God Only Knows

Recorded music, it’s in the sync: Synchronisation that is, a buzz word that’s been knocking around for a few years the meaning of which has been bastardised to neuter the actual intent.

Let me start again. In commercial music terms ‘syncing’ is the means by which a song is used in a TV show or a film, a game or a commercial – often in partnership with the creators of the aforementioned to help to popularise the song or artist.

The term first came into popular usage (for this purpose) when the industry – in which I include publishers, managers and record labels – realised that this could be a vital new promotional stream for acts and songs and that they should view it more pro-actively, rather than charge standard fixed commercial rates for each usage.

At its peak the marriage of right film, right song and right artist produced great results. Witness the case of Wet Wet Wet and ‘Love is all Around’ or Bryan Adams and ‘Everything I Do’, both hugely successful examples of applying a song to a film from which everyone benefits (except possibly the discerning music-lover but that’s another opinion).

From here chaos descended. As with everything the music industry achieves the stampede to clamber aboard the bandwagon began in earnest. Indie-labels and artists began to swamp US TV shows aimed at ‘like-minded-teens’ and advertisers also started to sniff around. In defence of the industry they were seeing the demise of pop-TV as the once-omnipotent MTV moved its focus from music and even stalwarts like Top Of The Pops disappeared – they needed a way to be on TV and it began to be all about the sync.

I may have summarised two decades in one paragraph there but I only intended to sketch in the background of what has become the very slow process of ‘selling-out’. There are certain artists who would never allow their music to be used for commercial purposes or partnerships; people like Tom Waits spring to mind but there are many others. In general terms they had the benefit of being in the industry when recorded music sales could still generate something of a profit. The era before it became so easy to obtain music for free whether by theft or by streaming, the time before the collapse of recorded music.

Now they tell us it’s almost impossible to make money from music sales and whatever your view on this (Adele may have a different perspective to, let’s say, The Horrors) and whose fault it was it has made it a lot easier to justify the process of synchronisation. Now you can sell your soul because no-one else will buy it and you’re convinced it’s the only way to get to market.

I started typing this morning with the intent of spewing bile and tearing hair, my wrath will perhaps be explained later (in the next blog) because the inevitability of syncing is that sometimes the product or the place are wrong. Additionally it is obvious that an advertiser with a budget will prefer to tap into something recognisable rather than risk something new.

In the meantime this piece on ‘syncing’ is two years old and you may not recognise some of the bands it references – this seems somehow appropriate.