Artists can com­mand up to seven-fig­ure pay­ments from brands look­ing for mu­sic

Variety - - Focus - By AN­DREW HAMPP

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

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