Whenever you hear music on a TV show, in a film or in a commercial, that music has been licensed. (aka “synched“) To have your music featured on screen, there are steps you should take to get your music ready for licensing. In this post, we’ll talk about how to prepare your music for sync licensing and more.

5 Steps to Prepare your Music for Sync Licensing

Step 1 // Instrumental Mixes

If your music has vocals, make sure you have fully mastered instrumental versions that match the vocal mix. Even if your song is seemingly perfect for a placement, the lyrics might not be on topic or could get in the way of the dialogue.

Note: If your music contains profanity, you should also have alternate “clean” versions for television. If your music is full of curse words we’re not judging you, but the FCC sure will.

Step 2 // Know Your Splits

Make sure you know all of the ownership splits for publishing and master and make sure they’re well documented.

For licensing a song, you’ll be asked who owns what to share. And you definitely don’t want to say that you don’t know. It’s a sure-fire way to lose a license. It’s much smarter to have all of this worked out ahead of time, and not when it’s the deciding factor in how much you and your collaborators will make from a placement. It’s messy and unprofessional.

Step 3 // Register with a PRO

Once you figure out who owns what, it’s a good idea to register with a Performing Rights Organization like ASCAPBMI or SESAC. This will allow you to collect performance royalties from uses on radio, TV, and licensed streaming platforms. If you aren’t registered, you’ll miss out on these royalties.

If you don’t want to deal with this, a good idea might be to seek out a publishing administration company that can help you manage your catalog and collect your royalties worldwide.

Step 4 // Check Your Samples

This typically only applies to Pop, EDM and Hip-Hop, but if you’re someone who regularly uses samples in your tracks, listen up:

If your music contains copyrighted samples, you cannot license it for sync without permission from the sample’s label and publisher.

They also take a cut. It doesn’t matter how short or insignificant the sample is or how much you mashed it up in the mix. There’s a nerd on the internet that will figure it out. At the end of the day, if a music expert can prove in court that you’re using any part of a song that belongs to someone else, you’re toast. Period.

A good idea might be to create an alternate mix for licensing that contains royalty-free or re-recorded samples. There are more legal options for samples available to artists and producers now than at any other time in history.

Step 5 // Betta Meta

Releasing or licensing music without accurate metadata is like publishing a book with a blank cover. Metadata is the world’s way of knowing everything about your music that’s not in the recording.

For licensing purposes, the more information you give the better. You want to give whoever is making the decision to license your track all the information they need about your song. Be sure to include writer names, label info, the release year, lyrics and contact information for licensing.

Let’s face it, this is a lot.

Yes, there are a lot of things you need to take care of before you submit anything for sync licensing. But that’s why companies like Urban Elite Publishing exist!

As a Urban Elite Publishing client, you will have the opportunity to apply for representation by our in-house sync licensing division. If accepted, we will help place your music by pitching to music supervisors and advertising agencies, negotiating licensing deals and completing all the paperwork to make sure you get paid properly.

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