Land a Soundtrack, Land a Paycheck (and More Fans)

Landing a spot on a hit soundtrack can be great for both your wallet and your stats. See what you can do to improve your chances of getting your track picked.
Land a Soundtrack, Land a Paycheck (and More Fans)
How-tos
Sara Mekinc

Making it onto a sountrack can be a great springboard for your career. Just look at Lizzo’s example, and jot down the main pointers. 

A more recent example of such a feat is Moses Sumney, who saw his online performance rise significantly in 2020. His soulful track “Doomed” from 2017 appeared in an episode of this year’s hit series, Westworld, consequently drawing extra attention to his online channels. Here’s a quick look into Sumney’s fanbase engagement: the episode aired March 29, and notice how his monthly engagement spiked immediately afterwards.

The term "fanbase engagement" covers overall enegagement across social media and music channels: Instagram and Twitter likes, YouTube and SoundCloud plays, Spotify monthly listeners, and Shazams.

How big of a paycheck are we talking about? 

Of course we don’t know how much Moses Sumney got out (but we can speculate the amount was “OK” since Westworld’s budget surpasses $100M), but we do know that having multiple revenue sources (such as streaming, royalties, merch, etc.) means more steady paychecks since you’re not dependant only on live gigs.

Landing a spot on a popular soundtrack can bring in anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000 depending on various factors: the project’s budget, the type of contract, how big of a role your track plays in the scene, how much of your track will be used, if there is a “package deal” offered from the music company, etc. Negotiations between artists and the production company settles all this, including the percentage of royalties. 

Generally, a "sync license" is negotiated for the use of the song’s composition, and "master use" is negotiated for the use of the actual recording.

Now to the question at hand: How exactly does an artist get their tracks discovered and included? Here’s where music supervisors come into the picture. 

Music supervisors and getting on their radar 

By definition, a music supervisor is the person responsible for overseeing everything music-related in a project. You can find music supervisors working in television, advertising, video games – pretty much everywhere where music meets the visual and has to fit together as a whole. Since this kind of work is very fast-paced, it requires the music supervisor to be not only a walking, talking music library, but also open-minded, quick on their feet, and always on the lookout for something new.

We asked Klementina Milosic, a New York-based music business professional and author, for any tips or shortcuts to get on music supervisors’ radar. As she suggests, it all comes down to good ol’ fashioned networking, both in-person and online. “Music supervisors look for new music everywhere: through their professional contacts (labels, publishers, etc), recommendations from colleagues and friends, Spotify playlists, blogs, social media... They also go to shows.” Just posting your music online doesn’t cut it – you have to put in some legwork to stand out and promote yourself, be it through tastemakers or supervisors directly. 

Sync deals can work wonders for artists – especially the lesser known – because they can bring more exposure, new fans and an opportunity to grow their audience.

But bear in mind – while music supervisors are usually passionate for music and knowledgeable about a broad spectrum of genres, the song selection is usually not a matter of their personal taste. As Milosic explains, the “song selection itself depends on many factors, such as the main vision of the project, production type (ad, TV show, film,…), the scene, what kind of emotional impact it should deliver, which emotions and associations to build around characters, etc. It needs to fit the content and also: the budget.” 

Sumney’s “Doomed” pushed the emotional impact of the episode to 100 and sent fans shazaming.

Make it easy for people to find and sign you

Soundtrack creation – like any business – depends on both the vision and the budget. Everyone involved in the project have to go through the motions to make it work. “Licenses need to be obtained from the owner, for both the composition and the master. Negotiations have to be made between music publishers/songwriters, and labels/artists. In order to get permissions to use the song, people have to be found and contacted,” Milosic describes, and highlights the importance of having all the essential and relevant info readily included.

“When artists get an opportunity for a placement, it’s very helpful for everyone involved to have all the materials ready: hi-resolution audio, instrumentals, and stems. Have metadata included in all digital formats, especially for licensing purposes – the more information you give, the better. This includes the song title, artist, (co)writer names, their ownership percentage and PRO info, the original year of release, genre, the company clearing the master rights, the company clearing the publishing rights, and contact info for the licensing party. All this can be done very easily just by right-clicking “Song Info” in iTunes, for example.”

In short, if you save music supervisors’ time and effort so they don’t need to do a bunch of research to see who’s behind the track, you can greatly increase your chances of landing a sync placement.

Your music might be great, but if you make it difficult for people to find all the important info, you’ll likely get replaced just because someone tagged their tracks better.

Some extra work goes a long way

Of course, Moses Sumney’s success cannot be attributed to Westworld’s soundtrack alone. The man’s work shows impressive levels of skill and creative expression. The premiere of his latest “Cut Me” video was perfectly timed with Westworld to gain additional traction and maximize views. The results speak for themselves – both videos were viewed over 1M times already, and people Shazamed “Doomed” 340K times – 42k times just in the week of airing.

 

Cover photo: Artist's Archive

 

***

We dived into the case with our Viberate analytics tool, which we're officially launching in the fall. It enables music pros to make smarter decisions with data-based insights. You can scour the Charts for information exactly like above, as well as check more specific information on Artist Pages. 

Here's how you can start. If you're a musician, your page, automatically updated with all your latest stuff, is probably already on Viberate. You can send it to promoters, talent scouts, and A&Rs, and use the time you'd otherwise spend updating your onepager on making music. Check it out and sign-up to claim it.

 

Read this next:

How to Hack Pop Culture for That Viral Moment

Protest Songs: How Social Momentum Influences Social Stats

Music Streaming Services: Who Wants to Be a Streamionnaire?

 

Sara Mekinc

Sara Mekinc

Content Specialist at Viberate
Avid concert-goer, a sucker for creative wordsmithery, and 100 % biodegradable. Google "melomaniac".