A RISING TIDE RAISES ALL COMMERCIAL SYNCHS
Artists can command up to seven-figure payments from brands looking for music
For the better part of the past decade, commercial synchs have stolen a lot of radio’s thunder when it comes to breaking new artists or helping cult favorites cross over to the mainstream. Just ask Fun, Phoenix, the Black Keys, Portugal. The Man or Imagine Dragons — five of the many acts who’ve achieved breakthrough success as the direct result of a commercial campaign.
But 2018 seems to have marked a turning point: What was once a “To synch or not to synch?” moral dilemma for artists eager to avoid the appearance of selling out has now become a “How many is too many?” calculation.
Consider a veteran act like the Rolling Stones, that 20 years ago was far more likely to turn down a synch request. But in September alone, the Stones’ 1967 classic “She’s a Rainbow” was featured in two simultane- ous campaigns, for the 2019 Acura RDX and Dior’s Jennifer Lawrence-starring campaign for its new Joy fragrance, while a Motorhead cover of the Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” was in heavy rotation for another Acura ad.
While the days of multimillion- dollar license fees are mostly a thing of the past (the Stones famously got a reported $4 million to license “Satisfaction” for an early ’90s Snickers commercial), the overall volume of synch opportunities has increased so much that many artists have no trouble getting past the seven-figure mark from multiple placements.
Total U.S synch royalty revenue grew to a record $131 million during the first half of 2018, a 10.8% increase from the same period last year, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America. Recognizable or discover-worthy music now pops in virtually every commercial break, from big brands including Target, Samsung and Jeep to such newer companies as Intuit’s Quickbooks, whose 2018 “Backing You” campaign featured a cover of Daft Punk’s “Harder Better Faster Stronger” covered by 13-year- old Willa Amai. The cover was produced by Grammy nominee Linda Perry, who will be one of five speakers on the Commercial Synchs of the Year panel at Variety’s inaugural Music for Screens summit.
Andrew Kahn, who places music for clients including Gap, Nike and Honda at his firm Good Ear Music Supervision, says he knew synchs had reached a new threshold when he saw Arby’s licensing a semi- obscure EDM track featuring Pusha T (Yogi’s “Burial”) as the end tag for the fast-food chain’s current “We Got the Meats!” campaign.
“Both traditional and newer brands are exploring less-traditional content,” Kahn says. “So maybe it’s a big holiday campaign, but also maybe it’s a five-minute short film that’s barely branded that needs music to help tell the story.”
Brands are also doubling down on more creative uses of music after a long hiatus, most notably Kahn’s client Gap, which last year started
It’s a debate as inconclusive as “theater” versus “theatre”: When writing about music licenses, is it “sync” or “synch”? The shorthand for synchronization has become so interchangeable in industry circles that many music-licensing professionals are at a loss for words as to why they use one over the other.
BMG refers to music licensed for commercials from its catalog as “synchs,” for example, while SONY/ATV prefers “sync” when describing its team of executives, led by president Brian Monaco, who secure placements for the publishing firm’s clients. Similarly, Warner Bros. and Capitol Records both use synch to describe their commercial, film & TV music teams, but Sony’s multi-label licensing division Syncshop prefers the usage without an H.
Even companies that feature the term in their name, such as U.k.-based music sales and licensing platform Synchtank, play both sides of the table.
“I do actually prefer just the sync with a C in general communications, but I feel like if it’s used within a word, the H works because it looks better and feels most grammatically correct,” says Synchtank’s marketing manager Emma Griffiths.
So which is best? Our research suggests that “synch” as an adjective to describe the overall type of licensing or a job description tends to be most AP Style-friendly, but “sync” has been more widely adopted as a noun. But with no definitive answer in sight, you can probably use the spelling of your choice with little risk of a sinking, synching or syncing feeling.
— Andrew Hampp