10 Common Mistakes Musicians Make When Submitting Their Songs for Sync Placements

Every musician wants to hear their music on massive, universal platforms such as TV Shows and Films.  But succeeding in this venture starts with having a mindset of service
For the last 15 years I've been licensing my songs to those platforms.  Along the way I've become friends with many decision makers in the sync world - music supervisors, publishers, coordinators, library employees, editors, re-recording mixers, etc. - and early on I decided to make it a mission to learn how to best serve them.
With years of trial and error in my back pocket, I've learned what strategies generate placements on a consistent basis, and I love sharing those strategies with you.
But today I want to change gears... I want to talk about what doesn't work.  Sometimes it's easy to get lost in trying to do 'all the right things.'  So instead, let's talk about 10 mistakes that musicians make when submitting their music for sync opportunities

1. Lack of Patience  

The individuals who we submit our music to, such as music supervisors & music libraries, have a lot on their plate.  They're busy choosing music that's ideal for the project they're working on, and securing the licenses for those songs.  Listening to submissions is just a small part of what they do, and isn't at the top of their priority list.  This is one reason why it's essential to target your submission, and keep your introductory e-mail clear and concise.  Constantly 'checking in' to see if they've listened to your submission is a nuisance, and will not make them want to work with you any quicker.

2. Not Understanding What Licensing Entails 

Yes, music is a creative endeavor, but it's still a business.  So is the entertainment industry.  This.. Is... A... Business.  If you want to succeed in this business, you have to understand how it works.  Just like any athlete who takes the field understands the rules of the game they're in, you must do the same here.  This is an industry based around the exchange of money, for permission to synchronize your music to moving picture (film).  It involves legal contracts, and it's not the responsibility of those licensing your music to teach you how this industry works.  Don't blacklist yourself by being ignorant of the business.  Licensing your music is extremely rewarding in a multitude of ways, which makes it a business worth learning about. 

3. Not Targeting Your End User 

No one cares more about your success than you do, and no one knows your music better than you do.  So, it's essential that you understand WHO your music is ideal for.  This means dedicating a little time for some research.  As they say, "Don't Spray and Pray."  Blasting your music out to everyone and hoping that someone finds value in one of your songs is not a strategy for success.  It takes just a few minutes to find out what shows are using music similar to yours, as well as who's responsible for licensing that music, and/or who's responsible for providing that music.

4. Not Delivering The Valuable Content 

We mix music in stereo, yet TV shows and films are mixed in surround sound.  If you're not delivering the stem mixes, how is that serving the re-recording mixer who needs to mix your track within the surround field, or make slight adjustments to the levels of various instrument groups?  What about the alt mixes for the editor, who may need to use multiple versions of your song to crossfade between an instrumental mix and full mix?  Serve your end users well, and they will want to work with you, and your music, again in the future.  You do this by delivering what I call the "Valuable Content."  This goes back to #2 above, and why it's essential to understand the game that you're in

5. Not Including Metadata

You may have the perfect song for a scene... In fact, this could be the perfect song for dozens of scenes, a commercial or two, and even a film trailer.  But without including the relevant, searchable metadata, how is anyone going to find your song when inputting specific search criteria?  How are they going to know who to contact to license it?  Don't miss out on all these opportunities because you delivered your stereo mix with only the title, album, and artist as your included metadata. 

6. Not Registering With Your PRO 

When your music gets performed in a public setting such as on a TV Show, you are due performance royalties.  Collecting and paying performance royalties to songwriters and publishers is the role of Performing Rights Organizations (PROs).  It's essential that you not only join the PRO of your home country, but that you also register your songs with your PRO before submitting them for placement opportunities.

7. Not Having Authority to License Your Music

You must have permission from all your co-writers to administer any licenses on their behalf.  The song is their property as well, and all owners of the song have to agree on a license.  You can't sell a house that you co-own with someone else without their permission, right?  The same is true here.  All parties who have an ownership stake in the song must agree.  As we already discussed in #2 above, this is a business involving the exchange of money via terms set forth in contracts, and all owners must agree in writing (ie: the contract) to any licenses.  Incase it wasn't clear the 3 times I already stated this, I'll say it again:  All owners of the song must agree in order to license it.

8. Taking Rejection Personally 

If a music supervisor turns your song(s) down, keep in mind that there are many other individuals who are a part of the final decision making process: Producers, Directors, Heads of the Production Company, etc.  If a music library turns your song(s) down, keep in mind that they have clients with specific needs.  You don't want your music getting locked into a library for a number of years, without any real outlet for your songs.  Getting turned down doesn't mean that your music is bad.  It simply means it's not the right fit.  There's no political b.s. in the licensing world.  It doesn't matter how old you are, what you look like, where you live, etc... all that matters is whether or not your music compliments and enhances the action/emotion captured in the scene.

9. Losing Hope / Giving Up

If you're not getting any traction with your music, and you KNOW your music is of broadcast quality (ie: not a demo), then you really have to look at how you're targeting your end users.  Getting a placement completely depends on how relevant your music is to specific people and clients.  This is why it's so important to research those you're sending your music to - make sure it's relevant to them.  If you're delivering a heavy metal album to a supervisor who's working on a show that primarily uses hip/hop or R&B, that shows that you didn't do your research!  Don't give up.  Successfully licensing music is  achievable to any independent musician who actively pursues it. 

10. Not Keeping Good Records

Keep track of who you've submitted your music to.  You don't want to re-submit tracks / albums that have already been rejected for one reason or another.  Take notes of the feedback you get from others in the industry.  What recommendations were you given?  Maybe all your track needed was a simple mix adjustment... It's essential to keep a record of what you've sent out, who has it, and the response (if any) you received.

Final Thoughts...

Systems and processes are often put in place because they've been proven to work.  The same is true with sync-licensing.  Through the years I've figured out a 4 Step Process that provides consistent sync-placements.
The opportunity to license your music to a TV show for Film isn't only reserved for those on the 'inside.'  These opportunities are available to any musician.  But like every other industry, you have to understand how the industry works. 
It's my hope that this list clarifies the most common mistakes musicians make, so you can avoid them as you pursue licensing your songs. 
Which of the 10 mistakes above resonates the most with you?  Share with us in the Comments Section Below:

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