Sync Licensing with Alick Sethi: Music Publishing Simplified

Sync Licensing with Alick Sethi
Sync Licensing with Alick Sethi

Earlier this year, Anara Publishing joined forces with the Indian office of their sister company Horus Music to present a series of Instagram Live events entitled “Music Publishing Simplified.” We know that for independent artists, especially in India, the world of music publishing isn’t easily accessible so that’s why we decided to put together this series of sessions to break down things in easy to digest chunks. If you missed the live sessions, we’re recapping each of them in a dedicated blog.

The Music Publishing Simplified sessions were hosted by Deepa Seshadri and Deborah Smith. Deepa currently works for Horus Music India on business development. Horus Music offers bespoke digital distribution services which allow musicians and labels to sell and release their content and was established in the U.K in 2006. Since 2016, Horus Music has had a presence in India. Debs is the director of Anara Publishing in the U.K. Debs started working at Horus Music in 2012, and then launched Anara Publishing with CEO Nick Dunn in 2017. Anara offers a whole suite of music publishing services to their roster, including admin, sync licensing, A&R and writing camps.

Joining us for this session is Alick Sethi who has been a music supervisor for nearly 20 years. By concentrating on developing markets in Russia, Central Europe, India and Asia, he managed to morph himself into a full-service music supervisor that focuses on producing composers, performing creative searches and licensing. He now runs his own music supervision company, Retox Music.

Catch up on Sync Licensing with Alick Sethi on Horus Music India’s IGTV and scroll down for an overview of the session.



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How do you define synchronisation licensing / sync licensing?

Alick: Sync is short for the word synchronisation. To summarise sync, it consists of putting a piece of music on top of a visual moving image. Examples of this include TikTok videos, games, a scene in a TV show, a TV commercial, a YouTube video, and movies, to name a few.

What is the role of a music supervisor?

Alick: The role of the music supervisor is incredibly varied. Day to day tasks could include working with a client who wants guidance on music suggestions or working with a client who knows what music they want but are unsure about licensing. The fun, creative projects are where you can offer your own input, do research on a creative brief, and find a fitting piece of music. Sometimes difficulties can arise when trying to find the contact details of the record label and publisher of a particular song, and there is always lots of paperwork!

Where does a publisher fit into this scenario?

Debs: The publisher is the go-between on behalf of the artists/writers signed to our roster and the music supervisor. We build up relationships and do our due diligence to make sure that all the rights are cleared, and we also offer song suggestions to fit the brief – this makes a music supervisors job much easier!

What rights have to be cleared in order for a sync license to go through?

Debs: Two rights need to be cleared, the publishing rights (composition) and the recording rights (master). A lot of artists might hear the term “one stop” used in sync, this means that both rights can be cleared at once which usually happens when the same person owns both rights.

Alick, how do you source music for your projects? Would you rather go through a trusted source like a publisher?

Alick: Over the years you make different contacts to cater to various needs of your clients. If I’m searching for music myself, I do prefer to use a trusted source like a music publisher, they know and understand their own artists and catalogue which is very helpful.

Do you look at an artist’s social media stats or the number of streams they have in order to make a decision?

Alick: Unless the client specifies, I wouldn’t usually look at statistics. The only time I would look at social media is if I’m getting a quote from the artist that I think is too high, then I might consider checking out the statistics (number of followers etc) in order to reach a reasonable rate for my client.

Once you’ve chosen the song and the client has given it the green light, what does the next process look like in order to secure the deal?

Alick: Paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork! The main task is ensuring that the rights are cleared, and that all parties involved are happy with the budget.

What assets should an artist prepare in order to increase their chances of securing a sync?

Debs: Artists need to make sure that they have instrumental versions of their track. Your music could be used behind a scene with dialogue, so it’s important to be prepared for a range of scenarios. If there’s any explicit language within your track, it’s also wise to get a clean version made. Make sure that you have all split sheets agreed so the rights are cleared, and make sure your metadata is consistent and accurate. Another main point is to ensure that you have your lyrics ready, and if you’re dealing with a client outside of India, translate those lyrics into English, as well as including extra tags with information on the style and the mood of the song.

We’ve talked in our previous sessions about why a songwriter should join a PRO, does this matter in relation to sync?

Debs: In order to sign a sync deal, you do not have to be affiliated with a PRO. However, it is beneficial to as you will be earning royalties which means there’s income for you to collect in the future. When people find your music, they will also want to stream it (which generates publishing revenue). If you’re not affiliated with a PRO then you’re missing out!

Are budgets for a sync license in India in line with the rest of the world?

Alick: Not right now, the one country at the minute in my experience that’s so budget sensitive is India. People don’t expect to pay a lot and, more than anywhere else in the world where I’ve worked, they rely on composing new tracks. There’s still a long way to go to show clients the benefits of licensing an existing track and I’m always educating my clients about budgets.

Debs: Music budgets in general are getting smaller, even outside of India. It is important to stay positive though, with the fees being lower it means many people can’t afford major artists, leaving the door open for indie artists to get a step on the ladder.

Are things typically exclusive or non-exclusive?

Debs: It totally depends on the client and what they want. If an exclusive deal is requested, the fee should be higher as all revenue streams for that track will be blocked during that time period of exclusivity.

Alick: I’m hardly ever dealing with exclusive usages and I don’t really agree with it, unless it’s for limited exclusivity for a certain type of product for a small term of one year, for example. Normally clients don’t want to use a track that someone else has used anyway, they want to find their own identity and voice, so exclusivity isn’t really needed.