Expert TalkMusic Business

Expert Talk with Amelia McCloskey – owner of AM Licensing

Dear readers, we are proud to present a special talk with Amelia McCloskey today.

Songwriters across the globe are focusing more and more on pitching music for sync – as opposed to “solely” pitching to A&Rs and publishing companies in the hopes of finding an artist who might end up cutting their song. For anyone that hasn´t heard the term „sync“ before, this abbreviation stands for „synchronization“. Pitching music to sync agents,  music libraries or directly to music supervisors aims at getting songs placed in moving pictures, such as films, TV series, ads or on websites. Whenever music is added to film, a sync license is required. Meaning the songwriter has to allow the use of their song and by doing so they usually receive a certain fee. Likewise the Master Recording owner has to allow for the use of their recording.

Now, as already mentioned, besides pitching to music supervisors (who are in charge of sourcing music for projects), there are also sync agents, who are independent players, connecting music creators with music supervisors. The sync agent usually receives a cut of the sync license fee once a song gets placed.

Amelia is a  sync expert who runs a UK based company called AM Licensing, focusing mainly on music supervision in film and TV projects of all sorts.

We chatted with Amelia to discuss the sync industry and her background in the music industry. So, sit up, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy reading this inspiring chat!

Amelia, thank you so much for making time to chat with us today. You are currently immersed in projects surrounding the Toronto Film Festival, so we appreciate that you made time for us despite your busy schedule! You are the founder and owner of AM Licensing, offering multiple services for artists and media professionals. Would you define your company as a sync agency in the traditional sense?

Well, I have started out as a sync agent in the licensing business indeed, but now I am more moving into music supervision, so I am now combining the two and it´s looking like I´ll probably do more of the music supervising than the agent side in the future, but it all intertwines anyway and I will keep pitching my catalogue of course. For me it is all about finding the right music for the project, so I´ll be looking everywhere for whatever the director needs.

But yeah, I started as a sync agent and I still do pitch for sync placements. My end goal has always been music supervision though!

That sounds interesting! Do you primarily work on projects like movies and TV shows or are you more focussed on advertising or all of it?

I specifically focus on film and TV! A lot of my placements have been through Netflix TV series which have been popular in the Latin markets. Monarca was my first placement, that was very popular there… That was through Salma Hayek´s production company and I made a great connection with a music supervisor in Mexico that helped launch my sync career.

The Spanish Netflix series Élite came next. That is also very popular in the Latin markets and was also recently on the top 10 in the UK on Netflix.

I´ve also had a sync placement with La Venganza de Mascarita and a US film called Endless which was released in cinemas and on demand which was through a US based music supervisor.

Since then it´s been mainly music supervision. I just wrapped on a German feature film actually. I went out to Berlin last year for Reeperbahn Festival as I was selected out of hundreds of companies in Europe to be part of the Reeperbahn Nashville and Beijing digital music conference. The German market has been good to me so far, there’s also a couple of UK and Canadian music supervision projects I am about to start working on as well!

Oh wow! You are indeed working quite globally and covering so many prestigious projects. That is fantastic! Tell us a bit about your journey and how you got to where you are today, would you?

Yes, I was very focused the past couple of years to build things up from scratch really. And I didn´t know a lot about licensing when I went into it! My background was in managing and developing artists. I had started out as a vocalist and artist myself and then started managing artists for 10 years and I still run that business to this day as well. I actually run a vocal studio and just won “Vocal professional of the year” Award recently.

Yes, we heard! Big congrats on that, Amelia! That is fabulous! Gotta celebrate that!

Thank you! Yes, it means a lot! I´ve been working on that my whole life and it is nice to see when you get some recognition. If you work day in and day out and don´t even think about it, then you know,sometimes it is good to step back and enjoy some of the achievements which is nice!

Yes, absolutely! I mean, working in the music industry requires a marathon mindset and you can see that in your curriculum vitae very clearly! You just laid out how versatile you are. You´ve been in so many positions and fields. You graduated from ACM Guilford and you´ve spent time working abroad. Now you are focusing on the UK and exploring that “home” market. Is that the best way to go in the music business? To just step in?

Exactely! And I think most people that work in the industry wear different hats these days! You have to do multiple things and I have done so as well. From being a booking agent, to PR, to producing artists, songwriting…you name it I’ve done it!

It gives you a good overall view, but licensing and landing deals and working on films is really my passion now and helping indie artists come through and giving them a chance to establish themselves through licensing. It´s what I´m very passionate about now.

That is so valuable, Amelia! Cutting through the noise is so hard. There is so much competition and like you said, whether you work on the business or the artist side of a project, you have to wear those different hats in both cases and be flexible and well educated and have an entrepreneurial approach. I think it is interesting that you focus quite a bit on the indie artists. Everybody wants to get into sync these days, but there´s much competition out there. Do you think the market is saturated at this point or is there still room for new (indie) artists?

I´d say probably both. It is saturated for sure, and especially with the lockdowns we had in place a lot of artists focused on pitching for sync, but there is also the other side, which is that we need more content now than ever before.  So, I would say it´s all about the basics of hard work, determination and persistence and knowing your industry inside-out that already sets you apart.

Right! Believe in yourself and be persistent…

Yes! Be persistent, don´t be annoying though! And get really clued up in doing your research, knowing what you need to do to stand out and own your metadata! Because Metadata is so important, make sure you have it, make sure it is correct.

Metadata is such an important topic to touch on! On your website you even offer a “how to insert metadata correctly” guide, which I think is brilliant! Maybe, could you explain why metadata matters so much?

Yeah, I think often times people don´t even insert metadata or just enter the very basics. But we need to know who wrote the song, what percentage they´ll get, which PRO you are with. Know what your IPI number is. Know your tune codes. Have the tracks been registered? If they haven´t been registered, they won´t get licensed and you won´t get paid.

Also, another thing a lot of people don´t know. If you insert metadata into wav files, they won´t get stored. Only works with mp3.

So, metadata IS mandatory! What else do you think is essential when sending music out to professionals?

Include your lyrics and instrumentals. The more you give the music supervisors, the more you make their jobs easier, they more they want to work with you!

Would you also suggest to register your own publishing company? A lot of artists work with publishers…Are there pros and cons in your opinion?

Yes, it does of course make things easier, if you own all your rights (including the publishing) as that makes it easier to clear rights.

I actually also offer sync licensing mentoring. I don´t officially advertise it through my website, but I do offer personal coaching, including feedback on your songs and the production. This is where my artist development background comes in.

It´s all about helping someone find their strength, so they do not waste time on areas that aren´t working for them. I also help them brand and launch themselves in a marketing sense and helping them figure out how and who to pitch their songs to.

That´s a great service that I believe fills a gap in the indie market!

Yes, absolutely! So many don´t understand the ins and outs or just need help in particular areas. I work with these client in the States who are composers and songwriters and one of them has an issue with learning to compose strings. So I´ve got one of the top string arrangers in the UK who´s sold millions of albums and has been in countless orchestras to do a masterclass for them. So it is things like that. Noticing what you need to get better at, because that might be the reason why your songs won´t get licensed.

I love that! So you can bring in the right people to sit in the right seats on the bus! Networking plays a big component in this industry in general I´d say. Do you agree?

Networking is key for sure! Attending conferences and getting out there as much as you can. But before you do that your music has to be ready and be top quality, using top quality plugins and things like that!

Which brings me to my next questions… What are some mandatory requirements you look for when people send you songs and how many songs should someone have as a minimum in their catalogue to even be considered working with?

Do send 3- 5 tracks, but no more than that. Regarding what I listen to the most, depends on whether I am working on a specific project and looking for something specific, but if I just listen in general, I go by what catches my interest, what grabs  me.

So, you are not restricing yourself to a certain genre or style, but really staying open to whatever resonates with you?

Yes, definitely! All music is welcome!

Amazing. I think what holds people back is the fear of sending something. Will it fit with the requirements, but you gotta start somewhere…

Yes, always go out there and get some feedback. Don´t be too scared to give things a try. Just allow for constructive feedback and keep working on things. Don´t get dishearted if you get a no. The thing with this business, as you know is, that it is tough! You need to have that “get back up” mentality.

So  true! Tell me, Amelia, with your vocal expertise, you probably listen closely to vocals in tracks. Are there any do´s and don´ts that you personaly look for or get turned off by?

I mean I don´t just listen to the vocals. I have also produced a lot of tracks and collaborated with many producers, so I always also listen to the quality of the mix. But when listening to the vocals I listen to the tone, the pitch and their personal style. Are they singing songs that suit their voice? Is the song too big for them? Are they trying to sing above what they are capable of in terms of their range?

Oh yes- that is a good one! I am just learning that myself…working with a vocal coach alongside me, to be ok with lowering the key if things strain your voice.

Yes, exactely! Singers get so caught up on thinking that to be a good singer you need to sing high songs, but that is not the case at all. It is all about singing in a range that shows off your voice at your best ability. Some of the best singers were low singers, but the tone and the richness of it made them special! So, singing high is not something to always aim for! Or also, singers that want to sing with chest voice, even if their tone is more head-voicy naturally.  So they just push their voice! I think it´s about being yourself. Don´t try to be Adele or Mariah Carey. Because they are them and you are you!

That makes so much sense! And it is a relief to me myself to be honest! You can of course be a vocal acrobat, if that´s who you are, but if you are more of a storytelling type of singer, that´s cool as well.

A lot of it is confidence that really shines through and owning your own style. That´s what I respect in a singer. It´s like in every day life as well. Show people your voice and who you are and stay true to it!

Hearing you! Let´s talk songs again. With regard to songs that are sync-able, there seem to be certain “rules” some people go by…like…short intros, no fades at the end…are there any preferences you personally have when sourcing music?

I mean everyone has different preferences, but you cant go out there worrying about all that too much, because you can´t serve everybody. I do not have any of those rules.

That´s amazing! Last not least, how important are “precleared” tracks in your daily work?

With my agency I preclear everything. So I know exactely who the master/publishing rightsholders are, they already have signed contracts with me to allow me to represent them, and then I can offer the music one stop through me.

I see! Speaking of it, with regards to AM Licensing  and your services, how does a working relationship between you and the artists you represent look like?

You can send music and if it fits with our catalogue, we send a contract for a 3 year term, that allows us to represent and pitch that music non-exlusively to industry professionals or place them on our projects.  We also send out briefs  to the artists in our network. So that is an additional service. We also always look into our database if briefs come in super urgent so we are both proactive and reactive with pitching.

That sounds amazing! So, Amelia, if you agree, we will post your social links and website link below, so our readers can get in touch and pitch their best music to you!

Yes, please do!

Thank you so much for your time and your valuable insights! We wish you best of success with all your projects and business ventures!

Thank you for the opportunity!

To contact and follow Amelia, please check the links below:

Website: https://www.am-licensing.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/am_licensing/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amlicensinguk

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amelia-mccloskey-94392626/

The interview was conducted and transcribed by Katie Wellenberg

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