Songwriter U: Start Building That Sync Catalogue (An Insider’s Perspective on Getting Syncs Without Briefs)

When it comes to your dream of being in sync licensing, don’t wait around for it to happen or an inside scoop. It’s time you start creating.

Some artists think the only way to write for sync is first connecting with companies and receiving briefs (an insider’s look into knowing what specific style or certain genre a music supervisor is looking for, for a scene). The problem is, not everyone has those connections, and not everyone can, or wants to wait around for directions. 

You can build a catalogue and a group of songs that are syncable, prior to even knowing a company or having an ‘in.’

You can start by what I like to call, “creative stalking.”

This is how I got one of my top syncs on Shameless, a T.V. series on Showtime.This song found a home because of the research method I’m going to explain here. All the perfect things were in line- my style of production and Tamara Bubble’s lyrical content. We didn’t get a brief for this, but we did do our research.

One way to start is by looking at music libraries. Since there are so many—find a few that you’d like to be a part of. 

Find out things like: What is their artist roster like? Is there a continuing theme or genre? Do they mostly have Indie pop, Folk, Americana etc…? Can you see what they’ve gotten placed or what they’ve done? 

Companies love to talk about their placements, which makes it easy for you to do this type of research. My top sites to visit are sites like tunefind, imdb and ispotTV.

On these sites, you can peruse the shows by each season and each episode telling you all the songs that were used. Sometimes you can even find the music supervisor on those sites.

Once you do that research (and write it down), it comes back to active listening. 

If there is a certain show that I think I’d love to get on, I’ll gather a playlist of songs that were placed and will put them on repeat. Don’t just do one or two listening passes, and think “Oh I got it, that’s exactly what will get me on Lucifer.”  

No, you have to understand all the nuances of the type of songs they pick.

Sure, you may be hearing the full song, but you don’t know things like—what section they used (unless you watch the show) or what about that song was perfect for that scene. 

When you start to delve into a lot of these songs, you’re going to start noticing the various ebbs and flows, the builds, the drops, lyrical themes, style and genre themes, etc… 

When I started doing research for a T-mobile, I found they really loved female-fronted punk! Buuut not so much in the dude-fronted punk (which I loved writing).

You’ll find that a lot with brands and shows. Doing the research instead of stopping at assumptions will make all the difference. 

There is great insight right at your fingertips, without even seeing a brief. Don’t forget how amazing it is to live in the age of the internet. This information is readily available. 

So what do you do with all the information and research? (Again) That’s why the first step of absorbing and understanding the playlist was so important—because the next step is to practice writing. Coming from someone who writes a lot, don’t assume the first couple songs will be bangers, because they’re not. At first, it’s going to be a very forced thing.

That’s why I say practice writing. Eventually it will become natural. Keep in mind, the one thing they’re going to look for in sync is authenticity. Music supervisors love, and look for bands who are authentic and real. It’s because when that authenticity shines through, it paints and highlights a scene much better. 

As you build your catalogue, treat every song as its own entity. Not every write will be like the last, or will require the same thing. Ask yourself questions during this writing process like, “Is this an instrumental vs. is this a full blown song? If it is, am I singing it? Am I getting a work for hire to sing it?”

This brings me to my next point, you don’t necessarily have to reinvent the wheel and do this all by yourself. As you compile research from this list, as you were perusing and stalking that library or catalogue of licensors with artists, are there any artists who are accessible that you can reach out to collaborate or start connecting with?

There are people doing this already. If you connect and hit it off with an artist who is already connected to a licensing company, you already have an in and you don’t have to send an awkward cold email that gets forgotten about. The artist who already has had a placement, would be able to connect and get traction for this song that you wrote together, much easier. Suddenly, you have an in with them yourself.

There are so many different ways you can be in sync—writing instrumentals, underscores, trailers, ads, writing for other artists, collaborating… and so many ways to get that ball rolling.

If you start doing your research now, eventually you’ll start finding your way into that world.

Mike Meiers is an Emmy Award-Winning songwriter, producer, and guitar coach. Mike currently writes for indie artists, has had placements for MTV, VH1 NPR, FOX Sports, History Channel, Showtime, and Target. He’s also the founder of Songwriting For Guitar. 

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