The world of music publishing and sync licensing can be a complicated one to navigate. There are those at the majors and then hundreds of small indie shops with their own specialties and angle on the business. Sometimes these are separated into different companies to specialize, but it is also common for one company to manage both. LA & Montreal's Third Side Music is one of those companies who handles publishing and sync licensing for their hundreds of artists such as Kurt Vile, Broods, The Cinematic Orchestra, BADBADNOTGOOD and many more. They also rep resent labels like Tru Thoughts / Full Thought, Ninja Tune and Secretly Group.
In order to get a clearer picture of what they do and what it is like to work in the publishing and sync business, we decided to chat with Brontë Jane, the VP of A&R at Third Side Music. The 25-year old has risen quickly to a quite important position in an industry that isn’t the most susceptible to change. She helped sign Sofi Tukker and then their track “Best Friend” became known globally with kickoff Apple X commercial. She has also signed BadBadNotGood, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Courtney Barnett, Blonde Redhead, Kurt Vile, Colin Stetson and others for publishing.
We chatted with Jane get some more info on potential misconceptions on the business, how one actually enters it and what artists can do to get sync.
What are common misconceptions about publishing?
That all music publishers are passive partners. A worthwhile publishing partner for an artist (i.e. one with tight admin, a proactive sync department, a hands-on A&R / creative team, etc.) does much more than just acquire as many copyrights as possible and watch the royalties / backend roll in.
What can artists do to help get a sync? What are some basic first steps they should take?
The sync world is so unpredictable, and music trends continue to come and go across all media types (Ads, Trailers, Film, TV, Video Games, etc.). The best thing for an artist to do is to just remain authentic and true to their sound and not cater to what might be more “sync-able” at any given time. There’s a time and a place for pretty much anything.
Third Side Music has a very diverse roster. Was that always the intention, or did it just happen to build that way? What are some advantages and potentially disadvantages, if there are any?
It’s always been important for us to continue to build out a wide representation of artists, but everything has come together very organically. The bottom-line ethos is that we work with what we 100% love, which naturally happens to be a very diverse range of artists all doing very different things. It’s pretty amazing to be able to work with artists like Blonde Redhead, Flying Lotus and Courtney Barnett all under the same roof.
The music that gets in TV, film and ads are often very different from each other. How do you shift between those various mediums and A&R for each?
Discovering and signing artists with an eye to sync potential across medias is somewhat inherent to my role, but there are so many other factors involved / considered. It’s by no means the be all and end all. The most important thing to us is that we’re enthusiastic about the music first and foremost. That in turn translates when we’re pitching for sync, custom, and/or scoring opportunities, regardless of where the artist is at in their career or how “sync-able” they may be.
How do you listen to all the music sent to you and sort all of it?
The music that always lands at the top of my pile are things that trusted peers, our artists, or close friends flip my way. We also receive a volume of demo submissions which we try to go through as often as possible.
How do you factor in artist’s conduct outside of music when A&Ring versus being impartial and just caring about their catalog of music?
For us, an artist’s conduct outside of their musical output is just as important as their craft. For real, we have a strict no asshole policy.
How did you get your start in the music business?
My parents are both huge music heads (my dad is also still an active musician) so my childhood was always very much centered around music in its various capacities. It was sort of to the point where it felt weird if Nine Inch Nails or Björk wasn’t being blasted in the house. When I was 16, I began writing and/or editing for various online outlets and freelanced for The Line of Best Fit and DIY Mag. I also started playing bass in bands. All of the above opportunities opened a ton of doors as I was able to be in the mix with a ton of like-minded artists, managers, label folk, etc.
How did you transition out of music journalism into music sync and publishing?
I went on to work as a Music Consultant for a music supervision company called Instinct Entertainment and was then introduced to Third Side Music (as we often licensed quite a few of their acts for the TV / Film projects we were working on). I fell in love with the roster and was lucky enough to land an internship in the Licensing Department, which turned into a full-time job. From there, I made it known pretty immediately that I wanted to do A&R and they trusted me enough to take a chance.
What do you look for in a potential applicant to join Third Side Music?
It’s hard to generalize and/or summarize, but I would say we gravitate towards career acts with a distinct vision / POV who very much occupy their own lane. Artists that we work with like Unknown Mortal Orchestra, BadBadNotGood and Sofi Tukker are great examples of that. I often find that artists who sort of disorient a listener are the ones who often don’t adhere to cultural norms or trends and therefore change culture.
How can someone who isn’t in music publishing and/or sync make their way into the business, notably if they don’t have any specific experience? Even entry level jobs at all levels of music always seem to require some experience.
Start from the ground up and be as active as you can in whatever local music community / DIY scene that’s immediately around you. Build genuine relationships with those people. Go to shows, get involved in college radio if you can, research your favorite artists’ associated publishers and see where they have offices and if they have internship programs.