Syncing Americana – A panel discussion at the AMAUK conference

Photo credit: Jeff Fasano

OK, we promise this is the last of our ramblings garnered from the AMAUK’s January shindig. While it is the showcase gigs and the awards show which get all the attention, industry movers and shakers get the opportunity to share their experiences in promoting americana music in a variety of  settings and here’s our report on one, how to “sync,” or, to be more prosaic, how to get your goddamn song featured on a telly programme….

Have you heard an Americana song in a film or on a TV series? You probably remember the songs by well-known artists (many of which were recently played on Sounds from Beyond the Shed vol 37), but there are many by less well-known artists you may not know of. The use of americana music has really taken off on American TV drama series since ‘Woke Up This Morning’ by the Alabama 3 was played over the opening sequence of ‘The Sopranos’. Getting a song placed by a less well-known artist can be a useful form of promotion and income. In some case the publicity can be a factor in a band reforming, such as with the placement of ‘Keep the Wolves Away’ by Uncle Lucius in an episode of ‘Yellowstone’. The Handsome Family are surely grateful to the producers of ‘True Detective’ who used their song ‘Far From Any Road’ for the title sequence on their first outing.

Sync deals are usually arranged by a music supervisor, between whoever is representing the artist/song and a prospective client. Songs can be used for a film or TV series for a trailer or the show’s credits, but increasingly they are used to help define the mood in part of the story. In the past this was this was achieved through commissioned theme music, but the trend is now for the film makers to rely on music supervisors to find what they want from already recorded music. Video games and TikTok also want songs.

The annual AmericanaFest Conference regularly features a session from a panel with expertise in syncing. As well as hearing about how it works, artists can get feedback on their songs . This year the panel included Anne Miller from Accorder Music Publishing, Lara Baker from FUGA (music distributor), Liam McMellon from Bluewater (he is responsible for sync pitching) and Mark Garfield from Pop-Up Music (publisher and sync agent).

The reviews of the tracks submitted to the panel gives a good idea of what they are looking for.

‘Broken Bird ‘by Hannah White was commended for having a ‘Dolly Parton’ quality, and also having a yearning nostalgic feel.

‘Bad Lovin’ Blue’s’ by Shellyann has punch and female swagger.

‘Lion Eyes’ by Daisy Chute is cinematic and atmospheric; it also has the value of gradually ramping up its dynamics.

‘Brothers’ by East of Reno has a good collective band sound with both swagger and warmth. Also, the theme of brothers is a good hook for conveying non-romantic love.

‘Who’s That’ by Elles Bailey is very dramatic and it was suggested it could be used on TV shows like Love Island and Traitors.

‘Straight and Narrow’ by Jonny Morgan has a great title and narrative arc.

‘Already Gone’ by Quote the Raven has lyrics that can do all the work for a scene about a relationship ending. It’s a duet between the two protagonists, which is very popular.

Songs that have clearly defined sections have greater versatility, because it means that different parts of the song can have different appeal. Also, artists can improve versatility by submitting an instrumental version of their song to music supervisors. This also demonstrates that you know how the system works.

The final piece of advice given by the panel was to make sure that the licensing is sorted out before submitting. When it comes to money in the pocket, perhaps the best advice given out.

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keith hargreaves

Thanks for the mention
TV and film dramas such a powerful conduit for song