Posted: May 5, 2014
**Guest post written by Mallory Zumbach, Sr. Director of Creative at Round Hill Music.
"Each day in my job at Round Hill Music, I am lucky to work with so many wonderful bands and writers who have created great music that also happens to be very synch-friendly. When you consider that (along with my fantastic colleagues Tami Lester and Steve Nalbert) my job is to ensure that our songs get used in advertisements, video games, films, TV, promos, trailers, and so on, that’s pretty important. Part of the reason that so many of the talented musicians on our roster create such great music for synch is that our creative team makes a major effort to stay very connected to our writers. When they’re in the middle of writing new material and want tips or suggestions for making a song a bit more synch-able, we’re always there to help. However, most of the artists and writers that we work with already have a natural inclination toward writing synch-friendly music, because it’s something that our entire creative team (including everyone who focuses on synch and A&R) keeps an ear out for when we’re looking to sign new talent.+How Best an Indie Band Should Seek Out Music Licensing
That said, you might be wondering what exactly a company like RHM looks for when they’re signing a songwriter, artist, or band with the goal of having significant synch success with them. First and foremost, of course, we want to work with tremendously talented people. The music has to make us sit up and take notice the first time we hear it—if it does, we know that people in the synch world will take note, too. Take one of our most recent signings, Bronze Radio Return. Our SVP of A&R, Jonnie Davis, brought this amazing (and very synch-friendly) band to us. When I asked him what caught his attention about them, he had the following to say:
“The first time I heard Bronze Radio Return they simply sounded authentic and effortless. The uniqueness of Chris Henderson's voice grabbed my attention immediately and led me directly to the storylines of their songs. I felt they had the heartbeat of the country, true Americana; they reminded me of a young Creedence Clearwater Revival (and I don't say that lightly). The production of their material was flawless, tastefully crafted, and skillfully produced. It was just obvious, and by the time I got through the first chorus of the first song, I wanted to listen to all the others. When I saw them live in NYC, it was a sold-out crowd, and everyone in the audience knew every single word to every song. My eyes just welled up, I felt overwhelmed, and I knew I was witnessing greatness.”
When Jonnie played them for everyone on the synch team at RHM, we all recognized the band’s immense talent. Bronze Radio Return has a keen sense of melody that shines through in their songs, and Chris, the lead singer and songwriter, conveys those melodies beautifully with his standout voice. When we’re pitching songs to music supervisors, we’re not alone—every other publishing company, synch representation firm, and record label is also sending them music. If our artist has a unique quality, though, they’ll be more memorable; they’ll stand out from the pack and get noticed. Combine that with catchy melodies that cause their songs to get lodged in the listener’s head, and their music will really have a fighting chance of getting licensed.
Lyrics are massively important, too. The chorus or hook of a song needs to simply and clearly convey the song’s message, and it really helps if that message is something that comes up often in synch song searches. Advertisements or promos tend to go for more positive themes, like togetherness, feeling good, determination, empowerment, and assurance. “All In” by Bronze Radio Return is a great example of an uplifting determination song that would work well in commercials. Sadder songs about the struggles of life (like Bronze Radio Return’s “World Spin, Home Spun”) or heartbreak and relationship difficulties might have more of a place in the film and TV world. Lyrics have to strike a good balance between being specific to a topic like those mentioned above, while still remaining general enough that you could imagine them working in a few different ways. For instance, an upbeat song about togetherness that isn’t explicitly romantic could work in an advertisement with a storyline about friendship, a promo for a TV show about a family, and a movie montage scene of happy romantic coupledom. Another of our bands that is very synch-friendly is American Authors. Two of their songs that encapsulate the sort of lyrical versatility I just described are “Best Day of My Life” (which has been used in everything from promos and advertisements to TV shows and film trailers, etc.) and “Believer”. They both have lyrically-simple, positive choruses that could work for many different types of synch. Of course, it also helps that both songs are great catchy, feel-good tunes that make you want to sing along.
There are other things we look for when considering an artist’s synch-ability, of course. If we’re thinking about signing a band or artist, we try to get as many staff members out to see the band live as possible. That might seem totally unrelated to the band’s potential for synch success, but it’s not. Music supervisors love to go to live shows as much as the next music fan, and if your band wows them in person, they’ll remember that the next time one of your songs gets pitched to them. That extra connection between the supervisor and your music just might push your song over the edge. We also like to know about any previous synch success that a band or artist has had, and we want to make sure that everyone in the band is really open to all different kinds of synch uses.
If you’re a songwriter or artist, and you’re thinking of incorporating more of these synch-friendly qualities in your music, that’s great! One word of caution, though—don’t try to mold yourself into something you’re not. As Jonnie mentioned above when he was describing what drew him to Bronze Radio Return, authenticity is important. Music supervisors can tell what’s real and what feels forced. The same goes for those of us who are looking to sign bands and songwriters. Figure out ways to incorporate synch-friendly touches in your music without losing your core, authentic sound, and you’ll have something that people will want to work with."
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Mallory comes to Round Hill Music with a diverse music and licensing background, as cultivated through her experience in environments as varied as an edgy indie label, a renowned major music publisher, and an award-winning advertising agency. She got her start in the dual role of Digital Sales & Marketing and Synch coordinator at One Little Indian Records, where she worked with artists including The Twilight Singers, B.C. Camplight, and Björk. Her time was divided between placing songs in film and TV productions and ensuring that the label’s artists had strong visibility on sites like iTunes and eMusic. Mallory then spent four and a half years in Warner Chappell Music Publishing’s Strategic Marketing department, where she worked with the company’s writers to place their songs in advertisements and video games. While there, Mallory had the chance to interact with a wide variety of writers and music, from the Gershwin and Cole Porter catalogues, to Radiohead, Todd Rundgren, Talking Heads, Múm and The Swell Season. She then spent a year in Interactive Business Affairs at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, where she worked on a multitude of interactive advertising campaigns, including Burger King Whopper Lust, Domino’s Pizza Hero, Domino’s Think Oven, Old Navy Snap Appy, the Jell-O Mood Meter, and the 2011 Small Business Saturday campaign for American Express. She has also done independent music clearance and supervision work under her own company, Burning Snow Music. Mallory has placed music in numerous advertisements, video games, and TV/film productions, including Bioshock, the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises, Carnival Cruise Lines, Chips Ahoy, and Rescue Me. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, where she earned a dual degree in Music Business/Management and Performance (Voice).