One type of independent contractor not mentioned in the post earlier this week is sync agents.
Sync agents, not to be confused with music supervisors, are responsible for procuring syncs on behalf of artists they represent.
Our company has had an exciting year with sync placements! From commercials with Apple to the EA Fifa World Cup trailer to TV placements in Ozark, Silicon Valley, Cloak & Dagger, and many more.
We aspired to learn as much as we could over the past couple years about the way the sync world worked. I’m grateful to the many music supervisors who sync our artists and have become friends and mentors.
Our success would also not be possible without them, as well as another group of individuals – sync agents.
If an act is independent, either on the publishing side or record label side, or both, I believe they should have a sync agent. The sync agency is responsible for sending artist’s new releases around to music supervisors and securing / negotiating placements.
It’s easier to find an agent if you have both sides (master and publishing) available for pitching.
Unlike many other for hire companies, sync agents work on a commission basis charging 20-25% of the placement they secure (they are usually flexible if you have only one side – publishing or records – available for pitching, but you will likely get pitched less since many opportunities are looking for one-stop-shops for clearance). This commission rate is similar to the rate of most publishing deals, and less than the rate a label usually takes, which is typically 50/50 regardless of the royalty rate.
If your artist is in a label deal, it may make sense to bring up the idea of having a sync agent in addition to the label’s sync team. I’ve heard of some labels willingness at times to enlist a third party sync agent, but never a publisher.
If the agents do a good job, they more than make-up for the cut they take by providing lucrative opportunities you as a manager would not likely secure on your own.
Hypothetically, if they bring in just enough business to cover their commission, they still are providing additional exposure through the placements they proactively secure. Furthermore, don’t underestimate the awareness the agents create by spreading your artist’s music with the supervisor community.
For example, our recent Emmit Fenn scoring opportunity with Apple for the new iPhone came following a meeting I had with the company. However, the supervisors at Apple only knew to ask me about Emmit because his sync agent David Steel had previously sent them his music over a year ago. It is often a tag team or group effort to create momentum to secure these types of opportunities.
While the best sync agents are exclusive so all the artist’s placements go through them, we still build our own relationships with supervisors for our artists, and then, if there is interest or a request comes in, we bring it to the agency to clear it. While we have lots of experience clearing syncs, the agencies have way more and their perspective is often valuable as a middle man in the negotiation process.
One caveat is the exclusivity required with these higher end agents can prevent you from doing lots of small non-exclusive deals with various agencies and pre-clearance houses. I have found it to be worth it.
Some of the reputable individuals or firms we have worked with as sync agents for our artists are Greater Goods, David Steel and ZYNC.