August Songwriter News

By Stefanie Flamm

From Rio to the US Presidential election, it’s been a busy summer for everyone, including songwriters around the world:

  • Rio turns out to be as much a competition for artists looking to get sync placement as it is for the Olympic athletes.
  • Donald Trump stirs even more controversy by using “We Are the Champions” at the Republican National Convention, against the wishes of Queen.
  • Apple makes a motion to set a standard streaming rate, a move that would revolutionize royalty payments for songwriters.

Advertiser’s $1.2 billion budget for the Rio Olympics turns sync placement into a competition of its own.

It should come as no surprise that the Olympics is one of the most widely-popular televised sporting events around, particularly for US viewers. Even for a disappointingly low year, a whopping average of 27.5 million viewers watched Rio Olympic coverage via NBCUniversal over the 15 days of competition. And with that high number of average viewers, comes a high demand for prime advertising placement.

With the Olympic viewership paling only in comparison to the Superbowl, companies were chomping at the bit for an opportunity to intersperse the high-profile swim and women’s gymnastics competitions, among many others. Particularly at the opening ceremonies, with an outrageous rate of one commercial every eight minutes, there was a lot of competition amongst companies and ad agencies alike to help their product stand out from the crowd. This is where a skilled Music Supervisor comes into play.

Between the more US-friendly time zone and the hype surrounding high-profile athletes like Simone Biles, NBCUniversal had planned for a higher viewership than they received for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. As a result, companies were flocking to advertising agencies as early as a year before the competition began. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years — it’s the first time we’ve had to dig deep so early,” commented Grey Group Director or Music Joshua Rabinowitz.

Sync royalties for Olympic commercials were reaching upwards of $250,000 for the Rio games, not to mention the added benefit of an audience of 27.5 million people who could download or stream the song after hearing it.

Some agencies decided to stick with tried-and-true classics, like Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” or the Gershwin classic “Rhapsody in Blue,” and some chose to highlight newer artists, like Boys Noize’s “Rock the Bells.” A personal favorite advertisement for Nike included music from the 2003 song “Drums Are My Beat” by Sandy Nelson.

But not every song used for ad sync placement at the Olympics was a catchy or recognizable tune. Writers Andrew Simple and Michael Logan curated a sync-worthy song that snagged them a spot in a commercial for Folgers that left me quietly weeping at my desk. A colleague of Simple’s noted, “I knew it could be the soundtrack for a spot that taps into a close relationship,” and the song was pitched for sync placement before even being released.  

Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, and a handful of songwriters were able to take home the gold at this year’s Olympic games.

Repeated unauthorized use of their song “We Are the Champions” on the Donald Trump campaign leaves Queen seeking legal action.

Whether you’re voting for him in November or you’re adamantly protesting against him, everyone can pretty much agree that Donald Trump isn’t playing by the rules of a typical US Presidential campaign. He brought this attitude to the world of publishing recently after his second unauthorized use of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

The issue first came up in June of this year, after the last Super Tuesday of the year when Donald Trump celebrated his victory over the last remaining primaries. Trump’s campaign blasted “We Are the Champions” to commemorate their victory, only it didn’t occur to anyone on Trump’s staff to acquire permissions from Queen first.

Queen’s guitarist Brian May immediately expressed his upset over this, taking to his personal website for a reaction statement. “…permission to use the track was neither sought nor given… Regardless of our views on Mr Trump’s platform, it has always been against our policy to allow Queen music to be used as a political campaigning tool.”

Unfortunately, Trump’s team did not see this statement as an unofficial cease-and-desist, as they played the song again this July at the RNC. After Melania Trump’s semi-plagiarized speech, the RNC was a one-two punch of intellectual property theft. Queen took to Twitter shortly after the broadcast to follow-up that Trump’s campaign had, again, failed to request permission to use the song.

This month, Queen’s publishing company Sony/ATV Music Publishing announced a formal statement regarding the Trump campaign’s use of “We Are the Champions:”

Sony/ATV Music Publishing has never been asked by Mr. Trump, the Trump campaign or the Trump Organization for permission to use “We are the Champions” by Queen. On behalf of the band, we are frustrated by the repeated unauthorized use of the song after a previous request to desist, which has obviously been ignored by Mr. Trump and his campaign.

Queen does not want its music associated with any mainstream or political debate in any country. Nor does Queen want “We are the Champions” to be used as an endorsement of Mr. Trump and the political views of the Republican Party. We trust, hope and expect that Mr. Trump and his campaign will respect these wishes moving forward.”

Apple’s proposition to set a concrete, per-stream royalty rate could revolutionize songwriters’ relationship with streaming.

The battle between songwriters and streaming services has been around since the latter’s inception, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be easing up anytime soon. In the wake of the United States Department of Justice ruling for 100 percent licensing, songwriters and publishers alike are not satisfied with the DoJ’s perceived favoritism of streaming services. However, Apple has put an initiative into place that might change streaming payouts in favor of the songwriter.

In a proposal made by Apple, in conjunction with the Copyright Royalty Board, streaming services should pay 9.1 cents in songwriting royalties for every 100 times a song is played. While that only results in a payout of $0.0091 per stream, having a standard rate of streaming could mean more transparency between streaming services and songwriters.

“An interactive stream has an inherent value,” Apple wrote in their proposal, “regardless of the business model a service provider chooses.”

The need for the DoJ, streaming services, and songwriters to come together is ever-present in the increasingly streaming-friendly world. The general consensus seems to be at “freemium” streaming services like Spotify need to change their subscription models in favor of making more money for the songwriters. While this Apple proposition isn’t exactly giving songwriters what they’re asking for (and doesn’t necessarily favor its competitors’ pricing models), it’s a direct attempt to eradicate freemium streaming, and it looks like it may be a step in the right direction towards more harmony between artists and the streaming services that pay them.

For more information on TuneCore Publishing Administration, click here.


4 Pro Tips to Find Music Supervisors and Get Your Foot in the Door (That Actually Work)

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Paul Loeb and was originally featured on the Sonicbids Blog. Paul is a producer and founder/CEO of both DropTrack and No Ego Records.]

Now, more than ever, songwriters and producers hunger for visual-media placements as opportunities for sync licensing surge and traditional record sales from CDs and downloads sag. Busy music supervisors hold the keys to placements in ads, films, TV, and video games, but how do you find them and get your foot in the door?

Of course, once you’ve introduced yourself, you’ve got to create great songs tailored to individual projects with high production values. Hundreds of articles tell how to do that. But trying to sell your music cold without having met or corresponded with music supervisors is likely to fail. If you’re not affiliated with a song plugger, licensing firm, or music library – and don’t want to be – outreach to individual supervisors can work. Still, to even get a listen, you’ve got to meet as many music supervisors as possible and make first impressions count.

I’ve helped secure over 20 sync placements on MTV, Comedy Central, Bravo, Oxygen, E!, and elsewhere through my company, DropTrack. Our personalizable music marketing platform connects artists with music supervisors, label reps, DJs, and radio pros. To maximize placement opportunities, I advise musicians who use DropTrack – as well as those who don’t – to apply the following techniques.

1. Study up

Good old Google is a fine place to start researching music supervisors and choose your targets. SongwriterUniverse has an excellent directory of them, and Tunefind shows what music many are interested in. The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) is a great tool for identifying who works on TV series and films. You can even get a free 30-day trial of IMDB Pro, where you can find contact information. The National Association of Record Industry Professionals is another resource. Go to, search with keywords “music supervisors,” and read articles telling who they are and how best to approach them.

Also, search phrases like “music supervisors looking for music.” Once you know names, Google them for more information. Watch their ads, shows, and films. Get familiar with them. Be fluent in how music is being used, know the common practices in the field, and embed this knowledge into all the strategies discussed below.

Avoid this rookie blunder: Don’t submit songs to music supervisors who’ve never worked in your genre. Personalization leads to monetization.

2. Get on LinkedIn

Everyone on LinkedIn is looking for the same thing: professional advancement. Pitching music through Twitter and Facebook is done to death. Music supervisors don’t have time for the former and use the latter for friends, family, and fun – that’s not where they’re looking for the perfect hook for their ad. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is ideal for forming business relationships. It’s expected to request connections with people you don’t know.

But do it right. Make sure your profile is up to date and describes your skills and experience. When you invite someone to connect, delete the standard “I’d like to add you to my professional network” message, and instead enter a personal note like, “Hi Scott, I’m a big fan of your work on Entourage. I’d like to see if you’re looking for music for upcoming projects. I run an independent record label focusing on dance/electronic music, and I’d love to send you some tunes.”

Avoid this rookie blunder: Don’t connect until you’ve completed your profile with a good photo and a clear description of what you do. Crush the first impression.


3. Attend trade shows and conferences

Passes can be pricey, but conferences are worth it if you stay in the target market for your genre. Ones worth attending include (but aren’t limited to):

  • SF Music Tech Summit (San Francisco)
  • Billboard/THR Film and TV Music Conference (Los Angeles)
  • Sync Summit (Los Angeles, New York, London)
  • ASCAP EXPO (Los Angeles)
  • MUSEXPO (Los Angeles)
  • MIDEM (Cannes)
  • Winter Music Conference (Miami Beach)
  • EDMBiz Conference and Expo (Las Vegas)
  • Amsterdam Dance Event (Amsterdam)

With meetups, mixers, and message boards, contact opportunities are endless.

Prepare by finding out who’s going and research them online. Make a list of your marks. Email them in advance and ask for an appointment to meet during the show. Alternatively, tweet them during the conference to see where they are and if you can come to them.

Attend the biggest panel discussions, sit in the front row, and be the first to ask a question. Stand up, introduce yourself loudly, and make it a good one. Many conferences have panels featuring sync reps and supervisors, though some cost extra. When you’re first building relationships, the added fee is worth being part of an elite group of attendees.

The best networking happens in the hallways, the bars, and the line for coffee. Ask lots of questions about what kinds of music they need, and ask even deeper follow-up questions that show you’re genuinely interested and you’ve done your homework about their business. Make yourself relevant. And don’t forget to exchange business cards.

No more than a week after the conference, email each contact to follow up and allude back to your conversation. Say, “John, it was nice to meet you and talk about your work at Disney. You mentioned needing dubstep tracks for an upcoming project. Would it be okay for me to send you a few songs?”

Avoid this rookie blunder: Don’t just sit and listen. If you leave with no business cards, you’re doing it wrong. Also, don’t hand out flash drives or CDs at conferences. Now’s the time to form one-on-one bonds, not pitch your music.

4. Seal the deal

Ask your new acquaintances to add you to their email lists and let you know when they have specific needs for songs. Offer to tap them into your network of other industry pros to fulfill those requests as well. Mention that you understand they would only consider music that’s easy to clear for both master and publishing copyrights. If applicable, mention that you have instrumental versions and vocal splits available of all tracks.

Avoid this rookie blunder: Don’t send MP3s as email attachments. Send links to your website or DropTrack playlist promoting no more than three tracks for a specific project.

Following these recommendations will boost the likelihood that music supervisors will at least listen when you submit your music. Laying the groundwork makes all the difference to meeting and dazzling the right people and getting decent shots at the deals you want.

Interview: Music Supervisor Amanda Krieg Thomas Talks Sync Licensing

When it comes to the music industry, one of its most complicated and often confused components is publishing and licensing. Mechanical royalties, neighboring rights, performance rights organizations – for independent artists, it can seem like one big gray area!

While TuneCore Music Publishing Administration is here to help you collect worldwide royalties and answer questions, we know that one of the most tantalizing aspects of publishing is landing synchronization licenses – or in other words, getting your music placed in movies, television shows, ads, and video games. The notion of ‘selling out’ has become a relatively antiquated term for artists who want to get heard and make money.

Each month, we catch our readers up on our pitching efforts and license placements for TuneCore Artists/songwriters, but to give you closer look into the world of ‘synch’ licenses, we interviewed accomplished music supervisor Amanda Krieg Thomas (Format Entertainment). Amanda works with directors, producers and artists on a daily basis and has coordinated/supervised music on projects like Pitch Perfect 1 & 2 (Universal), Fake Off (TruTV), Grace Stirs Up Success (American Girl/Mattel), The Other Woman (Fox), and Beyond The Lights (BET), and has placed TuneCore Artists’ music. Enjoy and take notes, TuneCore Artists!

What led you to pursuing a career as a music supervisor? 

Amanda Thomas: I kind of fell into it – I moved out to L.A. to pursue writing and producing, film, TV, etc. I took a job assisting the music attorney at Lionsgate with the idea that if I learned this part of filmmaking, it’d lead to other things. I did that for over a year, working with contracts and legal, and I’m so grateful to have gotten that nuts-and-bolts knowledge. I was about to leave music because I realized I didn’t want to do just the legal side, and I didn’t know if I could work on the creative side, you know, I loved music, but I wasn’t a ‘musical savant’ or anything. That’s when I got the opportunity to work assisting the Head of Film Music.

I remember we were working on a search for a movie, we were pitching all sorts of stuff, and the director had lots of ideas. I remember being in her office and her saying, “These are funny, but what would the character really listen to in this moment?” And it just clicked for me – this idea of character and story, and telling that story with music. I had studied theater and film, and I worked on a lot of musicals, so storytelling with music really resonated with me. That’s when I decided that this is what I wanted to do.

What kinds of relationships have been vital to build on both the music business side and film/TV/advertising side?

Pretty much ‘all of the above.’ I’m the type of person who says ‘yes,’ especially when it comes to meeting people. It’s made my life easier to be friends with people sending and pitching me music – it’s always saved my life. The publishers, people at labels – the joy of collaborating with people I like and respect is a big part of why I want to stay in this career field. There’s a strong sense of community.

But on the other side, the key relationships are definitely the people who are making content – films, TV shows – it’s really those people who hire me. Overall, you never know what is the relationship that’s going to get you the furthest and pay off. Be friends with everyone, and be grateful, because you never know where that amazing opportunity is going to come from.

Given your well-rounded resume of television and film, has there been a project that stands out as your favorite?

For me, there are projects that I was proud to be apart for slightly different reasons. Pitch Perfect 2 is a project I was a member of the music team for. The Pitch Perfect films are probably the biggest projects I’ve been involved in. They really valued everyone’s ideas and it was a very collaborative environment.

Also recently premiered is a TV show I worked on for 7 weeks in Georgia called “Fake Off” (TruTV). It was totally out of my comfort zone and also a combination of my weird skill sets: it was basically performance, illusion, theater and storytelling. I oversaw the creation of the tracks the teams performed to, which were largely combinations of existing instrumentals from production music libraries, crafted together into cohesive, 90-second, performance pieces. It was an amazing experience and I got to work with really cool people.

Aside from value and/or ‘buzz’ factor, what are some of the benefits of placing music by unsigned or independent artists?

Budget is certainly big. I’m still building relationships so I still work on plenty of low-budget projects. Personally, the feeling when you find an amazing new artist and the excitement when presenting to a director is great. While it’s obviously fun to place an artist I love, I don’t start with that.

I start with what the director’s priorities are – so it’s refreshing when directors are excited about lesser-known music, from a creative standpoint. Some directors get really jazzed about the unknown artists or songs no one has heard of, but some just want what they know and like.

What are some of the most common mistakes you see independent artists make when they want to approach or pitch to a music supervisor?

That could be a whole other article! First thing I’ll say is you’re always going to be better served having someone else pitch your music with those relationships in place. Focus your energy not on cold calling/email music supervisors and studio executives; focus your energy on researching the right opportunities and people who can get your music where it needs to be. It’s so much more effective to find the right team and partnerships.

It’s not a ‘common mistake,’ but I would say be open to low-budget projects. I know it’s tough because you don’t want to give music away for free (really you shouldn’t have to, again another article) – it’s a personal decision – just make sure to evaluate the big picture. Is that music supervisor working on a lot of projects? Is the long-term relationship worth it? Personally, if I’m dealing with an artist directly, I’ll remember if someone does me a solid, and I’ll call them again.

One mistake is that people get pushy and ask for a lot of feedback or follow up every week. Those are two things that make me cringe. In terms of feedback, I’m listening to it for the most part basing it on what I need at that point, so I don’t have time nor do I feel qualified to provide that. Also, research is appreciated. At least be aware of what a supervisor has worked on. You’re being polite and showing that you’ve done your homework.

How do you discover new music on your own time?

I always feel so backed-up in what I get sent, that even when I get artists and albums that come through that make me say, “Oh my God I wanna listen to that!” – it still takes plenty of time to get there. I have a lot of friends in PR or music journalism, so I tend to listen to them a lot in terms of keeping my eyes out. They’re the ones who can predict whose going to break. I love having them in my life. They’re the ones who are plugged in on who people will be talking about. Twitter also comes in handy for this; when I see an artist name pop up again and again I pay closer attention. I also discover openers I haven’t heard of and try to get to shows early when I can. It’s those fun, unexpected, discoveries that make this job exciting.