Lesson 6: Sync & Other Uses

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All of the rights discussed in the previous chapters; mechanical, performance and online; are generally covered by compulsory or blanket licences, meaning the users of the music don’t have to obtain permission from the rights holders as long as they comply with the set fees and regulation. In this chapter, we are discussing the sources of revenue that are generally handled independently by publishers, outside of the traditional collection societies’ scope. However, different rules may apply to different societies, so always check with your societies which rules may apply to you and your repertoire.


Synchronisation, commonly referred to as sync, refers to the usage of music in association with a (moving) picture, such as film, TV shows, games or adverts. These film, TV, game or advert producers will have their own in-house music supervisors or work with music supervision agencies who source the perfect piece of music for their project. As a publisher or record label, it is very valuable to have good relationships with these music supervisors to increase their chances of landing a treasured sync deal.

The fees are negotiated directly with the rights holders. Again, when music is used in a sync project, a deal will need to be struck with both the master and publishing rights holders. Most often, both parties will have a Most-Favoured-Nation clause, meaning they will automatically get the same deal in case the other rights holder negotiates a better fee. In practice, that means the sync fee is generally split 50/50 between the master and publishing rights holders. The value of a sync deal will depend on the negotiation position of the copyright holder, how in-demand the song is and the type of project. So whilst a society’s blanket licence means that Spotify pays the same rate for a stream of Adele’s latest single compared to a stream of our CTO’s christmas song, when Amazon comes knocking on the door looking for a song to place on their latest Christmas advert, the former can negotiate a million pound fee whilst the latter may negotiate a free Amazon Prime account.

Additionally, a sync placement can result in a surge in performance royalties when the advert or film is performed on television stations or cinemas alike. Not to mention the exposure and additional sales a good sync placement can create. Just ask Kate Bush, who recently earned her first ever top 10 single in the United States with a 37 (!) year old song, after it was placed in an episode of Netflix’s hit-series Stranger Things.

Sheets & Lyrics

Long before the existence of recorded music, composers were selling their compositions in a printed sheet format in various types of music notations. In fact, for a long time, it was the only source of revenue for songwriters. It is a format that to this day still exists and is popular with music schools and cover performers alike. Also less conventional variations of this usage now exist - such as streaming platforms displaying time-synced lyrics on their platform, Instagram allowing people to add lyrics to their stories, or a clothing brand printing lyrics on their hoodies.

A print licence is generally negotiated directly with the publishers. But for some types of usage, intermediates play a vital role. A good example are Musixmatch and LyricFind who provide time-synced lyrics data to DSPs and remunerate the publishers for this usage.

Grand Rights

Grand Rights are where a song is used in generating a new performance piece from the song, such as a dance performance, musical or opera. It is a rather specialist type of usage that will not earn any revenue for most, but will be an important source of revenue for some. These rights are negotiated directly with the publishers.

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