Photo: Erla Axelsdóttir by Jean-Philippe Sansfacon
For most young bands, it is a matter of common sense to begin by focusing on their home market before trying to expand their popularity abroad. Various seismic changes in how music is produced, distributed, and discovered have certainly made it more plausible to become big halfway across the globe, but the fact remains that touring (still one of the best ways for a band to raise its profile) is difficult and expensive, and working with publicists who understand the subtleties of their local scenes can be pricy.
Why travel halfway across the world before you’ve even had the chance to hone your skills and perform for your friends and family? Touring and concentrated promotional efforts are critical, but the timing has to be perfect and the set-up has to be immaculate.
The field I work in, however, presents a bit of an exception to the rule. I run Friendly Fire Licensing, a boutique sync-licensing agency that works to place tracks in TV shows, films, commercials and video games. When it comes to sync licensing, I am generally freed from the constraints of geography and album cycles; most music supervisors are simply looking for the right song for their project, whether it comes from down the block or halfway across the world. I’m able to pitch older songs, songs from unknown bands, and songs from artists that have never toured abroad. In fact, in many ways it is a selling point to be able to present a diverse catalogue of music from around the world. I’ve been able to land syncs for everything from 60’s Korean psychedelic rock to Uruguayan hip-hop, styles that (needless to say) are not in great supply in my home of California.
In fact, a sync placement in a major TV show or commercial can help jump-start a band’s career, and help them direct their funds and efforts into focusing on the right territories. I’ve seen bands get big in the United States on the basis of a single ad placement - it can be a game-changer. For this reason, I encourage bands to start thinking early about their strategy with regard to licensing and synchronization.