Why sync deals can make or break a song

From an up and coming artist’s perspective I can really see the advantage of sync deals. The prospect of millions of new people hearing your music on such a grand global scale must be overwhelming, especially if as an artist you’d be lucky to feature on someone’s Spotify weekly playlist before the deal.

Obviously not every sync deal will do wonders for an artist as it all depends which company/brand/product you are aligning your music with. Sure, if you sign a deal with vagisil your music will be played regularly on national television to a whole host of people that you probably wouldn’t have reached otherwise. But, do you really want to be the band associated with itchy vaginas for the rest of your career? However, if you’re lucky enough to get a company such as Apple to associate their brand with your song then you’re on to a winner. Take for instance Alabama Shakes. It was the stunning ‘A Great Big Universe’ advert for the Apple iPad Pro that first introduced me to this fantastic group. The advert itself is a work of art, pairing majestic visuals of space with the soulful beauty of Alabama Shakes song, ‘Sound & Color’. It had my attention from the get go. I didn’t care what the advert was for, I just knew I liked it. Instinctively I opened up Shazam, not willing to let this song go without identifying it and thus, was introduced to Alabama Shakes. Thank you Apple, although no my love for the advert did not transfer into the desire to buy an iPad Pro.

The issue with sync deals comes when companies use old songs that have already had their time in the spotlight. I now present exhibit A: Return of Django by The Upsetters. Released in 1969 and produced by the legendary Lee Perry, this skinhead ska track reached number 5 in the UK singles chart, which in most people’s eyes would make it fairly successful. My issue is that the first time I heard this track it was being used as backing music for a HMRC advert about renewing tax credits. Shame on me for not having come across it sooner right? But, I’m afraid that is the way it happened and now I am forever destined to associate the record with tax credits. I realised just how big an affect this had had on me when Return of Django featured on my Spotify weekly playlist. Each time shuffle brought forward an offering of the song I found myself skipping, unable to listen to more than 7 seconds without feeling like I’d forgotten to press the ‘skip the add’ button.

All in all, I’m for sync deals. They’re a great way to give exposure to new artists and to create strong sonic branding for businesses. It’s just a shame that through this process our memories of some records can tarnished by association.

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