London Sync Sessions 2015 Round Up
Last week saw the inaugural London Sync Sessions, held at Metropolis Studios, which brought together many leading lights from the UK & US sync industry. The event was superbly organised by the Metropolis team of whom Ru Hollier, David Fish and Gemma Dempsey deserve special praise.
London Sync Sessions Panel
I had the privilege to moderate a panel called Sync Is Dead, Long Live Sync comprising experts from both the buyer and seller side of sync transactions plus an independent music supervisor. The panellists were:
- Music Publisher: Natasha Baldwin, Group President, Creative & Marketing, Imagem Music Group
- Record Label: Rich Robinson, VP Synchronisation UK & Europe, Warner Music Group
- Advertising Agency: Roy Swansborough, Producer, JWT
- Brand Marketer: Alison Miller, Project Manager, Hunter Boot
- Music Supervisor: Susan Stone, Cecilia
I was keen to explore some of the findings from our recent research piece The State Of Music Rights Licensing and establish if the feedback from respondents struck a chord with the panellists.
We began by comparing the automated platforms through which production library and unsigned / unpublished catalogue is licensed with the more manual process still used for established artists / writers signed to majors and large independents. Whilst the rights owners on the panel felt that processing lower-value deals could possibly be more automated, it was stressed that high-value deals required close personal attention during the artist / writer approval stages. We illustrated this point with approval chain slide below:
Next up, I challenged the panel with some of the specific comments from the research piece:
From the above slide, I particularly wanted to discuss the request for broader deals in which music could be used across an entire campaign. Interestingly there was consensus from both licensees (brand and agency panellists) and licensors (publisher and label panellists) that piecemeal deals were frustrating and overly time intensive. All agreed that it made sense to grant broad rights upfront provided that there was sufficient licence fee budget available to accommodate it within the deal.
We also explored the pay-per-view point, especially in relation to public archive – the practice whereby many brands like to keep their past content on their YouTube channel as a catalogue of work. There was general recognition that most campaigns have a front-end spike in views though unlike for feature films and TV programming, the rights owners felt that in perpetuity licences for branded content had not yet become common place. More work is needed on this issue I feel.
Next up, we considered some of the comments from rights owners about brands and agencies:
The rights owners complained that a small minority of intermediaries (acting for brands and agencies) withheld the true size of clients’ music budgets in order to keep a share for themselves. This lack of transparency is indeed to be challenged and we always recommend that brands and agencies contract with, and pay, rights owners directly in all cases.
We then touched briefly on the age-old complaint that brands and agencies deal with music at the 11th hour and expect it to be cleared at very short notice. All agreed this was highly frustrating though the licensee panellists went some way to explain how this happens. There are of course many decision makers within both brand clients and their advertising agencies. Everyone has an opinion on music and these often change as the campaign creative develops, especially during post production.
I then asked the panel to consider a future in which the sync business was re-invented by the finance industry – a market within which blocks of sync rights were commoditised, being bought and sold like copper and tin. This far-fetched idea arose from a meeting long ago with a client-side marketing procurement manager for a well-known breakfast cereal manufacturer. He’d recently moved over from ingredients procurement in which he purchased rice by the ton. Having been handed the marketing services remit (which included advertising production, and within that, music), he brought the same mind set to music rights buying. Having no understanding of the complex and fragmented music rights landscape, he couldn’t understand why sync licence fee pricing seemed so arbitrary without the usual laws of supply and demand.
Interestingly, my idea wasn’t immediately shot down in flames and we discussed how the value of a particular song or recording might fluctuate. The rights owners explained that sync licence fees were driven by events in an artist’s / writer’s career such as album launches, live shows, TV appearances, other syncs, reviews, collaborations – all of which could be advantageous or detrimental depending on the circumstances.
Finally, we debated the importance of human relationships in the sync licensing process. All agreed that direct conversation, rather than email, could be the difference between getting a deal across the line and seeing it flounder. This explained why, especially on larger deals, sufficient time was needed to ensure that all parties were happy and none came away feeling sore about the deal. Now that’s a sentiment I completely agree with!
My sincere thanks to Natasha, Rich, Susan, Alison and Roy for giving up their valuable time to join the panel and share their insights with the audience at London Sync Sessions. Thanks also to all the team at Metropolis for hosting such a professionally-run and enjoyable event.
If you were there and would like to add your thoughts on the above, please do so in the comments below.