Syncing feeling lifts music industry and Sting song in Jaguar adverts

It seems quaint to recall that bands used to be accused of “selling out” if a TV programme or commercial used their music.

Nowadays, rock and pop artists of all kinds have become reconciled to that particular way of doing what the Clash used to call “turning rebellion into money”.

So when did it all change? Well, one of the big turning points came when Sting not only allowed a carmaker to use one of his songs in an advert, but even appeared in it too.

In the year 2000, Sting was having trouble selling his Brand New Day album, while radio stations were shunning its second single Desert Rose, a duet with Algerian rai music artist Cheb Mami.

Then, in a landmark for what is now known as “sync licensing”, the singer and his manager, Miles Copeland, had a brainwave.

The video for the song showed Sting travelling in a brand new Jaguar S-Type car. So why not approach Jaguar’s advertising agency and offer them the chance to make a commercial based on the video ?

“He was actually in the commercial,” says Matt Bristow, who is business affairs manager at independent UK record label Cherry Red. “If you had gone back to Sting in the 80s and said, ‘Would you fancy being in a car commercial?’, he would have said no.”

Essential gatekeepers

After that, the single reached the top 20 in 10 countries, including the UK and the US. And since then, sync deals placing music tracks in TV commercials, TV series, films and even video games have become steadily more important as a revenue earner for the music industry.

With record companies unable to sell physical copies of their releases in the same quantities that they used to, they have sought other sources of revenue, and sync licensing is now one of the key ones.

As a result, previously obscure job categories have come to the fore as the industry rebalances to reflect this. The 21st Century has seen the rise of music supervisors, people who oversee the process of finding the right song for a scene and making sure the right people get paid for it.

These are the gatekeepers who decide which tunes you will be hearing in that latest hit TV show, the essential liaison between the creative types who make the programme and the business people who control ownership of the music.

Cherry Red, like other record companies, fosters relationships with music supervisors and does whatever it can to make them aware of the music it has to offer.

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