Sync License vs. Master License for the Independent Artist

As an independent artist, one of the best ways to gain exposure and monetize your work is through licensing. With several different licenses available, it’s vital to understand what is and isn’t allowed with each one.

Master licenses and synchronization or “sync” licenses are two of the more widely-used types in the music industry. Here’s a look at sync license vs. master license and what each one means to you.

Defining Work Products

Knowing the features of different work products is key to the concept of sync license vs. master license. Music and lyrics of a copyrighted song are a separate product, distinct from a specific recording of that song. This is illustrated with the Grammys, where Record of the Year is awarded to an artist, while Song of the Year goes to the composers.

What Are Master Licenses and Sync Licenses?

  • A master license attaches to a specific recording of a song. For instance, Microsoft famously used the Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” for their Windows 95 launch.
  • A sync license, so called because the licensee “syncs” the music to visual media, attaches to the song itself. With a sync license, the licensee can have the song recorded by another artist. Over the last few years, a trend has developed of using a cover version of a famous song in movie trailers, such as Scala and Kolacny Brothers’ cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” for The Social Network.

Licensing fees are based on a range of factors, including how and where the song will be used, size of the audience, type of media and songwriter experience. “Start Me Up” reportedly cost Bill Gates $3 million!

Sync License vs. Master License

Overall, a sync license affords more power than a master license. Even if a company purchases a master license, they can’t use the corresponding work in its entirety without a sync license as well.

With companies producing more and more digital content, it’s created a growing need for music. An independent artist can benefit immensely from having their work used in a commercial, video game or Netflix series.

Clear Lake Recording Studios: The Top Resource for Independent Artists

The more professional your product, the more attractive it is to potential buyers. Clear Lake Recording Studios has the equipment and staff to help you realize your artistic vision while adding the right amount of polish. Contact us to learn more.

COVID-19 Update: Due to safety concerns and the mandate from Los Angeles, Clear Lake and Fever Recording Studios will be halting all in-person sessions.

While we are not operating on-site, we are here for you via phone and email. We are available for all mixing, editing, and remote work. At the moment we will be accepting reservations for June, but will continue to update that as the official timeline is made clear. We are here to answer any questions you may have about our services or future sessions. Please don't hesitate to reach out. Stay Safe Everyone!