Sync Licensing 101: How to Navigate Getting Music Placements in Film and Television Sync Licensing 101: How to Navigate Getting Music Placements in Film and Television
Sync Licensing 101: How to Navigate Getting Music Placements in Film and Television

Originally published in 1932 and written by Albert E. Brumley, “I’ll Fly Away” has been recorded in excess of 10,000 times over the course of the past 87 years. Described as the “pre-eminent gospel songwriter” of the 20th century, Brumley formed the Brumley Music Group in 1944 and had over 800 published songs to his name.

Brumley’s hit song “I’ll Fly Away” remains the most recorded song ever and serves as the namesake of his granddaughter, Betsy Brumley Bernier’s philanthropic endeavor, the I’ll Fly Away Foundation.

Brumley Music Group oversees one of the largest independent catalogs in the world, including some of Brumley’s original music, and is responsible for 10 GRAMMY Award-winning albums and several platinum and gold-selling albums. 

As part of a new ongoing “Music Business 101” series, Shindigmusic have teamed up with the Brumley Music Group / I’ll Fly Away foundation to present

Music Publishing 101: How to Navigate Getting Music Placements in Film and Television.

The music industry has never been more accessible to independent musicians as it is today. Getting your music onto streaming services is something that you can do yourself. Companies like Tunecore can help you get your music on all of the platforms for a small fee, but getting your songs used in Television and Movies is still a daunting task. If you’ve heard the term “Synch License” before, that’s all about getting your song synchronized with video.

It’s not something that just happens. You have to be selected and they’re not going to spend time listening to Spotify to find what they’re looking for. There are Companies in Hollywood that can help you, but there are just as many that are just going to take advantage of musicians that don’t know how to run their business. We’ve all heard the story. “If you give me $500, I will get your song into a movie or TV Show.” You may as well kiss that money goodbye. That’s not how it works. Anybody that works for a reputable company will gladly take the money on the back end of the production, meaning they will get a percentage of the license fee if your song is used and you get paid.

The Music Supervisor & Director typically have something in mind musically for what fits the scene and most of the time they’re on a strict deadline to get the song cleared. There are a few things you need to understand if you want to be taken seriously in Hollywood. Make sure that you have all of your business in order. What I mean by that is make sure your song is under copyright protection, That it’s registered with a PRO (BMI, ASCAP or SESAC), and if anyone has co-written the song with you, make sure they have all of their business in order too.

Music Performing Rights Organizations

A Performing Rights Organization (PRO) is basically an agency that collects royalties on behalf of the rights owners (songwriters & publishers).  For the most part, any time a song is played in public (TV shows, Radio, The Olive Garden) the venue, network, or channel has to pay out the rights holders.  PROs collect these payments and distribute them among their rights holders.

ASCAP | BMISESAC

There are musicians from all over the world trying to get their songs in the same spot and if your business isn’t in order, you will be passed over even if you have the perfect song for them. Be honest with yourself. Is every line of the song the best it can be? Is the music the way you want? If the answer to either is no, then don’t submit the song. Rework it until you hear each line and you know it’s perfect. The idea of the song may come to you out of nowhere, but the fine tuning is where it’s at. Take the time to get it right and it can pay off!

Like most business, the music business operates through building relationships. Now if you don’t live in the Hollywood area, then it can be hard to meet the right people. This is where finding the right company to represent your catalog can come in handy. But don’t let it all rely on them. Movies are not only made in Hollywood and there are things that you can do too.

Here are some tips to get your music heard by Music Supervisors. Check to see if your area has a local film studio. Call or email them to introduce yourself. Let them know about your music and see if they’re looking for anything for an upcoming project. They might be able to connect you to the person that makes that decision. Lower budget films are a good place to start. They can’t afford to license the songs from large music companies that want big money. It would get your foot in the door and have your music exposed to a large number of people. Attend film festivals in your area. Film Festivals are filled with both large studio film producers and smaller independent producers. One thing can be said. If you don’t do anything, your music won’t magically appear in a movie or television show.

Kevin Bernier

Kevin Bernier works as a creative director for the Brumley Music, Inc. and is a co-founder of the I’ll Fly Away Foundation. Brumley Music, Inc has been awarded 11 Grammys over their 100-year history in music publishing. The songs they represent have been licensed in several major motion pictures and television programs such as Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral, Ken Burns’ “Country Music”, the Simpsons, Treme, The Good Fight, O’ Brother Where Art Thou? and many more. With the I’ll Fly Away Foundation, Kevin has worked with Betsy Brumley-Bernier to create the “You Can Fly” school songwriting program and the Power of Music Festival. He also heads the Ozark Regional Songwriters Association where they host showcases, events and music business classes for regional songwriters and musicians.