Magazine article Variety

Trying to Crack the Licensing Code? Ask Cathy Heller

Magazine article Variety

Trying to Crack the Licensing Code? Ask Cathy Heller

Article excerpt

WHEN PROTAGONIST BILLY HOPE visits a children's group home in director Antoine Fuqua's latest feature film, "Southpaw," an infectious melody plays. It's nothing like the movie's adrenalin-pumping rap and hip-hop hit singles. But for singer-songwriter Cathy Heller, this is the sound of her success. Literally.

"You need a lot of magic when it comes to combining the song with the visuals," says music supervisor John Houlihan, who suggested Heller's tune to Eminem, the "Southpaw" soundtrack's executive producer. "It has to work magically in a scene but you also need luck to get through a difficult committee process."

Unlike Eminem's explicit "Phenomenal" and "Kings Never Die," and Slaughterhouse's "R.N.S.," Heller's pop wonder, "Turn the Sunshine On," is not marketed on the edgy "Southpaw" soundtrack. Nor was "Southpaw" among her most lucrative synchs. By sometimes accepting less-prominent placements, however, Heller positions herself for future five- or six-figure synchs.

"It's a relationship business and it is just one of many uses that I will have with her over the next 10 years," says Houlihan, who first licensed Heller's music in 2009.

At a time when even successful indie artists struggle to make a living from shows and record sales, Heller has managed to crack the licensing code. Synchs pay indie artists approximately $3,000 to $15,000 per TV use and $20,000 to $200,000 per ad, plus royalties. Heller's secret is to deliver something as refreshing as the "mochalicious Oreo frappe" in the McDonald's ad currently featuring her recording, "Let's Get Our Summer On." In a second McDonald's summer commercial and another for Walmart, Heller's placements are pure pop with cheerful titles, "We're Good Together" and "Let Your Colors Shine."

"The creative called for uplifting, warm music with a lyrical call-out about colors," says music supervisor Jeff Rutkowski. …

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