Music synchronization is a vital process that encompasses the seamless integration of music with visual media to enhance storytelling and evoke powerful emotions. As a music creator, your role is to meticulously align the rhythm, melody, and mood of a composition with the visual elements of a film, television show, advertisement, or any other media project. This intricate art form requires a deep understanding of both the audio and visual realms, as well as a keen sense of timing and narrative. You have to carefully analyze the scenes, characters, and plotlines to capture the essence of the story and create a musical landscape that resonates with the intended audience. Through precise synchronization, we aim to create a harmonious marriage between sound and image, amplifying the impact of both and elevating the overall viewer experience. Getting your music sync ready is a straightforward but involved process.
WRITING FOR SYNC
There is no shortage of opportunities for music synchronization, even the most niche genres can have a sync placement once it’s the right fit. There are, however some key things you can keep remember when writing music that may present more opportunities.
Focus on a theme that is universal – a theme that a lot of people can relate to in one way or another, like friendship, disappointment or anger. “Syncability” requires relatability with a large audience. For example, a song about celebration can be used for a comedy series, a movie scene with a high school graduation, or a game show when prizes are won.
The music must support the images that are being portrayed in the visual medium, which is why it’s important to keep the lyrics simple – the storytelling shouldn’t conflict with the one on the screen. What you must do is to find a creative way of communicating a universal theme and emotion with as little complexities as possible.
Are lyrics/vocals required? Mostly you hear instrumental tracks in sync, but they are typically instrumental versions of existing songs that removed the vocal for the purpose of sync or they are in-house compositions created specifically for the media. Music supervisors and licensing agents generally look for tracks with both a strong vocal and instrumental version.
You can often get access to briefs, which will provide a breakdown of the requirements for a sync placement. These include information such as the project type, preferred genre, tempo, key and often song references as guidance. Briefs are not readily available and are typically either obtained through an industry relationship, or licensing websites like TAXI, where you can expect a great number of people to be competing for the same spot.
PRODUCING FOR SYNC
So, the song is written and all composition and lyric considerations have been made, it’s time to produce and record your song. If there’s only one thing to remember it’s this – the production must match the emotion and theme of the song very closely. This will allow the production to be able to stand on its own as an instrumental or even as a short 20-second edit which is very common in sync placements. All elements of the production have to be carefully planned and selected so that it supports your theme and emotion.
Dynamics are essential in sync licensing – your production should evolve from beginning to end, with details being added as you build and release tension. This help maintain interest in your song, and also helps on-screen moments like scene changes and transitions. Recording, mixing and mastering for sync has to be of the highest possible quality. Even the most “syncable” song ever written, will not be licensed if it does not hold up to industry standards. To achieve this 1) hire professional and experienced mixing and mastering engineers and 2) Place the track in a playlist with other songs that have previously been licensed and compare them. Yours should blend in seamlessly with the others, from a quality standpoint.
Having stems available in addition to your mix and master of the full production and instrumental can be the added edge you can offer to secure your sync placement so make sure and get all these files from you mixing/mastering engineer. These stems allow the editor to customize the sync how they see fit. They may just want to use a vocal intro and the chorus instrumental in the scene or maybe just the drums and keys in another. Having these options just make the decision easier for the director/editor of the media.
LEGAL ASPECTS TO SYNC
The 1st step relates to anyone producing music for commercial consumption – register your song with a PRO like COTT or BMI. Before doing so, you’ll want to create a split sheet, which is an agreement between co-writers documenting who owns what percentage of the song. It should also include details such as the name of the composition, each writer’s IPI #, publisher info if applicable, and contact info. This needs to be in writing (with signatures) as it will protect you from any legal issues down the road, and is necessary for the sake of clearing rights when the song is licensed.
Once you are the only writer and also own 100% of the sound recording (master) you can claim to be what is known as “one-stop”. This is very attractive to music supervisors and sync agents since they would only have to make one stop to clear all the rights – you alone can sign off on both the sync license and the sound recording use license.
If it’s one thing I have repeatedly spoken about in my 4+ years at MusicTT is the need for metadata. This is the life blood of your music and too often we neglect this stage as it can be complicated and tedious. Metadata is the data embedded in your music files that contain a ton of information, including publishing, lyrics, BPM, key, personnel and more. It is one of the core foundations in music synchronization. It aids in the clearance process and catalog management so supervisors can easily scan through hundreds of songs to find ones that perfectly suit the mood, tempo and feel of the visual media represented.
The importance of mp3s cannot be ignored here as Wav files do not contain any meta data on their own so it’s important to have both the Wav files and mp3s available so that the metadata can be easily accessed without the need for third parties.
- When writing for sync ensure that you can uniquely convey a theme and emotion simply that is universally relatable
- Your productions should match your song and lyrics as close as possible and your mix and master must be professional
- Get as much versions of your master as possible including the instrumental, a Capella and stems
- Register your song with a PRO and have all your split sheets and agreements signed
- Ensure your metadata is detailed and accurate
To learn more, attend our RVRBX Music Conference 2023