Sync Licensing Timeline: From Creating Music to Getting Paid
Updated: Mar 3
Today's post was inspired by Aditya Dhage (thank you!) from In Sync: Music Licensing Forum. We will examine the timeline from the creation of music, to the final step where you get paid from your PRO. Enjoy!
Step 1: Writing and Recording the Music
This is the obvious first step. Figure out what kind of music you want to do (preferably something you excel at). You can get ideas from listening to music in shows, commercials, etc. You can even base an album off of one that is already published with a reputable library.
YOU are fully in control of how long this step will take. Some experienced composers might only need a few days or weeks to record a full album. Others might take several months. I think 1 album per month is a realistic goal that most can achieve without sacrificing quality.
Step 2: Mastering the Tracks
Yes, you should master your own tracks. This will maximize your earnings. Some libraries will want to master the music themselves, but in order to pitch/shop the music it is my opinion that it should be mastered. Invest in a mastering software such as Izotope Ozone. Learn about LUFS, true peak, etc. It isn't as complicated as people make it seem. In fact, some of the online mastering services literally just toss the music into a generic template!
Step 3: Pitching/Shopping the Music to Libraries
This is where the process can start to take a while and be out of your control. When shopping music to exclusive libraries, I recommend submitting to one and waiting one week before trying another. If you send it to 10 libraries in the same day, multiple libraries might want it. In this case you will have to burn one or more bridges. Also don't send a generic email to every library, customize it for each one.
Finding a library to publish your music can take days to many months or more! Most libraries won't even respond, as they likely gets dozens or hundreds of submissions per day. It is possible that most libraries have your style of music already. It is also possible that your quality or compositions aren't that good. If you get multiple emails saying that your quality isn't good enough, you may need to head back into the studio!
Step 4: Signing Your Music with a Library
Congratulations, you've found a library that will take your music! The next step is to read the contract and make sure the deal is acceptable (50/50 for sync fees and backend royalties, or better). You can negotiate the terms with the library as well until you reach an acceptable deal. If the library won't give you a good deal, simple move on.
Some libraries will have you sign the contract upon sending the files, while others will wait until the music is ready to be published.
Step 5: Preparing and Sending the Music Files
Libraries will give you a list of files that they want. These may include full track, instrumental, 30 second edit, stinger, bed version, stems, etc. My advice is to wait until your music gets accepted somewhere before creating these edits. I've made that mistake before and wasted lots of time! Usually you will send the files to them via WeTransfer, Dropbox or a similar service.
Step 6: The Library will Publish your Music
This is one of the more exciting steps. You will finally see your music live on the library's website and it will be ready for pitching and placements. At this point, I recommend putting the tracks on a website such as Tunesat, so you can find out about any TV placements in applicable countries.
The timeline for libraries publishing music can vary wildly. After signing the contract, you can expect the music to be published anywhere from 1 month later to 1.5+ years later (6 months to 1 year is typical). Be patient!
Step 7: You will (hopefully) get some TV Placements
After the music is published, you might start seeing some TV placements. Sometimes you will see them show up within days or weeks. Other times it will take months or years for them to start trickling in. Remember this is a long game, so be patient. You may find out about placements through Tunesat detections or cue sheets showing up on your PRO.
Step 8: You will (hopefully) get paid from your PRO
PRO's take anywhere from 6-9 months (or much longer) to pay composers and publishers for TV placements. Domestic payments are supposed to be paid sooner and international payments are typically later. Unfortunately not all placements pay (which is ridiculous, I know). In these cases, hopefully you will get paid sync fees from the library. Sync fees are usually paid on a quarterly or bi-annual basis.
Below is a chart showing an example of what you might expect for a timeline. This of course can vary greatly.
Typical Length (Estimate)
Recording the Music
1 week - 1 month
Shopping the Music
1 week - 9 months
Library Publishes the Music
1 month - 2 years
TV Placements Come In
Weeks or months after publishing
9+ months later
Total time: 1 year - 4 years from writing to payment
Estimated total time: 2 years from writing to payment
My advice is to not be intimidated by this timeline! This is passive income after all, and it is a really long game. Definitely don't quit your day job unless/until you are consistently making enough money from your PRO to live off. Few composers reach this point, but it is possible. At the very least, this can be a nice side hustle for full time musicians who want some extra dough (with potentially high earning potential).
Best of luck to everyone in their journey, and thanks for checking out my blog. New blogs posted every week!
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