Synchronization, or sync, is the process of fitting a piece of music to a visual. Although sync deals have been a regular occurrence in the west, it has emerged as an exciting part of the dialogue in the global music industry. The reason? With the advent of web-series and movies produced by OTT platforms, independent artists see it as a source of supplemental income and a channel to reach new listeners.
A sync deal can bag an artist anywhere between $200-$800 on the lower end to $3,000-$20,000 on the higher end. Besides, the right syncing opportunity can translate to reaching the right listeners in a captivating visual setting. The bragging rights of having a track synced to a crucial moment in a Netflix series is a bonus, especially in an industry where more music than ever before is available at the touch of a button.
Cheap data and the music boom
Over the past twenty years, the independent music industry in India has witnessed a gripping growth trajectory driven largely by increasing internet connectivity, a growing live entertainment market, and the introduction of streaming services. All factors have had the effect of increasing listeners’ choices. The Indian Music Industry (IMI) reports that about 70% of all recorded music in India is music made for film. However, the changing landscape gives more choice to listeners, and as such, allows independent artists to reach wider audiences as well.
Telecom has revolutionized many industries in India and the music industry is no exception. India boasts of 448 million users and the lowest data pricing in the world (at USD 0.09/GB or INR 6/GB of data). These numbers mean emerging data highways, which allow listeners to access new music, including independent artists.
Additionally, live events allow listeners and talent alike to interact and engage outside the confines of cinema. India’s growing live entertainment industry boasts of the likes of Sunburn, Asia’s largest electronic music festival, and NH7 Weekender, which sees about 100,000 attendees across editions. Finally, a developing streaming infrastructure is bringing more choice to users’ fingertips with both local and international platforms.
All the factors are fuelling the rise of a nuanced market for music that goes beyond film music. The result is Indian audiences and creators sharing an insatiable appetite and appreciation for diverse sonic experiences. Nevertheless, at an international level, and to some extent at the national level, the Indian independent music industry’s potential largely remains untapped. Could syncing be the route to international and local discovery?
Indian artists on the international radar
Indian independent artists are entering the global sync market now, as global players pay more attention to the Indian indie music industry. The right sync could attract global and local audiences to pay more attention too.
UK-based Anara Publishing and Horus Music have recently forayed into India. They recognize the opportunity of providing syncing services for Indian talent on a global scale, as many Indian independent musicians create works in English.
These agencies appear open to representing a wide range of Indian artists. Sourcing from different artists increases the probability of landing sync deals. Appearing on Anara’s roster are Tejas and Kavya, both offer different sonic experiences. Tejas is renowned for catchy melodies and crisp acoustic production. Meanwhile, Kavya’s hypnotic electronic productions are embedded in experimental electronica. Sonic diversity is paying off. Recently, Anara announced syncing two songs by Tejas to Netflix series, The Big Day.
While Anara and Horus directly invite artist submissions, US-based SyncFloor has a different strategy to source Indian artists for global syncing opportunities. In August 2020, SyncFloor announced a partnership with Artist Originals (AO), JioSaavn’s in-house label and artist services division. AO boasts a diverse catalogue of contemporary music that includes about 40 artists across genres such as Prateek Kuhad, MALFNKTION, and Kamakshi Khanna. By aligning with AO, SyncFloor can access a curated set of artists, capturing the tip of the Indian indie iceberg for global syncing opportunities.
The entry of such players stands to encourage the flourishing of a local sync market as well. Indian audiences are no strangers to music timed at critical junctures in the storyline. After all, that is what Bollywood music sets out to do. However, in the case of film music, the music is specifically created for the film. To be “synced”, the piece of music needs to exist prior and simply be tacked on to the scene. As such, a strong sync culture moves the needle away from the music industry existing solely to create for film. Instead, we move towards a landscape where artists serve their artistic vision more freely, and not just film.
From synchronization to scoring for film and TV
Recently, popular net series like Four More Shots, Made in Heaven, and Bombay Begums have ushered in independent artists to create soundtracks. The soundtracks fortwo of these series were created by Tarana Marwah and Gaurav Raina. Both have successful musical projects, namely Komorebi and Midival Punditz.
Perhaps the most notable success from this trend is the theme song of Scam 1992, composed by musician and guitarist Achint Thakkar. Before soaring to national fame with the infectious energy of the Scam 1992 theme song, Achint was part of rock band, Rosemary, and subsequently released an experimental solo album, Shalimar. The memorable track made it to rank 1 and rank 6 in the charts of Top 100 iTunes songs and Top 200 Shazam songs, respectively.
Bringing on artists to sonically animate visual media is a welcome trend. Certainly, many independent artists may find it creatively fulfilling to score for film and TV. Additionally, a recognition of artists’ work through OTT engagements can pique interest in their independent projects too.
What will move the needle towards a strong local sync culture? In a 2019 interview for Synchtank, Mandar Thakur, COO of Times Music answered this question. He highlighted a need to have greater awareness about the concept of a music supervisor. Music supervisors are hired by film or series makers to procure appropriate music based on the creative vision and budget of a project. Thakur explains that currently most sync deals happen directly between rights holders and clients, i.e., without a music supervisor. Not surprisingly, clients chase hits over appropriate songs, as the latter involves search costs. Managing search costs, of course, is what music supervisors are equipped to do, not clients.
The opportunity is immense. The consumption of music featured in a web series as well as its supply from the Indian independent scene is booming. Global and local music supervisors stand at the cusp of syncing Indian artists to a plethora of series, inviting audiences to engage with the tapestry of sound that is the Indian independent scene.
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