Sync agent vs music publisher
“People commonly assume we’re a publisher, though we cover just one of the functions of a publisher. There’s no development or royalty collection involved for instance,” says Tyler of the difference between sync agents and music publishers.
“Publishers often pay an advance to a songwriter in exchange for controlling their copyrights for a long term,” explains Jen further.
“Generally the agreements that sync agents offer are more flexible, short term and better percentage rates compared to publishing agreements,” says Jen. “But I’ve seen some pretty terrible offers from sync agencies, so they are not all the same. Make sure you do your research,” she advises.
When a work is synced, there are two copyrights that need to be cleared – the master sound recording (which may be owned by a record label if there is a deal in place) and the composition (which may be administered by a publisher if there is a deal in place).
Sync agencies often represent both of these copyrights, which means a client can negotiate a licence for both copyrights directly through them.
The role of a music supervisor
On the flip side are music supervisors, who source music for TV, films, ads, docos and games, and then license it from copyright owners or their representatives. Their clients can be anyone from a production company through to a brand looking for music that’s a good fit for their product.
“The role of a supervisor encompasses music research, music searching, contract negotiations with rights holders and clearance of music copyrights,” says Jen.
Supervisors may share music briefs with labels, publishers and agents who will in turn pitch music and song ideas that fit the brief. They can also work directly with songwriters and composers, and Jen says this relationship can work in a number of ways.
“Music supervisors may be asked to suggest composers to directors or producers to write and record the soundtrack for a film, TV series, commercial etc. From a financial and a creative point of view, it’s very common for any long form project to have a composer involved,” she says.
“Also, when either the budget doesn’t extend to license a song or the perfect song cannot be found, songwriters or music producers may be commissioned to write and record a song that fits the brief.”