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Music Metadata for Sync - The Music Gateway Bible

5 January 2017 ยท By Laurence Malpass

Sync is the holy grail for many in the music industry. A golden egg for artists, a key revenue stream for publishers, & life blood for others, such as music libraries. One of the most important elements in getting your songs placed in TV / Films / Games, & Adverts is your song’s Metadata. As we’ve just launched our shiny new Sync Portal service, now felt like a good time to cover the basics, the essentials, and some extra tips & tricks with Metadata and how it’s going to help you get your music placed.

I thought I’d give a table of content in case you already know something and want to skip ahead to the good bits. All said and done, let’s strap in, it’s going to be a big one.

What is Metadata?

Why is Metadata Important?

What Metadata should I add?

How do I embed Metadata into files?

Pitching Music - Good Practices

What is One Stop, and Music Clearance?

What is the Sync Portal?


What is Metadata?

Metadata, simply put, is information ‘about’ or surrounding a song or audio file. If the song file itself is the data, the metadata is the song title, or artist name, the track length, the BPM, genre, basically, all the stuff that shows up in iTunes and even a little bit more than that.

There is a full list of metadata fields below and their importance & usage, but for now, let’s keep it simple.

Why is Metadata Important?

There are many reasons Metadata is important (iTunes again being an example), but for this blog, I’m going to keep it Sync related, as that’s what we’re talking about (come on stay with me here).

Here’s a scenario for you. You’ve sent some (really amazing high quality, well produced) music to a Music Supervisor, and turns out they really like it, so they store it in their iTunes whilst they sort through the other 500 or so songs they’ve been sent that day (not an exaggeration). When they come back to iTunes looking for the song you sent, in case they wanted to use it, the more (accurate) metadata you’ve added to the song (genre, song name, artist name, BPM, etc...), the more likely they are to find your music again, and use it

Even if they haven’t got any use for it at the moment. One day a new film project comes along for them, and they are ready to use your music. The metadata will help them find your song quickly, and make them love you for it, so they want to come to you again for music.

But There's More

Ok, so the supervisor has found your music because you nailed your metadata the first time, and they’re ready to place it in the film. But they still have to clear and license it.

They could google your artist name and song title, find your website, find your contact information, then reach out to ask who owns the rights. Even then, they need to get in touch with the rights owners, (which may be your label or your publisher). This entire process has taken them anywhere from 1 day to months, depending on how many rights holders are involved, and how easy it was to find the rightsholder information, and how many other songs they’re clearing at the time.

By including contact information, and copyright ownership information in the metadata of the song, (we’ll show you how in a second) you can be ahead of the game and increase your chances of landing sync placements.

What Metadata should I add?

Here is a comprehensive, annotated list of Metadata you should include in your song files.


  1. Song Name - Any featured artist’s should be included here (i.e. Song Name ft. Artist) If a song is a cover, say this in the song name field - “Song Name (Original cover)” Eg. Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley cover)

  1. Artist - Artist Name

  1. Composer - First name Last name - (Ownership %) (P.R.O number)/ Repeat as necessary for multiple authors. Info should be filled out with full names, PRO information (and CAE/IPI numbers wherever possible).

  1. Year - Year the master recording was originally released.

  1. Genre - Include if possible, very useful.

  1. ISRC Code - Include if you have it , this will help identify your recording, and ensure you get paid properly.

  1. BPM (Beats per Minute) - Include if you have it, very useful but not required.

  1. Rating - Do NOT include rating. Have this empty in the event supervisors want to use it themselves.

  1. Grouping - Percentage controlled of the company clearing the master rights/ percentage controlled of the company clearing the publishing rights. Should include who is sending the song and the percent they control of a certain side. If the sender has the song one-stop, it should say so (i.e. Gratitude Sound (one-stop)). The Grouping section includes the company that is the contact the music supervisor is dealing with, not the actual cue sheet publisher name.

  1. Comments - Contact info for licensing party. Also include “consult about territories” here if there are any issues regarding territories (i.e. if you are able to clear worldwide but only if the license will be paid out of the U.S.A, or if you can only clear for specific territories)

  1. Album - Album Name

  2. Album Artist - Same as artist above, not required.

  3. Disc Number - Include if you have it, not required.

  4. Track Number- Include if you have it, not required.

If you have extra data, such as mood, or instrumentation, cover versions, or anything else. Generally, the rule is more is better. Just be sure to format things so they are readable, do NOT USE CAPS, and be clear and watch for typos. Is that everything? Well, probably not, but it’s a good start.

How do I embed Metadata into files?


If you are signed to a record label, they will do this for you. If you are releasing music independently, or just wondering how this is done, you can use a number of different tools for this. Here’s a list of some with useful descriptions:

Personal shout to KID3, which is not only free, but pretty comprehensive, and includes the ability to embed ISRC codes, useful if you’re releasing or distributing music independently, otherwise you label guys will know all about this already. If you have preferred tools here, let us know why, and we can update this section.
Pitching Music - Good Practices

As we already know, Music Supervisors get sent a HUGE amount of music daily. They only tend to download songs that they’re interested in, or think they could find a use for in later projects. That being said, any music you send to them needs to be in streaming format, with a download option.

Lucky for you, we’ve built a professional playlist tool for this exact purpose. Just sign into your Music Gateway account, hover over ‘My Work’ in the navigation bar, and select ‘My Playlists’, where you can create playlists of your own music to send to supervisors & whoever you want!

But what about the email itself? Obviously just sending a link on it’s own isn’t enough. Well, here is one example taken from an interview with Music Supervisor Lindsay Wolfington.

“Subject line: “sounds like (popular artist), for (TV show currently working on)

Body: I’ve been watching your show and I saw you do _____. My music sounds like ______ (this type of music and maybe these bands). I own 200% of these songs. (100% Publishing / 100% Mechanical)

Don’t pitch a fee. The Supervisor will come back with a fee range and ask if that will work for you. And then she will pitch the song to the producers.”

We did a post about this a while ago, if you’d like some further reading on this, click here!

What is One Stop, and Music Clearance? 

Every time a supervisor needs music for their project they have to clear it. This means contacting the owners of the rights, and asking permission to use it.

As we all know, there are two main copyrights that need to be cleared, the mechanical (a.k.a Master rights), and the performing rights (a.k.a Publishing rights). The master rights cover the actual sound recording of the song (mp3, CD, Vinyl). Whereas the publishing rights cover the song itself (lyrics, melody, composition).

One Stop, is a term used by the industry to express how easy it is to clear a particular piece of music. If a rights owner owns 200% of the rights (100% master / 100% publishing) then the supervisor only has one phone call to make to clear the song, hence ‘One Stop’.

Having one stop music is highly desirable, as it makes you easy to work with, and means supervisors are likely to want to work with you.

License Terms

Usually a publisher (you in this case) will request certain information from the Supervisor on the usage. This helps them determine the price of the license, so they can issue a quote. (It doesn’t hurt to already know the Supervisors budget at this point).

*  What song and who wrote it

*  Length of Usage (if unsure, decide on a maximum length the usage could be and state "up to but not more than...")

*  Territory, (normally by country, or worldwide).

*  Proposed Advertising and marketing uses such as trailers and television/radio commercials

*  Description of the scene where the music will be used (sometimes publishers will request script pages or rough video footage). Also included here would be whether you wish to use an existing sound recording or intend to re-record the song.

*  Length of the license, usually in years or in perpetuity

You don’t need to worry about this too much unless you’re being hit up for licenses on the regular, but it’s handy to know.

What is the Sync Portal?


The Music Gateway team have been working hard over the years to deliver opportunities to our members across a number of fields, including sync. We’re now expanding our range of services to include the newly launched Sync Portal. 

We’re working with some of the best Music Supervisors across TV, Films, & Gaming, & have an exclusive channel into a large number of Advertising Agencies. The Sync Portal is a way for our members to have their music represented by Music Gateway, so we’re doing all the heavy lifting, trying to get your music placed!

Long story short, if you own 100% of your master & publishing rights, and you want to expand the opportunities your music is available to, then the sync portal may be right up your street.

There’s more information on the Sync Portal here.

To join the sync portal, create your free Music Gateway account here.  

Check out some more Music Gateway articles on sync:

How Sync Music Is The Gateway For New Artists

Sony ATV Talks To Us About Music For Film & TV And The World Of Sync And Licensing

Tyler Shamy Gives Advice On Sync 

International Song/Sync Placements: Why Not To Give Up On Them 

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