Sometimes, we know the budget ahead of time when we’re asked for a pitch. Many times, we’ll get a music supervisor who’ll come to us with a brief, “Here’s what we’re looking for, here’s what we can pay.” It’s up to us to know which songs will clear in that price range. The moving parts are the terms. How long will that song be used? What type of media is it? Is it online only? Are they going to use instrumental or the lyrics? We take all those things into consideration.
In some cases, we might charge more because that’s what makes sense for that writer and song. In other cases, if we’re trying to showcase a particular song and help an artist with a campaign at radio, it might be perfect. If we can get a long use that people can hear in a big TV show, we’re more flexible.
The Write Fit
Sometimes we have to pass on [writers] whom we’re not sure we can add value to. That’s something we think about, not just whether or not we love them. When something comes across my plate, we evaluate it from a synchronization perspective. We never know what somebody’s going to use, but we know what we get asked for on a regular basis. There might be a point in time where we love a songwriter but our plates are full.
I talked to a songwriter who once said, “I sent 30 of my songs to every music supervisor in this directory.” It’s more effective to do research: think about what television shows or video games are right. Pick your three best songs and send those. Be thoughtful about how you’re presenting music. I don’t want 17 attachments; I want a link to a couple of the best songs, and if it’s something we think might be a fit, we might ask for more.
What we’re trying to do with our monthly songwriting workshops is facilitate a community. The idea came from one of our songwriters. The workshops have grown and grown. My favorite part is hearing our writers and artists give each other notes and share their music. It’s a comfortable, safe place for them.
Exposure’s Great, Payment’s Better
“I got a song on a TV show for free.” That’s not necessarily great. “Well, I can tell supervisors I had my song on this show.” That’s not actually a calling card. Many times, supervisors want music that hasn’t been used before. Perhaps that’s the appeal: something new that nobody’s discovered. When I hear songwriters say, “My song was in the background of this show,” I don’t know if that’s necessarily exposure unless it was a featured use. There’s value when you know about a use ahead of time—when you can capitalize on it by Tweeting to your fans, when you can make the most of a placement. A placement in itself can be fantastic, but I wouldn’t say it’s the end. You’ve got to do it because that value add makes sense.
The Long Game
We look at writers as partners. We look at the short and long term, because we know we’re going to work with them for an extended period. If I’m going to work with a writer over the course of their career, I think strategically about what’s going to make sense instead of the dollars I’ll make in the next quarter.
The Right Placement For You
There are a lot of people pitching songs for synchronization and companies not as reputable as others. Questions to ask when you’re interviewing somebody to place your music would be, “Do you take publishing or do you take a fee for a placement?” Nobody should take publishing unless they’re a publisher. And not just where you had your clients’ songs placed but how much money you get for them. Because if they’re telling everyone they can have songs for free, that’s not helpful. Ultimately, the songwriter’s going to make the decision that feels right for them. Be smart and thoughtful and think about your goals.