Synch that deal: The importance of music in content


One of the fastest areas of expansion in the content industry is that of music licensing and synch deals. This growing focus on the music of content provides additional opportunities for creatives from the music industry to join the ever-growing video, TV, digital, film, and advertising economy.

The importance of music within content also means content producers need to move with global trends that require pre-cleared music tracks for international ready distribution. This conflation of the music and filmed con-tent industries is happening at a rapid pace as storytelling recipes change to adapt to the commercial imperatives of an increasing global market for diversified content.

For African music and content producers this means that cooperation is essential in order to tap into an increased appetite for African creativity – both in terms of video and audio content.

This increased appetite for African sounds is demonstrated by the numerous collaborations hitting the airwaves, from the likes of British Ed Sheeran and Ghanaians Fuse ODG, KillBeatz on “Bibia Be Ye Ye’ a single on his much awaited third studio album Divide, the collaboration between the highly acclaimed Canadian Hip-Hop sensation Drake and Nigerian Wizkid on “One Dance’, that was one of the top selling songs globally of 2016, and the hit single “Marry You’ by American R&B star Ne-Yo and Tanzanian artist Diamond Platinumz.

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry 2017 Report, the global music market has grown by 5.9 per cent in 2016, with streaming as the clear driver of this growth, with 60.4 per cent growth in streaming revenue, and interestingly, a 334.4 per cent increase in streaming here in Africa, driven by increased smartphone penetration in the continent and forward-thinking partnerships between tech companies and music corporates.

Streaming of content has now surpassed both physical and digital download of content, and will continue to rise with more and more major players such as Apple, Amazon, Disney, and HBO. According to CNN Money 80 per cent of (US-based) Millennials have access to streaming subscriptions, and with rapidly increasing digital penetration into Africa, this trend is being mirrored across the continent.

Subsequently, according to the IFPI 2017 report, the global music synchronisation market grew by 7 per cent in 2015, and by another 2.8 since. Midem 2016 featured a panel exclusively dedicated to African music titled “Tapping into Africa: An Emerging Music Sector’ that echoed the sentiment that there is a growing global demand for African music and its licensing.

New content streaming entries into the African market such as iflix, Netflix, and Showmax are constantly coming up with new offers to entice consumers, including the recent offer from Showmax and VAST Networks who have agreed to provide Showmax customers with unlimited Wi-Fi access to stream and download shows and movies at 83 VAST Wi-Fi hotspots across South Africa. All of these additional platforms will need content, and this content will need music.

However, in order for these streaming networks and VOD providers to license or distribute content, the producers must have already cleared and finalised their music licensing, making the synch deal ever more important.

African artists are also starting to understand this, with Kenyan singer STL tasting synch success in the last year, with three of her songs featured on Hollywood projects namely: The Rough Night movie, and TV shows Being Mary Jane and Rosewood.

This is not the first time Hollywood has tapped into the tastes of Africa to license music, as in 2006, Nigerian 2Face Idibia’s “African Queen’ was featured on Hollywood movie Phat Girlz.

African producers of film and TV content are notorious however for overlooking the importance of music. At a recent workshop at the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) that focused on the importance of music within film, award-winning and internationally recognised score composer Rashid Lanie stressed to attendees just how crucial music is to the final film product.

As he explained, many times African filmmakers spend years and all of their savings to produce the highest-possible quality film, and yet, when the time comes to select music, they are happy to go with the cheapest available library options, often drastically reducing the quality of the final product.

All aspects of music in filmed content need to be addressed and understood by African creatives. The commercial and creative imperatives that require quality and appropriate music for successful content are equally important as the business and legal frameworks that govern licensing, royalties and synch deals.

Whilst all of these elements may seem overwhelming or intimidating for creatives, it is becoming essential knowledge for anyone hoping to create content that will travel internationally.

To address this need, more and more festivals and events are stepping up and focusing on the importance of the synch deal. As mentioned previously, ZIFF hosted a three-day workshop specifically on this topic, the recent Durban FilmMart also hosted a workshop on the importance of scoring for film, however, to date, none of these events have looked comprehensively at all aspects of music for content; from the creative and commercial sides to the legal and business necessities.

Fortunately, this is about to change with the recent announcement from DISCOP Markets and Kenya’s ONGEA! Africa market (produced by Nairobi based What’s Phat). These companies have teamed up to present DISCORE, billed as a stand-alone programme focused on the synch/licensing side of the content business that will run concurrently with all of the African DISCOP markets from 2018.

The event will be launched at DISCOP Johannesburg, taking place from 25 to 27 October with an international panel of experts, and will then expand into a full three-day programme starting at DISCOP Abidjan in May 2018, followed by DISCOP Zanzibar in July 2018.

These events will be an important contributor to the growth of knowledge amongst both music and content producers and will hopefully add to an increase in international revenue and distribution for African creatives across the board.

by Lara Preston


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