Now, more than ever, songwriters and producers hunger for visual-media placements as opportunities for sync licensing surge and traditional record sales from CDs and downloads sag. Busy music supervisors hold the keys to placements in ads, films, TV, and video games, but how do you find them and get your foot in the door?
Of course, once you’ve introduced yourself, you’ve got to create great songs tailored to individual projects with high production values. Hundreds of articles tell how to do that. But trying to sell your music cold without having met or corresponded with music supervisors is likely to fail. If you’re not affiliated with a song plugger, licensing firm, or music library – and don’t want to be – outreach to individual supervisors can work. Still, to even get a listen, you’ve got to meet as many music supervisors as possible and make first impressions count.
I’ve helped secure over 20 sync placements on MTV, Comedy Central, Bravo, Oxygen, E!, and elsewhere through my company, DropTrack. Our personalizable music marketing platform connects artists with music supervisors, label reps, DJs, and radio pros. To maximize placement opportunities, I advise musicians who use DropTrack – as well as those who don’t – to apply the following techniques.
1. Study up
Good old Google is a fine place to start researching music supervisors and choose your targets. SongwriterUniverse has an excellent directory of them, and Tunefind shows what music many are interested in. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) is a great tool for identifying who works on TV series and films. You can even get a free 30-day trial of IMDB Pro, where you can find contact information. The National Association of Record Industry Professionals is another resource. Go to NARIP.com, search with keywords "music supervisors," and read articles telling who they are and how best to approach them.
Also, search phrases like "music supervisors looking for music." Once you know names, Google them for more information. Watch their ads, shows, and films. Get familiar with them. Be fluent in how music is being used, know the common practices in the field, and embed this knowledge into all the strategies discussed below.
Avoid this rookie blunder: Don’t submit songs to music supervisors who’ve never worked in your genre. Personalization leads to monetization.
2. Get on LinkedIn
Everyone on LinkedIn is looking for the same thing: professional advancement. Pitching music through Twitter and Facebook is done to death. Music supervisors don’t have time for the former and use the latter for friends, family, and fun – that’s not where they’re looking for the perfect hook for their ad. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is ideal for forming business relationships. It’s expected to request connections with people you don’t know.
But do it right. Make sure your profile is up to date and describes your skills and experience. When you invite someone to connect, delete the standard "I’d like to add you to my professional network" message, and instead enter a personal note like, "Hi Scott, I’m a big fan of your work on Entourage. I’d like to see if you’re looking for music for upcoming projects. I run an independent record label focusing on dance/electronic music, and I’d love to send you some tunes."
Avoid this rookie blunder: Don’t connect until you’ve completed your profile with a good photo and a clear description of what you do. Crush the first impression.
3. Attend trade shows and conferences
Passes can be pricey, but conferences are worth it if you stay in the target market for your genre. Ones worth attending include (but aren't limited to):
- SF Music Tech Summit (San Francisco)
- Billboard/THR Film and TV Music Conference (Los Angeles)
- Sync Summit (Los Angeles, New York, London)
- ASCAP EXPO (Los Angeles)
- MUSEXPO (Los Angeles)
- MIDEM (Cannes)
- Winter Music Conference (Miami Beach)
- EDMBiz Conference and Expo (Las Vegas)
- Amsterdam Dance Event (Amsterdam)
With meetups, mixers, and message boards, contact opportunities are endless.
Prepare by finding out who’s going and research them online. Make a list of your marks. Email them in advance and ask for an appointment to meet during the show. Alternatively, tweet them during the conference to see where they are and if you can come to them.
Attend the biggest panel discussions, sit in the front row, and be the first to ask a question. Stand up, introduce yourself loudly, and make it a good one. Many conferences have panels featuring sync reps and supervisors, though some cost extra. When you’re first building relationships, the added fee is worth being part of an elite group of attendees.
The best networking happens in the hallways, the bars, and the line for coffee. Ask lots of questions about what kinds of music they need, and ask even deeper follow-up questions that show you’re genuinely interested and you’ve done your homework about their business. Make yourself relevant. And don’t forget to exchange business cards.
No more than a week after the conference, email each contact to follow up and allude back to your conversation. Say, "John, it was nice to meet you and talk about your work at Disney. You mentioned needing dubstep tracks for an upcoming project. Would it be okay for me to send you a few songs?"
Avoid this rookie blunder: Don’t just sit and listen. If you leave with no business cards, you’re doing it wrong. Also, don’t hand out flash drives or CDs at conferences. Now's the time to form one-on-one bonds, not pitch your music.
4. Seal the deal
Ask your new acquaintances to add you to their email lists and let you know when they have specific needs for songs. Offer to tap them into your network of other industry pros to fulfill those requests as well. Mention that you understand they would only consider music that’s easy to clear for both master and publishing copyrights. If applicable, mention that you have instrumental versions and vocal splits available of all tracks.
Avoid this rookie blunder: Don’t send MP3s as email attachments. Send links to your website or DropTrack playlist promoting no more than three tracks for a specific project.
Following these recommendations will boost the likelihood that music supervisors will at least listen when you submit your music. Laying the groundwork makes all the difference to meeting and dazzling the right people and getting decent shots at the deals you want.
Apply for FREE to these great music licensing opportunities on Sonicbids:
- License Your Song for a T.J.Maxx Ad Campaign (deadline: 5/30/16)
- Have Your Song Pitched for Licensing on The Discovery Network and NASCAR (deadline: 5/24/16)
Paul Loeb has been at the intersection of music and tech for 20 years. He is founder and CEO of No Ego Records and DropTrack and a prolific producer currently operating under the name Really Cute Cats. His goal has always been to give musicians like himself the tools to stand out from the rest, get heard, and get deals.