Wednesday, August 12, 2015

LA Sync Mission part 1: Understanding the US sync market

By Emmanuel Legrand   

Sync hungry Brits descended upon LA in July as part of the British Sync Mission 2015 to hear from US music supervisors in a bid to get ahead in Hollywood, with the help of the BPI, the MPA and UKTI. This is the first of three reports from Los Angeles.

[This story was initially published in Music Week]

A successful sync business is based on knowing the market. Sounds simple, but four days in LA , immersed in the biggest sync market in the world, show that it is not that obvious. The sync market has grown to be extremely complex, with a large number of players and decision-makers, and with each type of use and media platform having its own processes. 
For the 40+ music executives who travelled to Los Angeles from July 13-17 for the 11th Sync Mission organised by the BPI and the MPA with the support of UKTI, its was all about getting informed about the latest trends in Hollywood, and getting enough knowledge to better navigate through the high seas of synchronisation.

 “The LA Sync Mission allowed us to meet with new and established agencies to pitch them our upcoming artists,” explains Charles FitzGerald, global head of sync and brand at [PIAS]. “One agency loved our music so much that we are now in discussions for exclusive representation of a couple of our artists.”

FitzGerald says that the US market has already been very productive for [PIAS], citing, for example, no less than 13 syncs for Danish artist Agnes Obel last year in the US. Adds FitzGerald: “It is incredibly difficult to get breaking indie artists heard in the crowded LA music supervisor community. We believe that partnering with multiple great sync agencies is key to the growth of our US sync income.”

 The key to the success of labels, publishers, composers and managers is understanding the process. There are syncs for basically every single type of audiovisual production: featured films produced by studios, films produced by independent producers, trailers, scripted TV series and TV movies, non-scripted TV shows, video games, and also on-air promos and background music for TV channels.

 Put together by a UKTI team in LA, led by Carlo Cavagna, consul and head of trade and investment at UKTI, the programme of the 2015 Sync Mission was packed with sessions covering virtually every aspects of syncs, with some heavy hitters in the field who are not shy of sharing information and time with the British delegation.

 From British filmmaker and executive producer Danny Cannon (CSI, Gotham) to music supervisors at Electronic Arts, Activision, Sony Playstation, Microsoft Xbox, CBS Television Studios, NBC Universal, AMG Pictures Entertainment, E! Networks, and many more independent supervisors, they all came to the iconic Capitol Records Towers to share their experiences. “Remember, you need them, but they also need you,” said music sector specialist at UKTI, Phil Patterson, adding that what UKTI is interested in the end is seeing “business wins”.

 “UKTI do a brilliant job at putting together these conferences,” says Marilyn David, founder of boutique label/publishing unit Mayvid Entertainment, who adds that her trip to LA, all expenses included, amounted to £3,000. And she thinks it is worth every penny. Says David: “I came here to make an introduction of my company and the genres we were working on, and since we are quite avant garde, I wanted to test my repertoire. I made contact with several supervisors who requested that I sent material. I will send one or two songs each and I will definitely have my feet here to continue to build relationships.”

 The rewards can be significant. Sebastian Weingartshofer, in charge of A&R, digital and product manager at dance specialist MTA Records reports that, last year, he scored a few sync successes: the track Close To You by MANT got picked by CSI’s music supervisors, resulting in fees of $10,000 for the master and just as much for publishing. A cue on the trailer for the movie 47 Ronin by MTA’s act KillSonik (Incinerator) also generated $10,000 in masters fees and $10,000 in publishing. And the placement of Dimension’s Pull Me Under in a Forza Motorsport 2 DLC video game brought in $4,000 for the master and the same for publishing.

“We get paid more here than in London,” says Laura Westcott, founder of fair music platform Soundcheque. “In the UK we have a big advertising market, but in Los Angeles, it’s all about TV and films.”

Throughout the four days, the participants were given a glimpse of the programmes currently being produced in LA. A series like The Royals, in its US version, is very British-music heavy and had all the participants eager to find a slot on it for their music. Similarly, Gotham, despite taking place in a dystopian New York in the 1970s, is packed with British music, especially punk music, picked by executive producer Danny Cannon. Likewise, a focus on NBC Universal, a company with a large variety of channels, gave a sense of the sheer diversity of music required by these media giants. “With NBCU you have a broad platform in terms of pitching, and there’s a wide a variety of choices,” explained Chris Jackson, VP music at NBC Universal. “Know your pitches and who you’re pitching to.”

Sharing information is very much the ethos of the Sync Mission, but UKTI’s Patterson was even urging the participants to think collectively, rather than just individually. “If you talk to a supervisor, and they are looking for a piece of metal but you are in dance, don’t dismiss it. Say that you know someone who has the track. And pass on the info.”

This collaborative spirit was the foundation of a new collective, BritSync, regrouping 24 independent British companies who took part in the Sync Mission in 2014. Following the week in LA, one of them, Tris Taylor from Pink Lizard Music sent a mail to the participants under the header “Stupid idea” suggesting that they formed a collective to approach music supervisors with the greatest chances to provide them with the music that they are looking for.

“Last year, we realised that there is so much overlap between the companies that we created BritSync as a gateway to meeting people,” says Vanessa Higgins of Regent Street Records. Taylor suggested that they combined resources to provide supervisors with specific themed playlists. Now, the collective meets once a month under the aegis of the BPI to iron out BritSync strategy and actions. “Together, the 24 different companies give access to an amazing range of music,” says Lucy Broadbent, co-owner of Uncommon Music, who is part of the collective and who believes that music supervisors appreciate the kind of one-stopshop provided by BritSync.

But for all the potential of syncs, some, like John Truelove, Founder of Truelove Music, try to remain cautiously realistic. “Being here is like a reality check: Syncs are great but they are the cream on the cake,” he says. “Very few people make a living out of it, but it can be a good fill financially and career-wise.” 


Marilyn David, founder, Mayvid Entertainment 

“It is my first mission of this kind and, frankly, I did not know what to expect. I try to go to as many conferences to learn and navigate, but arriving here has exceeded my expectations. There’s this proximity with the industry heads, the attention you get from them, and the one-on-ones are very interesting. This is unique to this conference. I am already looking forward to next year’s.”

Charles FitzGerald, global head of sync and brand, [PIAS] 

“The LA Sync Mission was beyond all my expectations. It was an incredible opportunity to develop our existing relationships with US supervisors as well as taking us straight to the source, with site visits to the music teams at Disney/ABC and Sony Pictures. We pitch for US syncs via LA supervisors on a weekly basis -however you rarely get to meet with them and develop a more business relation. The British Consulate event was a whole evening of meeting all the supervisors we’ve been emailing/calling for so many years but have never met face to face. I believe this will be of huge value to [PIAS] and increase the volume of syncs we confirm in the US.”

Verity Griffiths, head of sync, Cooking Vinyl 

“This year’s Sync Mission (this is my fourth time) maintained the high calibre of panels and networking opportunities. I’ve come to look forward to every year, and some excellent pitching opportunities and targeted briefs with business to follow.”

Vanessa Higgins, Regent Street Records 

“This is my second mission. For me, the most important thing was meeting with so many companies I was not aware of. I am learning how quick it is and how serious you have to be. You need to you get your stuff together or you won’t be taken seriously. I am now making sure that I am in that position.”

Anthony David King 

“I work in venture capital and with funders who often fund start-ups relating to music and creative industries. This is my fist sync mission. My interest is in monetisation of copyright and what are the new biz models out there, and how does sync play a role. I was enlightened by the nature of the variation of different fees for different things, whether the shows are scripted or unscripted, by the fact that you can collect royalties for re-runs, and that for ads, fees can be high. It is a brilliant and intensive way to give people like me or in publishing, at labels, or composers, the knowledge and the tools to make decisions and understand more how music supervisors acquire music. Overall, it gave me a better perspective of the layers in which licensing works. I feel I have more of a grasp of it.”

Ysanne Spevack, Amazing Media Group 

“This is my first Sync Mission as a delegate, but my fourth as providing the music for the party. The format was as I expected it to be. We receive a lot of information beforehand, and there are very high quality people coming. They are very open delegates and we have higher accessibility and, I think, more openness. The reason they take part in this event is that they want to receive British music. I understand British music and culture and, based in LA, I understand business practices. What I am offering for each individual is very targeted, and we had approximately a 100% success rate in having the individual saying they want to hear that specific tune I selected for them. They want to hear new emerging artist, and we have 250,000 new acts with 700,000 new tracks on our platform. It is about having the right tunes at the right time.”

John Truelove, founder, Truelove Music

“I’ve done quite a few missions - this must be the eighth or something. What I like is the ‘esprit de corps’ that you get here. I think it is almost the best thing about it. We are able to feel that there is a community of spirit. Besides that, it is an opportunity for me to immerse myself in the sync world for a week, with relatively no other distractions. What keeps me coming back is the need to maintain relationships and create new ones with supervisors. It also gives me a good overview of the landscape. It was very valuable to be here.”

Sebastian Weingartshofer, A&R, digital, product manager, events, MTA Records

“We specialise in dance music primarily. I first came to the Sync Mission in 2012 and off the back of it I gained invaluable contact that I would have never made from the UK. For the price you pay, I recouped it tenfold. It also helps with your overall knowledge of the sync business so when you are back in UK, you have a different approach, and you are more efficient. Overall, I recommend it.”

Laura Westcott, founder, Soundcheque

“This is my first mission. We are a start-up and we are a fair trade music company. We fight for the best sync fees. We get 30% and pay 70% to artists. We are based in London and have a virtual office in LA. The mission was as I expected it to be, with a very detailed programme. It is all about [building] and revisiting relationships. I am already on a lot of mailing lists. But what is important is that it is very amicable here.” 

More about the British Sync Mission 2015:
Part 2: 10 tips from music supervisors
Part 3: 10 more tips from music supervisors

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