Whatever phase of your career and skill level you’re in, follow these rules to find your path to placements.
How and Why
Rule #1 Make Great Music Your music has to sound radio ready
If you’re really new to recording, you can still do this. For those of you who are seasoned, there’s already room for improvement.
Tune your vocals. The number 1 killer of a great song in 2022 is untuned vocals. I hear them all the time, and as a professional singer, I can empathize with the resistance to tune an already great vocal. But over the last decade, industry standard has become a world of perfection. Our human ears, whether we know it or not, are now attuned to perfectly sung pitches. Now when we hear an untuned vocal, we mistake it for being a bad singer. So sad! It’s not you (if you’re the singer), it’s not your singer, it’s just what is now the industry standard. If you want placements, you need tuned vocals in order to compete.
Mix and Master your song properly. If you’re not the best at mixing yet, keep practicing and you can become great. There are plenty of resources, and even presets and templates to guide you the right way. But you may also need to hire someone until you get there.
I want to talk strategy for songwriters who are either new to recording, don’t sing like Taylor Swift, or don’t produce/engineer. First of all, there are many truly amazing songwriters who can barely carry a tune, but they still do great things. Let’s say you don’t even have 1 industry standard recording yet. The strategy and path to building a killer catalog starts one of two ways…
The first and best way is to invest in yourself by hiring help. The second is by working with people who already know how to produce epic music, and/or cowriters who can sing on the recording. However, pretty challenging to get super talented people to want to work with you if you have no examples of your work. That’s why I feel strongly about getting at least 3-5 high quality recordings of your song by paying professionals to help. Soundbetter.com is your best bet for finding those professionals. As long as you can sing a really rough voice memo into your phone, these people know how to turn it into something special (I am one of them!).
Once you have 3-5 amazing industry standard recordings, you have enough to share with other producers and songwriters who have the skillset to turn out high quality recordings, so eventually you won’t have to pay people anymore. Read more in Rule #2 about how to choose the producers and cowriters you want to network with.
Rule # 2 Pitch the Right Way Approach sync decision makers with finesse
Most of my placements came from relationships I never had to pitch to. I guess you could say I’m pretty sneaky with my strategy, but it all comes back around for good. Let me explain… I like to get my placements through boutique Licensing Agencies (read more about the different types of decision makers in my article on Music Revenue Streams, and scroll to Sync), so how did I get in the door with them? I worked with producers and co-writers who were already in the door with successful agencies. I always return the favor by bringing my producers into agencies where I’m connected. Little by little I’ve grown my network, and so have my teammates. Sharing is caring!
Your collaborators are the easiest way in to having your music heard by sync decision makers. But you can also be the plug. Another awesome way to get in the door with decision makers is to frequently attend sync events, expos, and the many many online conferences, presentations, live interviews and listening sessions that are alway happening. Quite often, agents, reps, and music supervisors are invited to speak, and they drop info on how they’d like to be contacted to submit your music. You might also hear them drop mad knowledge, but then be straight up and say, “please don’t email me, I am way too busy, it would annoy me.”
Check out agency websites. While many do not take unsolicited submissions, a lot of em do. You might find their submission process. Read it carefully and respect how they want to receive music. Understand that these people have to listen to hundreds of songs a day, and open thousands of emails. I’m honestly impressed at their ability to keep organized and actually respond to my emails.
A couple little hints: research a bit of what the company or person has done. One, because you want to pitch to people who actually might be able to use your genre, and two, because they appreciate when you do your homework. When you shoot an email to an agency who just had a bunch of music in the latest GMC truck commercials, you can say, “I loved your placements of those big rock anthems in the latest GMC ads. I was curious if you need more music like that, as that’s my specialty!” Also, do not attach mp3s to the email. Biggest pet peeve I’ve heard over and over. Send a streaming link that allows them to download if they choose (I use Disco.ac, but soundcloud, box, and dropbox work too). Last hint, if they don’t respond in a couple days, do not email them again poking them to reply. Give them some space and time to get to your email.
Finesse. Finesse. Finesse. Be a chill likable person. Easiest way: be genuine, actually care about the people you’re pitching to. These could be life long relationships with real humans that you’re forming. Relax, don’t come off desperate. If you don’t get a reply, the door might not be closed forever, and there are millions of doors. Take a breath and repeat after me, “the perfect opportunity will present itself to me.”
Rule # 3 Stay Current and Consistent Research what sync needs, and keep making more music
I remember when dubstep came out and it was the freakin coolest sound ever. Who knew it would ever fade away? Lol. What is killing it right now might lose its luster in time. So it’s important to stay on top of what is cool. The nice thing about sync music is a lot of trends kinda just keep working for years and years. Certain lyrical themes like: brand new, overcoming, feeling good, and winning literally will always be great for advertising. So get to it and research what is working right now!
Utilize tools like ispot.tv and tunefind.com to find the music that has been used most recently. Youtube search for recent ads of 2022, and often you will find people sharing killer playlists of new ads. Take notes on what you think made these songs great for those placements. What is the lyrical content? Is the song slow or fast? What emotions do these songs evoke? What genres keep getting used?
Major tip, think about the people who have to edit your song to the visual. Edit points are quick opportunities for the editors to start or stop your song. Songs are usually 3 minutes long, but ads can be as short as 15 seconds. So having little stops and drops could even be the thing that lands you the placement when your song is up against a few other killer songs.
Make yourself playlists of vibes that you hear are working in sync that you enjoy creating. At the end of the day, everything is needed, but the songs have to be excellent quality.