wonderful. We market the band and their releases to music supervisors and tastemakers in the film/tv/ad/etc. fields. We are investors of our time, and if we land something for you, we take an upfront commission. No back end. No re-titling. Just a % of what we generate.
Is there anything else you’d like to add for new, independent artists looking to develop their talent and repertoire?
God, I just have to say: put your head down, work hard on your music, collaborate with your contemporaries, develop your own unique voice and personality. If you make something wonderful and surround yourself with the right team … then you will surely see your own personal version of success. Also, read Everything There Is to Know About the Music Business.