#169: Cathy Heller – Selling songs for sync licensing

Cathy HellerWant your songs placed in TV and film productions? Had success in sync licensing, but you’re looking to secure higher-profile placements? In this episode, Kevin talks with Cathy Heller, an independent artist who quit trying to “make it” in music via the traditional route, and focused instead on sync licensing, becoming a go-to source for music supervisors. Cathy shares some great ideas and tips in this podcast that will help you get more out of your music catalog.

  • Super-awesome interview, Kevin and Cathy! Thanks so much. Enjoyed the podcast as always 🙂

  • gillwire

    Such a great interview, inspiring me to work harder. Thanks!

  • kbreuner


  • How about sharing some of the links mentioned in the interview?

  • kbreuner

    Here are some of the sites Cathy mentioned:


  • Thanks Kevin!

  • btw – the middle one seems to be some sort of medical site.

  • Cathy mentions finding a rep from a company who is very interested and enthusiastic and letting them handle your pitches so your songs don’t end up on the shelf for two years. I know people who have songs sitting on the shelf who signed them up exclusively with an enthusiastic rep. The problem is, that at the beginning of a rep relationship, they may be enthusiastic, but you have no idea whether they are going to be diligent or whether they know enough people and the right people to get placements for your songs. Lorde got $1M advance when she signed to a publisher. That is an indication of how confidant the publisher is that they are going to make their $1M back. But an exclusive rep for your songs who does not give you an advance has no skin in the game. If they fail to get you a placement they can simply say your music is not right for the market, try writing something different. Meanwhile, what one rep views as a sure thing, the next rep will say is unlicencsable. That is why manufacturers typically do not sell to one customer, because what happens when the customer flakes? If you have 9 more customers a 10% business loss may not put you under. And that is the advantage of non-exclusive retitling. You don’t have to put your trust in one person who may not perform. For the last 10 years conference panelists have been saying that non-exclusive is going away, but it’s still here.

    It was interesting going into Tunefind and Splendad and finding that none of my songs were listed by artist, song, episode or show, despite my having 3900 Tunesat detections in the past few years. As Tunesat says, 4/5 of all song uses on TV go unreported. I will be happy when this industry no longer depends on voluntary compliance and reporting. If ASCAP doesn’t find your ad in Competitrack, as far as they are concerned, it never happened, even if you can send them the Youtube link to the ad.

  • kbreuner

    I deleted it. Seems like it may no longer exist.

  • Farnell Newton

    Thank you so much! Enjoyed this podcast tremdously especially since the last year I have has a great turnout in licensing music.

  • Tobias Panwitz

    Great and very informative/motivating interview, Kevin & Cathy! Thanks s lot! Does anyone have experience of how big a share publishers usually take, like a minimum/maximum?

  • Cathy it seems that all the sites who want your music wants to own the Publishing, is this a good idea for an unknown or should you try to keep your publishing?

  • Jan Seides

    This is one of the best interviews you’ve done on this podcast. All the questions I would have asked were answered thoroughly. Any chance Cathy Heller will be a speaker at the conference?

  • kbreuner

    Thanks! I tried to get her for the conference, but her third child is due at the same time. Hopefully the following year!

  • Old Man

    Every sync I’ve tried to do has wanted 2/3 of my publishing. My counteroffer reads like this:

    ‘Here is my proposal. I’ll need 100 percent of the sync, 80 percent of the master with 20 percent as a finders/management fee to you. I retain 100 percent ownership. There is to be no reassignment of publishing, no admin to SonyATV. If the song is to appear on a soundtrack album, in addition to the current mechanical rate to the publisher, there will be a fee of $1000.00 per master recording. Liner notes shall state the the recording is written by Pete Bradt and licensed from PBradt Music.

    If this is acceptable, we can proceed. If not, thank you for your feedback, and perhaps we’ll do business down the road.’

  • Jan Seides

    Yeah, babies do kind of take precedence. Congratulations to her family!

  • Curtis Wayne Hurley

    Just had this discussion with another person about licensing. This is just conformation. I’m in this now!

  • Curtis Wayne Hurley

    Just had this discussion with another friend of mine. This is just confirmation. I’m on this!

  • Natalie Dietz

    A very informative podcast. What an inspiring woman!

  • Cathy Heller

    I’ve never worked with a publisher. I don’t usually recommend it. I only think it’s beneficial if they will truly help an artist multiply their relationships and give them a huge amount of added value, otherwise I say keep your publishing. As for a licensing deal, they usually take anywhere from 30-50%.

  • Cathy Heller

    wow, 2/3 is a lot. I think you’re smart not to do that.

  • Cathy Heller

    love it! keep going, with that attitude you’re already competing against such a smaller pool of people then you think.

  • Cathy Heller

    there are plenty of licensing agents who won’t own your publishing. I would see if you can find a deal without that. I know it’s customary for an agent to take a piece of publishing if they get you a license over a certain dollar amount or if they bring you a scene to write for that is custom, but to straight up take publishing doesn’t make a ton of sense to me without giving you a lot for it.

  • Chester A Thomas

    Wow l love the podcast it was very helpful. I have over 600 songs in my Catalog mainly Instruments that I would like to try to get sync licensing. It is time to hustle. Thank You

  • Old Man

    Not from me.

  • Joe Sedita

    Great Interview!

  • Bethany Brinko Robertson

    Cathy Heller- Hi! I am an independent artist. I have a small catalog of well produced music. I don’t have an agreement with a licensing company and I am not sure how to go about choosing a good licensing company/agent. Any advise there? Thanks so much for the podcast! This is exactly what I want to do with my music career and have just been lost as how to start. This podcast was inspiring, thanks again for sharing.

  • Tobias Panwitz

    Thanks, Cathy! Looking forward to tuesday!

  • Tobias Panwitz

    Ok, thanks for sharing!

  • Just listened to this last night. This was a great one. Answered a lot of my questions. It still seems like a complex system, but I have a clearer understanding of where to start and what they’re looking for in terms of music content. Thanks!

  • Is there somewhere that lists all the websites mentioned in the podcast? There may be some discrepancies….. for example, http://tvcommercialssongs.com/ is a medical website. Thanks!!

  • David Michael Weiss

    Hi Cathy—I signed up for today’s webinar but haven’t received any log in info. Has that info been sent yet or will it be sent today? Thanks, David.

  • Catherine Heller Reinstein

    Hi David,

    Here is the link for today’s webinar: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V1bjI12u9VA
    Don’t worry if you don’t have the time to join us live today, the webinar will stay streaming at this link for a few weeks.

    My full online course is finally open for enrollment today! You can learn more about the class and enroll here: http://6-figure-songwriting.teachable.com/courses/6-figure-songwriting

    Here’s a video from me with more about my class:



  • Anyone else find her $1000 fee for the class i tiny bit excessive?

  • Hello Cathy and Kevin,
    This was very informative, thank you both. I have one question. At the beginning, prior to the interview, Kevin said that the idea was that “I can have this whole back catalog working for me and making money for me.” But Cathy said that you have to do the research, find out what kind of songs the TV and ad people want, and change the way you write songs to give them what they want. Is there a way to do what Kevin said at the beginning? That is, is there a market for songs that you wrote without any regard for what TV or ads want? Songs you wrote to express a certain passion or emotion at the time?

  • Catherine Feeny

    Hi there, and thank you, Cathey and Kevin. Valuable info conveyed in a clear and compelling conversation. I have another question I would love answered — is there an established/kosher way to get the contact of a music sup and reach out to them, or should we just be tricksy? For instance, if I want to get a track to Charlie Haggard at NBC Universal, but his e-mail is not public, should I call his office? Contact him through linkedin? I have a synch agent, but they have a lot of big clients, and in fairness, the content of my tunes puts them in a specific niche. Thanks again.

  • kbreuner

    Absolutely. Most TV shows and films are looking for existing music. Cathy is doing a lot of work writing for commercials which use a lot of custom songs as they’ll want something that matches their ad campaign specifically.

  • I got on here specifically to get more information about her class. That is a bummer. Great podcast, though!

  • Natalie Dietz

    Thanks so much Cathy!

  • Chuck

    what about splitting the cost with a group?

  • Jonathan Sprout

    Kevin and Cathy: Thanks for sharing so much important info about sync licensing with so much heart! I deeply appreciate what each of you is doing to help us all! Kevin, I’ve listened to …I think…every one of the podcasts through the years. This one is my favorite, and this is the first time I’ve joined the conversation here. I trust we’ll some day meet and I’ll be able to thank each of you in person!

  • kbreuner

    Excellent! Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for leaving a comment!