Sync or whim – tips for songwriters

Ruth Simmons, founder of music marketing company soundlounge, urges songwriters to ask those difficult questions before signing away their music to advertising agencies.

So, you get the call you’ve been waiting for. ‘We’ve got down to the final three tracks to use in our commercial.’ The agency continues: ‘One of these is yours and it’s perfect with the visuals. Everybody loves it but we haven’t got any money. Of course it’s a great promotional platform for your track and bang on your target market.’ What do you do?

Here are my five golden rules to remember when you get the call:

1. If the product is high profile, there should be a reasonable budget for the music. Talk to your peers, find out what is fair and then negotiate.

2. If that’s not materialising, ask what the brand – and note that this is not a conversation that the agency producer can often sanction – is prepared to do to acknowledge your contribution to the commercial if it’s not money up front.

3. Insist that the track title and artist is listed on the brand site and YouTube, and is available for download, with a link back to the artist site. Then get it all in writing.

4. If they can’t give you any of the above, but it is still an attractive proposition airtime wise, then ask yourself if they have allowed you enough time to optimise your marketing plans.

5. If none of these boxes are ticked, then a serious question needs to be addressed. Is this a real synch or a whim? I know what my reply would be…

For more than 30 years, Ruth has been looking at ways to make music work better in branding and marketing, arranging sync deals with world leading companies including McDonalds, HSBC, Durex and Pataks.

She regularly lectures on music and marketing, and appeared on a PRS for Music organised panel at The Great Escape last month to address songwriters and industry professionals on the changing sync market.

‘Brands work on differentiation,’ she explained. ‘There’s a lot of competition in the marketplace, and brands need to work hard not to be schizophrenic with their audio, swinging wildly between genres and sounds.’ Three out of four people don’t match the music with the brand she explained, making it really important to team the right sounds with the right company.

The sync market still offers songwriters and composers a lucrative way to make money from their music while also gaining all important exposure, but things have changed since Levi’s first began transforming the relationship between music and advertising in the 80s.

Some advertising campaigns can generate number one singles for the musicians involved, like Levi’s used to to, but others don’t even reference or promote the music they use, which doesn’t help the artists involved. And, while there are still so many opportunities for songwriters, it is important to make sure you get a good deal on top of the pay cheque, Ruth urged.