Cheques and plugs and rock’n’roll: how ‘sync’ is changing pop

 

When the Human League recorded their 80s smash Don’t You Want Me, they could not have imagined that 30 years on their song would be squawked by a team of performing chickens advertising Foster Farms’ “amazing nuggets”.

But the business of “sync” - the strategic placing of songs on adverts, television trailers, computer games and film soundtracks - is now a vital source of revenue for artists in an era when record sales are in terminal decline and the streaming of songs currently rewards their creators with pennies.

Sync is the reason why the drive-time friendly riffs of Noel Gallagher’s “AKA…What A Life” provided the soundtrack to a Vauxhall Motors advertising campaign backing the England football team.

It is no coincidence that Kasabian’s terrace anthems play out behind Sky Sports football montages or that Ellie Goulding’s Fireworks provided the sound-bed for an ITV drama promotional trail, seen nightly by millions of viewers.

Pitching songs to television producers and advertising agencies is the specialist work of a new breed of industry backroom figures, charged with “creative licensing”.

When record companies look to “break” new artists on the national stage, the question is no longer “what’s the first single” but “what’s the first advert”?

Southampton singer-songwriter Foxes is now a Grammy-nominated chart star but her commercial breakthrough came when publishers BMG Chrysalis attached her song Foxes to the Debenhams 2013 Christmas advert.

“Sync” generated £19m for the British music industry last year, a revenue rise of 3.2 per cent, according to BPI figures. But the big money is to be found in the US, where studios are willing to pay up to $250,000 for the right song to soundtrack a scene.

Sony Pictures even rewrote an entire episode of Breaking Bad to accommodate the inclusion of a particular song, America’s 1972 hit Horse With No Name, which was deemed integral to the plot.

Next week the Capitol Records tower in Los Angeles, the music landmark where Frank Sinatra first sang Come Fly With Me, will host a summit offering British musicians the chance to pitch their offerings to leading Hollywood music, TV, film, and advertising executives.

Sixty seconds of a song playing behind a key scene on Grey’s Anatomy can catapult a band to international recognition, thanks to apps like Shazam which allow viewers to instantly identify the song and artist.

The Ministry of Sound record label and even the London Symphony Orchestra are among the organisations meeting representatives from studios including Lionsgate, NBCUniversal and Electronic Arts at the Los Angeles Sync Licensing Mission.

They have been given guidelines on how to “pitch” a song by the BPI : “To rise above the clutter, your track needs to sound fresh and exciting and push the boundaries of modern music. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. We heard stories from music supervisors who had been pitched music for shows that are no longer on air.”

Often a studio’s music supervisor will send a “creative brief” – outlining the type of music required and any other stipulations for the label, publisher, or composer to follow.

“The pitches are most competitive for US TV soundtracks,” said Alexi Cory-Smith, executive vice president of leading rights managers BMG Chrysalis UK. “They can be very lucrative and bring fantastic exposure.”

The Rolling Stones allowed Mad Men to use “Satisfaction” in 2012 and have since signed a publishing deal with BMG Chrysalis, tasking the company to pursue further opportunities for their catalogue in film, television and advertising.

Ms Cory-Smith said: “Once only about five per cent of artists approved synch deals. Now only about five per cent of artists object.”

Leicester rockers Kasabian identified football as the vehicle to reach a global audience. A Sony deal ensured that their song Fire was used by international broadcasters in the title sequences before and after live matches in all 206 territories where the Premier League is shown outside of the UK and Ireland.

James Cooper, head of synch and creative licensing at Sony/ATV, publishers of Kasabian and Noel Gallagher said: “Kasabian are hot favourites in the synch world. Their songs are very popular with sports programmers and they also enjoyed a successful advertising partnership with Hugo Boss.”

The synch team at Sony/ATV Music Publishing was invited by Kasabian and their management to an early playback of their new album, 48.13, months ahead of its release.

Mr Cooper said: “Hearing new material in advance can really help the synch team when pitching for commercials, film and TV, games etc. Not only does it give us time to ‘live’ with the music but it also gives us exciting new music to pitch to our clients who sometimes have long production lead times.”

Even artists known for their political commitment have come to an accommodation with the rise of “synch”. Mr Cooper, who represents Billy Bragg’s catalogue, said: “Billy is also open to offers for soundtracks and he would consider commercials if they are right for him. We work with our writers to ensure the offers are appropriate.”

Alternative bands, who would struggle to receive mainstream radio airplay, are suddenly offered a short-cut into the nation’s living rooms. Dreampop duo Beach House benefited from lending their music to a Guinness campaign whilst Australian psychedelic band Tame Impala enjoyed a windfall by synching their song Elephant to Blackberry.

The Human League’s partnership with poultry firm Foster Farms, brokered by BMG Chrysalis, may appear a little undignified but could introduce the synthpop veterans to a new, young audience. Ms Cory-Smith said: “Synch is a great way of reviving songs. We dig up gems from the back catalogue and often they re-enter the charts.”

“Our job is to advise and guide artists if an opportunity is a good fit. Artists now recognise the importance of synch. It’s the core of our business but we have to protect songs for the future.”

It must have been a brave synch manager who first invited Snoop Dogg to incorporate his song What’s My Name into a South Central LA-shot advert narrated by the rapper, which concludes with him saying the catchphrase: “You’re so Moneysupermarket.” Yet Snoop was happy to tell website users how to “save money and feel epic”, for the right price.

Geoff Taylor, BPI chief executive, said: “Not only do sync deals act as a profile-raising opportunity with a mass audience but with the tagging technology of Shazam and the connectivity of a smartphone a well-placed sync can lead to discovery of an artist’s entire catalogue and, importantly, a boost in sales.”

In sync

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

‘AKA … What a Life!’: Vauxhall Motors advert promoting sponsorship of the England football team, Codemasters F1 2012 racing computer game

‘Everybody’s on the Run’: London Olympics campaign for BT, Sky TV promotion

Kasabian

‘Club Foot’: Fifa 2013 game, Smallville, One Tree Hill, Goal! The Dream Begins, Doomsday, The Boys Are Back

‘Underdog’: Sony Bravia, Carlsberg advert, Misfits, Masters snooker, London Boulevard

Blondie

‘One Way or Another’: VW, Heinz, Commonwealth Bank, Old Navy

Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Jess Glynne is UK number 1

music

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor