Many music consumers have found a favorite song through a movie or TV show, but how do those songs get picked and who does the choosing? The process is called sync licensing, and it has become a big source of revenue for musicians. On this episode of The Future of What, host Portia Sabin talks with Justin Ringle of Portland band Horse Feathers about his success with an advertising sync deal. We also hear from hit show Broad City’s music supervisor, Matt “FX” Feldman, about what it takes to soundtrack a show. Carianne Marshall, head of creative licensing and partner at SONGS Music Publishing, tells us how important sync licenses can be to an artist’s career, and finally, Sohrab Nafici (executive director of music/legal at Warner Bros. Pictures) talks trends in the licensing business.
Sync licenses can make a huge difference for artists as a lucrative income stream. For a professional musician like Ringle, who is the primary singer/songwriter and business owner of Horse Feathers, a sync deal could make or break his year. Before Ringle licensed nine songs to the California Dairy Board, he was pushing to make ends meet. Ringle called the deal “life-changing.” But big campaigns like those are few and far between for mid-level artists. Today, smaller licensing deals are what Ringle calls “all part of the pie in terms of how I make a living.”
From a consumer’s perspective, popular TV shows like Broad City are trendsetters for what viewers are listening to. Twenty-three-year-old Feldman is tasked with curating the show’s eclectic soundtrack, often with input from the show’s stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer. It’s not Feldman’s first time working on a cutting-edge show, he also supervised MTV’s remake of the British teen drama hit Skins. To many, Feldman’s serendipitous career path is a dream, but he advises those aspiring to work in the music business to “send emails and be nice,” and to “try to take the odd road.”
Plus, Marshall, who has helped make SONGS a top music publisher, walks us through the steps of publishing and synchronization, while Warner Bros.’ Nafici digs into trends in sync licensing. One of the biggest changes in the business? Young artists are no longer worried about “selling out.” Since physical sales have declined, income from commercials and sync deals has become not only desirable but often necessary to keep an artist afloat.