The art of synchronisation (or syncing) music tracks to all forms of visual media is a practise that has evolved dramatically over the last 15 years. It is now a vital source of revenue for artists due to the decline of record sales and the rise of digital streaming. In fact, income from music placed in British TV programmes, movies, adverts and video games rose 6.4% in 2014, generating revenues of £20 million for record labels (source: music body BPI).

There was a time when sync – particularly when related to music used in ads – was considered to be selling out but, more and more, artists are now recognising the potential rewards. Today many see it as a way to reach a mass audience and with the rise of tagging technology such as Shazam a sync deal can transform an artist’s career. It offers a great platform to gain exposure for a breaking act, or boosts sales of a new record.

Jose Gonalzales’ cover of Heartbeat for the Sony Bravia ‘Balls’ campaign in 2005 brought an otherwise unheard of artist to prominence, and I believe was a huge moment in the practise of syncing. The combination of image and song created an unprecedented reaction and many brands and campaigns have tried to emulate its success.

A great example of the potential impact of sync can be seen with the use of Scala and Kolascny Brothers version of Radiohead’s Creep on the trailer for The Social Network. Not long after the The Social Network trailer was released, a track from the same choral album – a cover of U2’s With Or Without You – was used on a ITV promo for Downton Abbey. Creep then appeared again in a charity commercial for the homeless. Was this influence, synchronicity or a very effective sync rep at work?

For years, film has led the way in music trends. For example, The Fighter utilised The Heavy’s How Ya Like Me Now throughout the film. It has since been used in many commercials for brands including Jaguar and Argos. Clearly it’s hard to truly define who influences who, but what seems evident is that adverts don’t just borrow from other culture, they now (and possibly for the first time in their history) influence it too.

The John Lewis commercials – with their slowed down alternative covers, usually sung by a female and re-arranged so the song is removed from its original context – are probably the most famous current examples of a trend in sync. It could be argued that Beyonce’s slowed down cover of her own track Crazy In Love for the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer or Lorde’s cover of Tears for Fears’ Everybody Wants to Rule the World for an Assassin’s Creed trailer are direct descendants of the success of the slowed down, emotional cover version.

Advertising’s influence on culture can also currently be seen in the Shazam chart, with music from both the Lloyd’s Bank and Premier Inn campaigns making it into the top 25 most Shazamed songs.

The question is which medium will take the lead next? With the boom of the box set, and shows like Suits showcasing up and coming bands like Phantogram, or Better Caul Saul enlisting Little Barrie to write the title music, my money is on the golden age of television.

Dan Neale is managing director of Native ( a music supervision and production company. Their services include creative music searches, music licensing / negotiation, bespoke music composition and re-records.

Staff Reporter

Share this story

Share Televisual stories within your social media posts.
Be inclusive: is open access without the need to register.
Anyone and everyone can access this post with minimum fuss.