As detailed by Rhian Jones’ excellent blog for MBW, How To Completely Mess Up A Sync Deal, there’s ample potential for miscommunication between brands, agencies and music rights owners. All of whom speak a different language, operate in different worlds and work to different incentives.
But there’s also some key steps to success. Or to avoid a nightmare, at least.
So, to help balance the scales, here’s Six Ways To Get A Sync Deal Right – which I’ve informed by findings from Resilient Music’s recent research piece The State Of Music Rights Licensing and from extensive experience of working with commercial brands.
Building a campaign creative idea around one music track carries considerable risk. So too is the use of a single track during creative development and research stages if it hasn’t been pre-cleared.
Too many brands and agencies make this mistake then are surprised that music rights owners play hard ball on licence fees. This happens because there’s no “walk-away” position.
Never have only one music option on the table. If you have a “hero track”, have at least two or three back-ups. Pre-clear them all before putting mood films or animatics into research.
2) DUE DILIGENCE
Music rights are fragmented and can be messy. This frequently catches out brands and agencies.
Typically there’ll be a record label, one or more music publishers and possibly session musicians and backing singers’ rights to clear.
This can seem like a complex jigsaw where you can’t find all the pieces.
Brands and agencies have to identify all the component parts and contact the appropriate rights owners. If there’s a missing 14.60% copyright control share of the song you have to find the songwriter or rights owner.
It’s not enough to say you tried. It’s not enough to say you couldn’t find the rights owners. If you use the title without all the licences in place, THEY WILL FIND YOU.
3) UNDERSTANDING VALUE
I’m frequently asked by Marketing Procurement executives and consultants: “What’s A Fair Price To Pay For This Track?”. Value is at the heart of this point.
Unlike the purchase of other goods and services, brands and agencies often choose music solely on subjective grounds with little or no post-campaign analysis to determine if optimal value was secured.
When deciding to pick a more expensive track over a cheaper one, you should always ask yourself this:
“If we spend an extra £50K on track A vs. track B, how many more units of product or service do we need to sell to deliver additional profits greater than that figure?”.
4) BE RESPONSIBLE
Creativity is the lifeblood of many industries including music, marketing and advertising. Creative people must be persistent to see their ideas reach fruition; refusing to accept “No” for an answer.
This is creatively admirable but commercially flawed.
It can lead to irresponsible behaviour.
Mick Jagger once sang “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. This sentiment applies to music tracks that can’t be cleared from which the temptation to copy arises. Rhian Jones’ piece calls out Sound-a-likes as being a prevalent problem.
Almost every week I find myself advising brands and agencies on the dangers of deliberately copying someone else’s work.
If you can’t get the track you want, don’t attempt to copy it, find another track.
5) WISH LIST
Media channel planning usually follows creative campaign development. You need a concept first before you know how to share it with the audience.
When music is part of the concept, you can’t clear the rights until you know the campaign’s usage requirement.
I’m like a broken record with many clients. I say:
“Start earlier – Don’t leave music to the last minute”.
I alert clients to the length of approval chains, approval parties’ slow response times and the balance of bargaining power. Some clients listen, some don’t.
When encouraging clients to start earlier, I ask to see the media schedule. They often say:
“We just don’t know yet”.
To buy any 3rd party IP rights properly, brands and agencies need a clearly thought-out media plan – a wish list – as early as possible in order to strike commercially sensible deals. Leave it too late; and you overpay. Every time.
6) TELL THE TRUTH
I’ve worked on projects where clients wanted to be “economical with the truth” about their intended use for a music track. When discussing a use they can’t really afford the common phrase is:
“Who’s going to know?”
If you’re not 100% transparent about the proposed usage of music in your licence request, the rights owners will find out and penalise you when the campaign goes live.
Being penalised means take-downs, penalty fees, cease & desist letters and damaged reputations.
It also means damaged relationships. The record label or music publisher you have wronged may refuse to license music to you again.
Tell the truth. Be transparent. Do The Right Thing.