There’s no letup in the thickening competition of music publishing.
The latest development comes from Imagem Music, the pop music division of the Imagem Music Group and the world’s largest indie music publisher, which has just expanded with new Los Angeles offices at 9165 West Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood.
The West Coast location is strategically located to be close to the heart of the film and TV community, and will be staffed with some serious experience. The Imagem catalog includes works by Elvis Presley and Sammy Cahn, in addition to songwriting talent that includes Ludacris, Phil Collins, Genesis, Anna Nalick, Steve Robson, Jens Gad, Temper Trap, Hesta Prynn, and Bombay Bicycle Club.
Here are additional details on the California crew, as provided by Imagem:
Joining the Imagem Music LA team is Shari Reich, Director of A&R. Shari comes to Imagem from Warner Bros. Records in Burbank where she was Director of A&R. At Warner Bros. Records, Reich contributed to albums from artists such as The Veronicas, Jason Derulo, Cher, and Josh Groban and worked closely with the licensing and sync department for song placement pertaining to Warner Bros. catalog in film, television, advertisement and web content. In her new role at Imagem, Reich will be working on acquisitions and song plugging.
Robert Thomas has been named Manager, Creative Services for Imagem’s West Coast office. Previously, Thomas was a Licensing Accounting Manager at Rumblefish. His other work experience includes a Coordinator role in the Film & TV department of BMG/Universal Music Publishing in LA and a Consultant at Creative Control Music Supervision in LA. At Imagem, Thomas will be working in the synch department with a sharp focus on Film & TV.
Steve King, who is based in LA for Imagem Music, has been promoted to Director, Creative Services. He was formerly Manager, Creative Services. Before starting with Imagem, King owned an artists and brand development company. Among many projects, he worked on music for global Coca-Cola campaigns such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, “Open Happiness” song and 2010 South African World Cup. In King’s almost 4 years with Imagem, he has been instrumental in procuring opportunities in film, television and gaming. He will now oversee the U.S. Creative Services team, across all media types for synch.
Imagem has promoted Brian Suh, based in LA, to Director, Business & Legal Affairs. He was formerly Associate Director, Business & Legal Affairs. Suh will continue to handle Business Affairs matters for Imagem Music.
In addition, Lauren Shulkey-Barker will be joining Imagem’s West Coast office and supporting the team as Creative Assistant.
Who’s In Focus: www.reachmusic.com
We Are: Reach Music Publishing, Inc. — a music publisher based in Burbank, CA.
The Project: Paralympics – “Meet the Superhumans” :90 commercial for Channel 4 (UK), produced in-house
Check it out: The video is directly below –
Creative Brief: 90-second spot, promoting the 2012 London Paralympics (which was held after the regular Olympics) from Aug 29 through Sept 9. It was directed by Tom Tagholm and produced in-house by Channel 4.
The concept of the advertisement was to show the Paralympians using high-level sporting events as redemption to overcome their lifelong challenges and disabilities. The tagline is: “Meet the Superhumans.”
Magic Track: The director wanted a song that builds with a powerful crescendo, with impactful vocals to signify the struggle, drive and superhuman accomplishments of the Paralympians.
Public Enemy’s “Harder Than You Think,” with Chuck D leading on vocals provided the ideal accompaniment, which was personally chosen by Tagholm, a lifelong Public Enemy fan.
Synchro Nicety: Goosebumps! It was incredible to witness how impactful a song could be to drive home a message to an audience and to show the Paralympians as driven athletes, not deterred by disasters or disabilities.
The Payoff: The song synched with the commercial, which was repeated continually during the Paralympics, helped raise the visibility of the Paralympics within the UK, leading to sold-out nights in the Olympic arena and continual press coverage within the UK. Most importantly, it showed the Paralympians as triumphant heroes, not limited by circumstances. This is why the campaign was a success.
On a business level, “Harder Than You Think” immediately started selling during the Paralympics, rising to #3 on the UK iTunes download charts, #4 on the UK national sales charts and #1 on the UK independent singles and urban download music charts. It became the highest charting single ever by Public Enemy in its 25-year career. Additionally, the promo was recently awarded six PROMAX Awards in the UK, which reward the very best in creative TV marketing.
– Michael Closter, President, Reach Music
All hands on deck! The Production Music Association (PMA) has announced a New York City meeting of elevated importance, taking place on Thursday, October 6, 6:-8:30 PM at BMI’s NYC offices, 7 World Trade Center (250 Greenwich Street).
The topic of the meeting will be “The Future of Production Music: Opportunities, Challenges & Threats”. According to PMA, attendees are invited to:
“Join the discussion with representatives from the PMA, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and others as we cover the immanent problems facing our industry. Learn about the DMX case, the carve-out license, copyright challenges, foreign royalties, direct licensing, and more. This may be the most important meeting you attend all year!
More information to come but meanwhile SAVE THE DATE.”
RSVP to Debra@pmamusic.com
The mission of the Production Music Association is to serve as the advocate for the production music industry, bringing together publishers and composers of production music to promote and protect the interests and rights of their community.
The world’s largest independent music publisher now has the perfect complement to its catalog of Rodgers & Hammerstein classics: Mick Mars.
Imagem Music USA (IMU) announced today that is has signed a worldwide, multi-year administration agreement with songwriter and Mötley Crüe member Mick Mars, whose signature guitar sound is undeniably a staple of American rock music. Mars co-wrote some of Mötley Crüe’s greatest hits including “Girls Girls Girls,” “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away),” and “Dr. Feelgood.”
Imagem Music is the pop music division of the Imagem Music Group, co-founded by André de Raaff. The company is home to the Elvis Presley and Sammy Cahn catalogues as well as Ludacris, Phil Collins, Genesis, Anna Nalick, Steve Robson, Jens Gad, Temper Trap, Hesta Prynn, Bombay Bicycle Club and more. Imagem Music has offices in New York, Los Angeles, London, Berlin and the Netherlands, and exclusive agents all over the world.
The LA-based music licensing, publishing and management company Secret Road announced this week that Joshua Sarubin has been named head of A&R/Publishing.
Sarubin will be New York-based in his newly created role, where he will work with artists and songwriters that are already on the Secret Road Music Publishing roster. In addition, he will be responsible for signing and developing new writers and artists to the company.
Previously, Sarubin built up his A&R portfolio at Columbia, Arista and Island Def Jam. In his most recent position, he was VP of A&R at Sony ATV Music Publishing. He has signed or worked with Avril Lavigne, Pink, Santana, Presidents of the United States of America, Lionel Richie and Lady Gaga, among others.
Secret Road was founded by Lynn Grossman in 2007, has launched the career of platinum-selling, indie pop artist Ingrid Michaelson, and has grown to represent more than 80 artists and a catalog in excess of 4,000 songs for licensing. The company offers clients a one-stop shop by instantly clearing both mechanical and synchronization rights.
Secret Road TV synch placements include “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Parenthood,” and “Pretty Little Liars,” and films such as What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Something Borrowed, and No Strings Attached. Commercial music synch placements include Chevrolet, Target, and Google.
The company expanded into publishing in 2011 with the creation of Secret Road Music Publishing, in addition to launching a Latin music division.
For a quick but essential update about the high end of music publishing, read Ben Sisario’s Q&A in the New York Times with Martin N. Bandier.
Bandier is the NYC-based chairman of Sony’s publishing arm, Sony/ATV, which completed its $2.2 billion purchase of EMI Music Publishing on Friday, June 29th.
MIDTOWN, MANHATTAN:In the land of music, the commercial is king. As the world’s major agencies vie for accounts that can be worth billions of dollars a year in billings, one of the key ways they prove themselves is with their ability to match brands to bands.
This ferocious competition plays out on TV sets, radio dials, Web video, and mobile devices by the minute. It’s not surprising, then, that the music executives on Madison Avenue can make a major impact on the bottom line of professionals across the sound spectrum: composers, artists, mixers, audio post houses, publishers, record labels, libraries, synch search services, and more can all be significantly affected by their decisions on a campaign.
Now zoom in on the legendary agency JWT. Occupying a towering atrium in midtown, JWT (known as J. Walter Thompson until 2005) stands as the fourth-largest advertising agency in the world, and its nearly 10,000 employees get creative for some of the globe’s most recognizable corporations: Bloomberg Media, Diageo, Energizer, Johnson & Johnson, Macy’s, Rolex and Royal Caribbean are just a few of their blue-chip clients.
The man who pulls all the sound together for this enviable portfolio is Paul Greco. As Director of Music and Radio for JWT, Greco leads an experienced team tasked with putting an effective sonic imprint on their advertising campaigns. While Greco may be viewed as a gatekeeper by many, part of his personal mission is opening things up, and shedding as much light as possible on how a top ad agency achieves its aural aims – rather than keeping the process under wraps.
Building the Perfect Ad Music Department
Greco’s beginnings track back to the mid-‘80’s, when he was an audio post engineer. But facilities led to agencies BBDO and then Young & Rubicam, where he enjoyed a near 14-year run. At Y&R he produced original music and licensed music by everyone from the Beatles to Fountains of Wayne, Cyndi Lauper and St. Germain in the process. After a stop at publisher Spirit Music Group and a freelancing stint in 2011, Greco was back in the agency saddle where he belongs.
“When the opportunity came to lead the group here, I didn’t hesitate,” Greco says. “I really like multifaceted, big agencies, and JWT has great accounts and a really good reputation. I thought it was a great chance to lead a department and formulate it the way I always wanted to.
“It’s a slow process, but we’re getting there. We’re working towards a combination of a strong music production department, a very well-put-together licensing department, and really strong radio production. Put them all under one roof, and blend them into one.”
Like a lot of top NYC agencies, JWT has invested significantly in developing in-house facilities and talent for composing, sound design and mixing. Still, Greco estimates that 90% of JWT’s original music-related work goes to outside vendors, which means that building relationships with outside music companies is one of his top priorities.
With that network in hand, Greco and his co-pilot at JWT, Music Producer and Supervisor Dan Burt, transition to the role of translator as a campaign’s musical needs begin to emerge. “We have to have a great relationship with the agency’s creative directors, so we can interpret what they’re looking for,” Greco explains. “Sometimes they can express their needs in a very non-musical way, which is to be expected if they’re not musicians. Then we take these non-musical instructions to composers and arrangers, in music-speak, so that they have a clear understanding of what we need.”
Whether a spot’s soundtrack comes from original music or a licensed track, making sure that the sonic idea never gets lost in translation is critical to the success of the campaign. “It’s a lot more important than most people realize,” says Burt. “The object of a commercial is for someone to pay attention to it. A lot of people like to watch music videos. If a commercial has some of that same appeal, people are more likely to spend some time with it.”
“Music connects to the consumer,” Greco adds. “When the film of a commercial is over, it’s over, but if the music makes a connection, then people are humming it later on – you take it around with you. The music is something that people will seek out, and it’s very helpful for a brand when it can attach to that. So the result of the right piece of music is more long-term equity for advertisers.”
How the Musical Concept Evolves
For Greco and Burt, the aforementioned translation process begins when a campaign’s creative director comes to them, with anything from highly produced video to a storyboard to just a vague concept in hand.
“Sometimes we get clear instructions, and sometimes we have to help figure it out,” says Greco. “Often what we hear is, ‘We don’t know what we want, but we know we need music.’ So we find example tracks that we play for the creatives, and say, ‘Is it something like this, or is it more like this other option?’ Playing examples can help direct us to what they want.
“Then we say to a music company, a licensing agency, a label, or one of our other resources, ‘They want something like this. Let’s make this tone or genre work.’ That can be the most effective way — finding an example that exists, and then moving things in that direction. We can then communicate a style, tempo, or even just a vibe.”
Since the experience of music is notoriously subjective, Greco and Burt have learned over the years that a creative director’s initial request for hip hop can eventually lead to a genre on the other side of the musical map, once the search process gets underway. “In many cases I’ve learned to give them what they want – not what they ask for!” Greco laughs. “It’s often up to us to figure out what the creative team is really seeking out.
“Sometimes creatives are very astute with a good working knowledge of music, and they’ll say, ‘I would really love be-bop here.’ That’s obviously an easier time, when we work with creatives who have a musical sense and can verbalize what they want.”
When Greco senses a discrepancy between what’s being requested and what he thinks the brand message may be better suited for, he’s learned how to gently shift the creative team’s perspective.
“Sometimes we’ll say to them, ‘What if we also tried this?’ Hearing is believing, and you have to show them. You can tell them about a superior music selection, but sometimes you have to actually give them something additional to listen to. That can mean pulling in another example track, or asking a music company to record an additional demo that shows another genre.”
The Music Search Begins
Once the music needs start to come into focus, Greco and Burt will make the Almighty Call that gets a music provider in on the project. If an in-house JWT composer isn’t selected, then Greco will look first to the people who have come through for him before.
“We all have relationships that we’ve built over the years, and you tend to come back to them because they have a track record of delivering,” he points out. “But we’re also willing to work with new companies if they show they’re doing something interesting. We may see their reel, something on YouTube, or elsewhere and say, ‘That’s a cool track. We want to do something like that.’ Composers and music houses that we haven’t worked with before often call us and say, ‘We want to meet with you,’ and we try. But our day is pretty packed – it’s not always easy to get in front of us.”
While unsolicited songs from indie artists show up in Greco and Burt’s email boxes all the time, the odds of this tactic resulting in a synch license on an ad campaign are extremely small. “It never really works,” says Greco. “The song works in the artist’s mind, but they don’t know the creative brief for the brand. They say, ‘We have a song about soda, and you have a soda client.’ But there’s a brand brief about what the brand is, and that song could be completely off from that.
“So unless you really know what the brand strategy is, these out-of-the-blue pitches are pointless. That’s why it’s better when we call them [the music provider], and say ‘Here’s the strategy, here’s the idea, gear your thoughts around this strategic approach.’”
While Greco is sympathetic to the multitude of young/hungry composers looking to move up, there are limitations on how far he can go to give them their big break. “It’s hard – there’s only so many music companies out there, and only so much work. Music licensing takes up some of the spot work, and then people are fighting for the remainder of the original music pie. There are a lot of really great music companies out there, and I wish I could work with all of them. I’d love to give everybody a shot, but it’s just not that easy.”
Campaign Focus: Brand USA
Of course, another factor that guides an ad agency’s musical direction on a campaign is the budget. Greco and Burt may find themselves working with a $5,000 music allowance for a spot on Monday, then have $300,000 available for another spot on Tuesday.
But no matter what the available funds are for a campaign, reaching a consensus can be an adventurous process. For example, one of JWT’s big wins recently was landing the United States Travel & Tourism|Brand USA account, a partnership which promotes increased international travel to the United States. Greco’s team set out with a healthy music budget and a directive to synch license the perfect track – a job that proved easier said than done.
“Brand USA was looking for the perfect song that had a musical invitation for people outside the US to come and visit,” Greco says. “It had to be the right song, with the right lyrics, from the right artist. The thought was, ‘Let’s find a track that everybody knows. We can use the notoriety of the song and that will be the brand piece.’ But after literally hundreds of pieces of music, there was no one track that everybody could agree on. That wasn’t surprising to me – there were a lot of people involved in the decision-making process.”
Sensing that the perfect synch license wasn’t going to emerge, Greco put his world-class connections to work. “I suggested that we have something original written, performed by an artist that people would know and fit the brand’s personality. That way the brand would also have something that it could own, rather than licensing a track that might also be heard on a car commercial a year from now.”
The heavyweight solution: Greco called John Leventhal, a GRAMMY Award-winning music producer for NYNoise, who also happens to be married to Rosanne Cash. Not long after, the perfect song, “Land of Dreams,” was made – not found – and the newly-launched campaign (it debuted on April 23rd) had its own distinctive sonic centerpiece.
“Rosanne and John wrote it, John produced it, Rick DePofi and Craig Bishop at NYNoise recorded it, and everyone loved it,” says Greco. “That’s a case where an original song trumped the idea of licensing one. Now the brand can use it, and it will be associated with them alone. We are getting great feedback about the song.”
Licensing Trends, and Tracking Down Tracks
For agency music supervisors like Paul Greco and Dan Burt, part of what makes their job enjoyable are new methods for filling their clients’ myriad music needs. These can come in the form of fresh twists on classic catalogs, or any of the online search methods that continue to evolve and emerge.
“If the client needs something immediately for a spot that’s otherwise finished, we’ll look into licensing a track,” Burt says. “More often now clients are looking for original music, but they want it to sound like a track off an artist’s album. And yet another approach is to license the publishing, but re-record the master, which is something we did last year with Amber Music for Royal Caribbean.” (Go here to see how Amber Music producer Leo Sidran re-recorded the 1941 song “Are We Having Fun Yet” for this ear-catching :30 spot).
“There are a lot of times where we’re just licensing the publishing of a song, and then putting a different spin on it,” Greco adds. “You might get the publishing for a Beatles song, and do a string quartet arrangement of that, for example. That way, you take something that people know, but now it gets associated specifically with the spot and the brand. We did that recently for Smirnoff, when we used a completely different indie rock arrangement of the 1987 KISS song ‘Crazy, Crazy Nights’ with Big Foote Music and indie arist Sun for Moon.” (View the video here.)
Seemingly every day, a new online-enabled service launches with the business model of directing music supervisors to ready-to-license tracks. At JWT, these resources have their advantages and disadvantages. “When I started here 10 years ago, stock music was terrible,” Burt says bluntly, “but now you can find good stuff. People like Jingle Punks, Sir Groovy, and Music Dealers are working with real artists. They’re not stock – they’re more like indie labels with legit bands, but they’re one-stop shops for publishing and master licensing.”
But as with all good things, the cup can runneth over. Some synch services have thousands of tracks to choose from in their sophisticated search engines, resulting in an overload of options that ironically reduces their usefulness. “You have to whittle it down,” Greco says. “They all have their own search engines, but we don’t have the time to use them. They have pretty good music supervisors, so it’s easier for us to call them and say, ‘Here’s the brief.’”
Whether JWT is reaching out, or an upstart music provider manages to get these decision makers’ valuable attention, Greco and Burt reiterate the old wisdom that instrumental versions of songs should always be at the ready. “We can’t listen to everything that comes to us, but it’s great when an undiscovered piece cuts through,” says Greco. “Instrumental versions of songs are very helpful. That’s because sometimes the band track is great, but the vocals are in the way. I might hear something and say, ‘Forget the verse, but I love the hook.’”
“It’s hard to find a home for a track with vocals on it, but instrumentals can work for a lot of things,” Burt notes. “One line in the chorus might say the wrong thing, and then you can’t use it. But with the instrumental, you have a lot more latitude. Or, the other option is if your songs have a positive message that can be applied to many different things. Tim Myers is one example – he makes a ton of songs that are super catchy, and they’ve been in ads for Target, Google, JC Penney.”
All of which is in line with what Greco sees as being part of the overall licensing trend in advertising, which is moving away from Led Zeppelin-sized acquisitions. “The famous song is less requested now, and more often its, ‘Let’s find the next great indie band.’ Brands want to find the next cool song, so they can put it out there and be able to say, ‘We were the ones to find it.’”
Audio Post is in The House
Adding on to the options available to JWT’s music team, virtually all of their needs can be handled with dedicated in-house facilities at JWTwo. Composing, mixing, sound design, and radio can all be expedited by an experienced staff that’s available exclusively for JWT’s clients.
While there has been an ebb and flow in the industry-wide offering of these services in-house, Greco sees this as a period where it’s on the rise once again. “It seems that more and more agencies are trying to pull some aspects of audio production in-house, because of the revenue it can generate – just like any other audio post facility, we bill our clients,” he says. “There are not as many agencies that can do music and sound design in-house, but we’re one of the ones that can.”
With veteran sound designers like Alan Friedman making up the award-winning full-time audio staff, JWT’s creatives have the advantage of getting essential new sonic elements in an instant – a necessity considering today’s notoriously tight advertising production deadlines.
“If we’re in the middle of a job and someone says, ‘I wish we had a musical end tag, or a new underscore,’ we can do all that,” states Greco. “With creatives’ and producers’ schedules as tightly packed as they are, that’s a big competitive advantage. There’s a major convenience factor in having a professionally equipped and solidly staffed studio here, but there’s also trust — our creatives and producers have built up a relationship with these engineers.
“That’s the bottom line: We can outfit these rooms with the best equipment in the world, but if talent isn’t onboard, it won’t matter. We get our fair share of the work here, because the guys are really that good.”
As an ad man who started his career at an audio post facility, Greco relates with the distress that in-house agency facilities can cause to post houses in NYC and beyond. “I respect all of those places – I’ve worked at all of them and still do, and they’re great at what they do,” he says. “But this is the new business model of ad agencies. There are quarterly revenue statements that have to be met, every source of revenue that an agency can provide is very important, and this is one of them.”
Ad Music: Makes it Move
The clients and distribution channels for advertising have changed considerably since the seeds of JWT were first sown in 1864, but the basic challenges of the trade might very well look familiar to the company’s forefathers.
“It’s always about budgets and schedule,” Greco says. “Whether it’s licensing the perfect song or producing the perfect track, we need time and money. But especially in an economy like today, there’s always a squeeze at all ends.”
But there’s a very good reason to play through the pain: campaigns launched by an ad agency with the clout of JWT are experienced worldwide, created by a team of dedicated professionals who have made the art of advertising their craft. An amazing ad can have a global impact. “It’s very fulfilling when you get it right,” says Greco. “You’ve worked hard for three months, it looks good, it sounds good – there’s a pride to that. You get to see your work and your input.”
Ultimately, however, advertising is about getting results. When music choices are spot on, that’s part of the equation that makes profits rise for agency clients. For Paul Greco, Dan Burt, and the rest of their team at JWT, the reward for that is another campaign and a fresh set of musical possibilities.
“If everything you did works, then they’ll do it again,” Greco concludes. “If the ad community likes what you did, that’s great. But if it doesn’t move the needle and sales don’t go up, clients will try and find another thing. That’s the end game in this business: We’re selling stuff.”
– David Weiss is the Founder/Editor of SonicScoop, and co-author of the book Music Supervision: Selecting Music for Movies, TV, Games & New Media.
SOHO, MANHATTAN:One by one, the Internet tools for music career management are coming alive. In a digital music world where almost everything can potentially be managed better via the Web, the only wait that artists, songwriters and labels have to endure these days isn’t for the technology – that’s arrived. It’s for the idea.
When NYC-based Songtrust launched in December, 2010, its adept founders had surveyed the artist empowerment landscape and saw something important was missing: an automated solution for music publishing. Although other critical aspects of a music creator’s aspect were being handled – distribution, promotion, merchandising, touring – all had an army of online support, the potentially mind-bending world of music publishing had yet to be suitably simplified.
A year into business and with the member list fast reaching the 1,000 mark, it’s no wonder that Songtrust is taking off. The parent is Downtown Music, a forward-thinking concern which operates one of the top 10 US publishing companies, and seems to bang out big new ideas like NASA launches rockets. With billions of dollars in worldwide performance and mechanical royalties paid out yearly, but only a relatively few artists backed by a pro team to fully collect them, Downtown’s brain trust saw an opportunity to expand the DIY universe yet again.
With a vast amount of digital streaming and download possibilities available to the consumer, and an equally tantalizing spread of synch opportunities potentially bolstering artists’ revenue streams, Songtrust appears to do something even more useful than demystify the process of cashing in – for an affordable fee, they simply take care of it for their users.
SonicScoop went in-depth with Jeremy Yohai, Director of Writer Relations for Downtown Music Publishing/Songtrust, to learn more about how this New York startup is assisting indie music creators.
When you meet someone for the first time, how do you describe what Songtrust does?
Songtrust is the first online music publishing administration company for DIY/ Indie songwriters. We are the easiest way to collect royalties. Our songwriters maintain 100% ownership over their songs, they can leave Songtrust at any time and get paid 100% of their royalties.
Personally, I contributed to the building and development of the site. Currently I’m working on Songtrust’s writer relations, operations and partnership opportunities.
SongTrust has its roots in an experienced and successful group of music industry pros via Downtown Music. What made SongTrust’s founders feel like this was an essential venture to build out?
Songtrust was co-founded by Justin Kalifowitz and Josh Deutsch. Justin is the President of Downtown Music Publishing, one of the top 10 music publishers in the United States. Josh is the Chairman/CEO of Downtown Music LLC, Co-Founder of RCRD LBL, and an established songwriter and producer.
With Josh and Justin having long successful careers in music publishing, songwriting and in the digital music world, they realized that there was a need and now a way to help independent songwriters get what is owed to them. Both of them are very involved in the day-to-day business of Songtrust, since the company is based in the same SoHo office as the other Downtown Music properties — Downtown Records, Downtown Music Publishing and RCRD LBL.
That’s a solid brain trust to start with! Songtrust says that its major goal is to “level the field” for songwriters. In what ways is the field currently not level when it comes to music publishing, and how will songwriters benefit when it is leveled for them via Songtrust?
Before Songtrust the only way a songwriter was able to get all their publishing royalties was to enter into a deal with a traditional publishing company. If a writer couldn’t get a deal, they were left out in the cold, and most likely would miss out on some of their royalties. Well, now Songtrust empowers all songwriters to take control of their music publishing.
Anyone can join, whether you’re a songwriter that earns $50 a year in royalties or $5,000, you can now get what’s yours. Traditionally writers that earned less than five digits in royalties wouldn’t get a deal. So that left a lot of songwriters unable to get their royalties — this was a main premise for the building of Songtrust.
So beyond royalty collection, what are some of the other ways you help songwriters?
There are certain steps that someone should take after writing a song, regardless of what their ambitions are, whether it’s just playing at the local club or at Madison Square Garden. We can assist with these very first steps.
We’ll help get a writer affiliated with a Performance Right Organization (PRO) (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC), and we’ll register the songs correctly with all the collection agencies in the US , including Harry Fox and Music Reports, since the PRO’s only collect performance royalties.
There’s also an educational aspect to the site. We post useful info everyday on music publishing, songwriting and the music business in general. The world of music publishing can be very confusing. We break it down and speak to songwriters in a language they understand.
We also offer some creative services — Songtrust is a partner with DMS.FM, the premier synch licensing company, which helps create synch opportunities for our bands and songwriters.
With that kind of 360 offering, what kind of membership are you currently attracting? Is Songtrust just for songwriters, or also for indie labels, publishers and other entities?
Basically Songtrust is right for any songwriter that wants to take control of their music publishing regardless of income.
We have some great indie bands that have been gigging around locally, producers and songwriters who have had cuts with rappers and pop artists, and emerging film/TV composers. We also have some established artists that were signed to major publishers in the past.
Aside from working with artists/writers directly, there are managers, lawyers, and indie publishers using our site to as a royalty administration tool to manage the songs written by artists/songwriters that they look after.
Who are some artists who are using Songtrust, and what’s an example of what their “signal flow” would be?
Like I said before, we have a bunch of indie artists/songwriters that are with us. Some of the bigger writers are Kenna, who released albums on Interscope and Columbia, and Sam Jayne who was signed to Sub Pop and has written songs for Beck. We recently started working with this great indie band from Hawaii called The Green, that were charting a few weeks ago on the iTunes charts, and one of our younger songwriters Sarah Solovayhas had numerous placements on TV shows.
Each one of these writers was at a different point in their career when they came to Songtrust. For some of the guys in The Green, we had to help them with the very first steps in getting their publishing sorted. With an artist like Kenna, we basically step in and make sure that everything that was previously set up was done correctly.
Like any traditional music publisher, the key information we need is song title and writer information and then we get to work.
It sounds like a good start. Have you had some challenges in growing a startup like Songtrust?
The main challenge for us is stressing to songwriters that there could be royalties out there for them, it might be $50, but it’s theirs and they now have the ability to get it. If you are touring, selling your music, have music played on TV/radio or streaming on the Internet you could be owed royalties.
The US royalty collection agencies are collecting more money now than ever before and it’s not all owed to the artists/writers that are on top of the charts. There are indie artists/songwriters that could be earning a few hundred dollars a year, but they’re just not aware of it.
On the flipside, what’s made this a rewarding effort to be a part of?
What makes this rewarding is that our site empowers songwriters to take control of something that in the past was not available to them. Music publishing was only for the few lucky and some talented songwriters that had publishing deals.
We have conversations everyday with our writers and they feel like they’ve been invited into the private party now. Maybe they haven’t written a #1 song yet but at least they’re in the game, so if they do have a YouTube or Spotify stream they can get what could be owed to them.
You’re operating all this from the heart of SoHo. Why is NYC the right HQ for you?
All of our staff is based in NYC. The whole project, from the very first discussions on to our launch, was worked on from our office in SoHo. NYC is a great place to be based — not only is the music industry here, but there are tons of creative songwriters/artists running around these streets.
– David Weiss
Publishing, Label and Management veteran Veronica Gretton has announced the creation of 401K Music, a boutique Artist Development Publishing company based in NYC.
Having already established a reputable roster with the launch, 401k Music has acquired a substantial stake in the first four albums by The B-52s (including the songs “Rock Lobster”, “Private Idaho” and “Planet Claire”).
In addition, the Company has signed Dylan Rau, songwriter and lead singer of highly touted Brooklyn band Bear Hands. Bear Hand’s debut LP “Burning Bush Supper Club” was Top 20 at CMJ Radio for the first two months of its release, and the band have been hailed by tastemakers and the music press worldwide as a band to watch. “High Society”, the first commercial single off the album, recently entered the Billboard Top Dance Singles at #3 and the Nielsen SoundScan Top Singles charts at #7.
Synchronization exploitation, as well as establishing deeper relationships between brands and artists, is a top priority for 401K. Recent synchronizations for The B-52s and Bear Hands include commercials for Target, David Yurman and French Connection, movies (“Paul”), TV shows (“Skins”, “The Good Wife” “Glory Daze”) and video games (“Rock Band 3”).
The first two signings demonstrate 401K’s flexibility – one deal is a straightforward administration agreement with additional creative services: highly proactive synch placement for example. The other is a co-publishing deal with an advance against royalties, and with additional funds available for recording, marketing, promotion and PR for the actual masters.
“I want to be uniquely, and completely flexible with our deal making – I want to be able to create the best possible scenarios for the Writer and Artist, ones that they are comfortable with and ones that will further their careers,” explains Gretton. “In addition, we can release the records ourselves or license to another company and work alongside them, whichever is best for the artist.”
Gretton has 25 years experience working in music publishing, recording, touring, branding, synchronization, licensing, merchandising, new media and business affairs. In her career, she has worked in London, Los Angeles and New York, with such artists as The Cure, The Stone Roses, Talking Heads, the Ramones, Tori Amos, Live, Black Grape, Ambulance Ltd, The Pogues and Mick Jones of The Clash.
Leveraging her relationships with managers, record company personnel, music supervisors, publishers, agents, radio, DJ’s and journalists Gretton’s expertise includes developing new artists, and re-inventing and maintaining established artist’s careers.
FEDERAL DISTRICT COURT, SOUTHERN DISTRICT, MANHATTAN: Picture it, the Internet, 1999. Napster launches out of a college dorm room in Massachusetts, and becomes one of the biggest forces in the music industry to reckon with. Its mechanism of peer-to-peer music file-sharing causes nothing short of a music-technology revolution, and major record labels are forced to grapple with learning how to co-exist with, if not under, Napster.
Flash forward to life twelve years later in 2011 and we are faced with many new remarkable realities. For one, as aptly alluded to by Napster Co-Founder Sean Parker’s character in the blockbuster hit movie The Social Network, the creation of Napster led to the demise of CD sales and practically the elimination of most major record stores because of the ease in (unfortunately) acquiring illegal music downloads on the Internet.
Another new remarkable reality is that while Napster has had such a profound effect on the recent history of music, the muscle it once had in the music industry has largely diminished, leaving behind a memory of the giant music industry influence it once was. The recent court decision of Napster v. Rounder Records in a Manhattan Federal District court echoed this reality when a federal judge gave a huge score to indie record label Rounder Records, while simultaneously providing a bit of a blow to the ego of Napster.
Napster, which had adjusted their business model to provide a service where users can legally stream and download music, had privately settled a claim brought against them by music publisher MCS America for failing to possess mechanical licenses (permissions to create copies of music under the copyright law) for their music. While the amount that Napster and MCS settled for is unknown, Napster made a bold move by subsequently bringing a $1.3 million law suit against Rounder, one of the many Indie record labels it entered into a deal with under their legal download/legal streaming operations, for failing to possess mechanical licenses for the music they provided to Napster. Rounder licensed some of its music from MCS and many people viewed Napster’s suit against Rounder as a means of unfairly attempting to obtain reimbursement for the settlement Napster paid to MCS.
While going up against Napster in a court battle is no small feat for Rounder Records or any Indie Label to handle, their lawyer, David Baum, a partner with the law firm of SNR Denton based out of their NYC Office in downtown Manhattan, was able to pull a huge victory for Rounder by getting the case not only dismissed, but additionally sanctioned in Federal Court.
“Rounder is a very special record company to me and I think to a lot of people, both artists and fans alike,” Baum commented. “When I got this lawsuit or at least the claim of the case before it was filed that Napster was going to go after a company like Rounder on such a claim that I thought was frivilous, I was offended for Rounder…I told Napster at the outset of the case before they filed the case that if they filed it we would fight it and get it dismissed, and in the process we would seek to get it sanctioned.”
Napster may have had somewhat of a viable argument that a 2001 agreement they made with Rounder contained language which rendered Rounder responsible for securing mechanical licenses for the music they provided in addition to an indeminification clause (legalise for a clause that allowed Napster to sue Rounder for any third party claims brought about by Rounder’s conduct). However, a subsequent agreement that the parties signed in 2006 alleviated the mechanical license responsibility from Rounder, leaving it fully on Napster’s lap; and most importantly, contained a clause which noted that it “terminated and superceeded” the terms of the 2001 agreement, including the indemnification clause.
“The Court threw the case out on a total of three grounds” Baum said. “The first one being that the 2001 agreement did not apply to the parties relationship anymore, and that under the 2006 agreement, ‘A,’ it was Napster’s responsibility to get the licenses for the compositions and not Rounder’s, and ‘B,’ in any event there was an indemnification provision, but in order for Napster to have relied on that indemnification provision, they needed to get a certain kind of consent.”
For indie labels entering music-technology deals to have their music streamed or downloaded online, Baum offers very simple advice: “Pay attention to your contracts and be very precise with the language because language matters.” He further adds: “If you are out there and making successive agreements with the same party, its very important for you to be careful about how you are characterizing these agreements – are they all supposed to exist at the same time, or is one supposed to replace the other? And if one replaces the other, you better have it say so.”
Words by Shamita Carriman – Entertainment lawyer, founder/ managing partner of Carriman Law Group PLLC, Board of Director of Women In Music, and music tech enthusiast. She can be contacted at email@example.com