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The Filthy Love Affair Between Art & Commerce
Lauren Harman, CEO of Lip Sync Music, Shares the Ins & Outs of Sync Licensing
Lip Sync represents music for film/TV/advertisement/video games/new media, acting as an agent on behalf of our artists to tastemakers and “music supervisors.” It is our job to not only throw music at these people but to understand their needs and make their jobs easier. It is our duty to the artists we sign to market and service their music to these purveyors of music, and them into better artists, composers, and business people.
We pride ourselves on enabling a number of our independent artist to stay on the independent path and even quit their day jobs. They can do this, because we (Lip Sync) don’t own anything of theirs. They retain all ownership of their work while still having the same services provided as one would at a label or publisher. Also, because we don’t own anything, we are genuinely signing and prioritizing what we love and not what is on the corporate agenda.
2015 is especially exciting for us because we have expanded our business model into ways that we can work with our artists to create even more revenue streams for them. Scissorbox is a division of Lip Sync where we create and service sound design releases, most interestingly is the component of our artists’ songs remixed into a “trailerized” format… more dramatic highs and lows, rises, explosions, orchestral elements. Trailer music is very specific and often needs more edits than other projects, so we thought, “Why not do those edits ourselves and make the work easier for supervisors and editors?”
We also started administering publishing and are partnered with Strictly Confidential internationally. So far we’ve only signed a few select artists, with whom we are in a music-making, writer-pairing frenzy right now (and I just love it). What is coming out of it is this explosion of great music and every day is like waking up to a Christmas tree of mp3s in my inbox that I helped create.
To sum it up: we are Art vs. Commerce and the filthy love affair between the two.
I’d like to answer with one word: passion. But the truth is it’s like 80% “are we over the moon about this” and 20% “is this realistic”?
Ultimately we ask ourselves two questions: Is it “syncy” but not cheesy? Is it interesting/Do we love it? If an artist isn’t necessarily “syncy” but has a cool sound and story, I know our clients will become fans and go out of their way to look for spots for that artist. Someone like a Nosaj Thing isn’t “syncy” per se, but he has that other, “star” quality.
Every two weeks we conduct A&R meetings. We gather as a team to go over between 30-50 submissions – from industry colleagues. We require all submissions to be pre-screened so that it’s 1) Not crap and 2) We know the basics, like what the best songs are, when the release date is, etc.
This is a lightning-in-a-bottle business and the way to increase your chances is to work along the parameters of how each respective field operates. For example, we know that supervisors always want “new, upcoming, or unreleased” songs that will give them an edge against their competitors.
Before starting Lip Sync I had been in the sync business for a while when it became clear that my current situation was not panning out for me. There was no growth. I had found my niche, but couldn’t keep the lights on. My family gave me an intervention, mostly because I was living with them in order to work at my cool, penniless job. It hadn’t occurred to me to leave, but when they said they wouldn’t let me stay unless I did, I left my job and started Lip Sync. The first few months were anxiety-ridden, but I kept plugging away, and the relationships I had garnered followed me into my own venture.
I’m so glad I did jump off that cliff and that a couple of my bands and labels came with me (Au Revoir Simone, Arts & Crafts, Frenchkiss Records). We got our first placement about a month later and it’s been steady growth ever since. It’s an investment of time and relationships. Hard work and hustle are at the core of our company. I firmly believe that with an “eat what you kill” mentality, you’re going to kill it hard because we all like to eat!
Six years in, Lip Sync is now made up of an incredible team of people. Ezra Remer (President/COO) calls himself the Renée Zellweger to my Tom Cruise in this silly Jerry Maguire metaphor. He is the gravity of this company, he keeps us grounded and keeps it running smoothly. Cynthia Roxanne Daft-Blondelle is the Director/Manager at Lip Sync, and a Producer for Scissorbox. She makes sure the ship runs smoothly and that everything gets done. Natasha Solovyeva, our newest addition, is the music coordinator. She is our eyes and ears, helping us function and acting as liaison to the artists we work with. Kristina Benson (LA Record) and Jon Sidel (BMG) are consultants for us, meaning they scour the streets for bands and bring them to our A&R, taking a commission on what they bring in.