Why Music Analytics Tools Matter for Music Supervisors

Music supervisors are the bridge between the music industry and the rest of the entertainment industry, from movie to television and gaming to advertising. As such, they are the stewards of synchronization, tirelessly balancing curatorial taste with negotiation and tiptoeing between different industry mechanics.

With the rise of video streaming, gaming, and microtargeting in advertising, sync has proliferated wildly, making music supervision more exciting — and potentially more challenging — than ever before. Fortunately, music analytics tools can help music supervisors sharpen the focus and ease the burden of finding just the right track for each scene … and at the right price point.

With the rise of video streaming, gaming, and microtargeting in advertising, sync has proliferated wildly, making music supervision more exciting — and potentially more challenging — than ever before. Fortunately, music analytics tools can help music supervisors sharpen the focus and ease the burden of finding just the right track for each scene … and at the right price point.

With the rise of video streaming, gaming, and microtargeting in advertising, sync has proliferated wildly, making music supervision more exciting — and potentially more challenging — than ever before. Fortunately, music analytics tools can help music supervisors sharpen the focus and ease the burden of finding just the right track for each scene … and at the right price point.

With the rise of video streaming, gaming, and microtargeting in advertising, sync has proliferated wildly, making music supervision more exciting — and potentially more challenging — than ever before. Fortunately, music analytics tools can help music supervisors sharpen the focus and ease the burden of finding just the right track for each scene … and at the right price point.

Brief History of Music Synchronization and Supervision

Before the 1920s, motion pictures were silent, because neither the technology nor the economics for synchronizing sound with film were scalable. In 1923, however, Kodak introduced 16mm film, which was a cheaper alternative to the traditionally used 35mm. Four years later, Alan Crosland’s The Jazz Singer was released, which became the first “talkie,” or feature-length movie with synchronized sound, both in terms of dialogue and also recorded music.

Within just two years, most Hollywood films were being made with synchronized sound, and before long, movie studios started to realize that the use of popular songs in particular films worked wonders for driving consumption up for those films.

For much of this period — around 50 years or so — the synchronization process was largely divided between producers and directors, and it wasn’t really until the ‘80s that the role of the music supervisor carved out a space for itself. Increasingly, music supervision involved not only curatorial skill but the ability to negotiate synchronization fees and clear rights as well.

At the core of the music supervisor’s relationship with labels and publishers, artists and songwriters, and managers and talent agents is the synchronization license, which gives the movie or television studio the right to use the song, the recording, or both for a handsome flat fee (in the simplest of scenarios).

Unlike mechanical and performance royalty license structures, sync licenses and fees are not regulated by law, so determining the right price for all sides comes down to negotiation, market forces, and use precedence. Much of the negotiation on the part of the music supervisor involves considering different aspects of the proposed use of a particular recording or song, which include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Will the use be diegetic or non-diegetic? Diegetic use (also known as “source music”) means the recording comes directly from the narrative world of the moving picture. For instance, a movie opens on a character walking to a jukebox and putting on their favorite song, and that then becomes a part of the movie audio. In other words, the audience and the character are, theoretically, experiencing the same music. In contrast, non-diegetic use (also known as “commentary” or “nonliteral sound”) means the recording is removed from the narrative world of the moving picture. For example, a movie closes with lovers reuniting on the beach while an inspiring orchestra takes over the movie audio — except there’s no orchestra onscreen. Consequently, the audience is experiencing music that the characters are not. Typically, a diegetic use will bring a higher payday to the copyright holders than a non-diegetic one.
  2. Will the use be in-context or out-of-context? An in-context use means a recording is married to the particular scene for which it is being licensed. As a result, use of the recording for a trailer or advertisement (or even another scene) would require an additional license for an out-of-context use. However, if out-of-context rights are agreed upon from the start, then the recording can be used in any of these scenarios without the need for an additional license.
  3. Where in the moving picture is the use? Generally speaking, an opening or closing credit use will fetch the highest sync fee, because it really comes down to what the most memorable use will be. That said, a diegetic use during a movie’s climactic midpoint could certainly always rival that trend.

What Music Supervision Looks Like Today

Synchronization and music supervision has seen a boon in both diversification and proliferation in the last few decades, with the video game industry, the advertising industry, and the video streaming industry all leveraging soundtracks to build out their content and brands.

Importantly, sync has also become a valuable income source for artists and songwriters who have seen their music income drop significantly with the decline of the physical market at the start of the 21st century.

In many ways, that makes music supervisors an artist or songwriter’s best friend, as the gaming industry, advertisers, and video streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu are increasingly looking toward niche and emerging artists and songwriters as part of their marketing strategies.

In turn, music analytics tools have become music supervisors’ best friends, giving them a leg up on understanding where an artist might be at in their career — and how that relates to their niche market segments.

How Chartmetric Can Help

The priority of a music supervisor’s job is to listen to good music. We don’t want to change that. What we can do, however, is 1) help you find that good music to listen to so you can get to the right track faster, 2) help you understand what stage the artist who recorded that track is at in their career, and 3) provide additional market-level insights to factor into your negotiations.

So, let’s say you’re a music supervisor at a major video streaming platform, and you’re tasked with finding an emotional track from a hip, buzzing artist for a particularly moving scene. You’re working with a relatively slim budget that has to be split between each placement, but you’re trying to get each artist compensated as fairly as they can, taking popularity, prior syncs, and diegesis/context usage into account.

The major streaming charts are probably out of the question. Chances are, those sync licenses will be far too expensive, and they’re not really what you’re looking for anyway, because the director is more Spike Jonze than Michael Bay.

If you click to our A&R tab, you can immediately scroll through up-and-coming artists with the highest growth percentages in Spotify Monthly Listeners over the last 30 days. More importantly, you can toggle the “Unsigned” and “Released in the last 2 months” filters, which will bring up true emerging artists.

Since you know the specific scene you’re wanting to place the track in, drill down even more using our genre filters. Now, it’s time to go even deeper. BOSCO’s got an interesting story, so let’s go to her artist page to check out whether or not she’s had any prior syncs that might factor into the decision.

Clicking the “TV” tab on her artist page brings up four television syncs, which means her music is clearly sync ready, but you’ll also be able to offer her her first movie sync ever. That has to feel good.

But you don’t have to stop there. Explore what market segments she does well with on Spotify, Instagram, and YouTube, and check out how often she gets added to playlists on other streaming platforms. All of these things can factor into your ability to clear the rights for a sync license while helping you stay within your budget. Plus, you can offer a potential big break (and some extra cash) to a budding new artist!

Who is Chartmetric?

We are a small, highly skilled team with members from diverse backgrounds, and that diversity is celebrated just as much as our work is. We’re talented solo artists, but we’re a much better band. We are as much music data rockstars as we are music superfans, and we thrive as a bridge between music and technology, data and creativity.

Sign up for a free account at chartmetric.com, dive deeper into our features at blog.chartmetric.com, and check them out for yourself. We can’t wait to see what you create.

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