The biz’s brightest new talents tell their stories. This week it's the turn of Ellie Rumbold, international product manager at Partisan Records...
How did you break into the industry?
I was offered a place as an apprentice at Mute Records ...
Last month, the legendary Bonnie Tyler scored her first Top 40-charting album with Between The Earth And The Stars, released via EarMusic/Edel. Here, the Total Eclipse Of The Heart singer reflects on some of the amazing moments and life lessons she's enjoyed throughout her career so far. And why she owes her auntie big time...
I used to be a very, very shy girl...
“I never thought I’d have the nerve to get up on stage but I always knew I wanted to sing. My career started when my auntie put me down for a talent competition because I was always singing in my bedroom. I said, ‘I can’t do it – take my name off,’ and she said, ‘Yes, you will!’ So, I sang at the local rugby club when I was 17 and I’d never sung into a microphone before – my microphone was a hairbrush! After I came second in the competition, there was an ad in the paper looking for a girl to join a harmony band – they were looking for three girls to sing with Bobby Wayne. I got chosen out of 35 girls as one of three.”
My first single was...
“My! My! Honeycomb and it totally bombed. Lost In France was an international hit, but it wasn’t until It’s A Heartache that I had my first hit in America. If it hadn’t been for my auntie... [laughs].”
People often say that Total Eclipse Of The Heart was written about vampires...
“But I have no idea really. I don’t know what goes on in Jim Steinman’s mind, I just love it! When I first heard the song I cried. I still love playing songs like that and Holding Out For A Hero. I never get tired of listening to them. I can’t understand some artists that go out and insist on not doing their old hits. People want to hear them...”
Being in the charts again is great because...
“I wasn’t even going to make a new album – this was a surprise to me as well! The last album I did [2013’s Rocks And Honey] I recorded in Nashville with fabulous musicians and all new songs, but it [didn’t get] a very good push. Between The Earth And The Stars is a wonderful album, and I’m working with my old producer, David Mackay, who I hadn’t seen for 40 years since It’s A Heartache and Lost In France. I had such a great time.”
There are a lot of big names on my new album...
“Barry Gibb wrote a song [Seven Waves Away], and there’s Someone’s Rockin’ Your Heart, a duet with Francis Rossi which he wrote. I went on holiday with Cliff Richard [who also appears on the record] to his beautiful house in Barbados and we went out for lunch where the host happened to be Rod Stewart’s best friend. I said, ‘It’s my dream to do a duet with Rod would you ask him if he’d do it?’ I waited a couple of months until I found the right song, Battle Of The Sexes, and then it was forwarded onto Rod. A couple of days later he got back to me personally and said, ‘Let’s do it!’ Amy Wadge, who is a fabulous songwriter, sent some songs, too. She sent an email saying, ‘Bonnie, I’ve written a song especially for you.’ It’s called Older and it’s such a beautiful song.”
New artists should remember...
“You’re only as good as your sound guy, your lighting guy, your band and crew. We’re like family. I know that sounds like a cliché but it isn’t.”
On the off chance you were the only person in the music industry who didn’t get the memo: the world of music publishing is currently in a state of flux.
Following the announcement in September 2018 that legendary Sony/ATV boss Martin Bandier would be stepping down in March 2019, a very real game of musical chairs was initiated. Suffice to say some big email signatures have changed of late, folks: Jon Platt exited Warner/Chappell to take over at Sony/ATV, while Guy Moot bid adieu to Sony/ATV to become co-chair & CEO at Warner/Chappell.
Yet when Bandier told Music Week in our exclusive March cover interview that, “everybody is competitive in our business”, he wasn’t just talking about the majors. A host of independent publishers are also in play, looking to represent the leading songwriting talents and catalogues. So first, let’s clear up one misconception early: the word ‘independent’ does not mean ‘publishing on a small scale’.
“The indie publishing sector continues to thrive and work with developing songwriters and artists,” says Nigel Elderton, president, Europe & managing director, PeerMusic UK. “Peer has its own studio facilities – we have studios in the majority of our offices around the world – and this enables us to develop writers and new artist projects below the radar. We believe that providing our writers with top quality studio access is integral to what we do as a business and we can point to many success stories which began life in our studios.”
Indeed, PeerMusic have been notching up many such stories. If you think the biggest songwriting talents are the exclusive preserve of major music publishers think again. Just take Linda Perry, the genius behind hits such as Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful, Gwen Stefani’s What You Waiting For? and Pink’s Get The Party Started.
“One of our most important signings of the past year is Linda Perry,” nods Elderton. “We entered into an admin and joint venture deal with Linda and her partner Kerry Brown’s company We Are Hear which is based in LA. We are working with Linda on numerous projects including new artists, a new Natasha Bedingfield album and film projects, as well as Linda’s collaboration with Dolly Parton on the Netflix film Dumplin. Another major highlight was the completion of our acquisition of Music Cube in South Korea which became PeerMusic’s 34th global office operating in 30 territories.”
Given the truly global scale at which independent publishers operate, it does beg the question as to how they see themselves competing not only with the majors, but also the other indies in possession of deep pockets.
“I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘compete’,” says Elderton. “With a global network of wholly owned offices Peer is in the unique position to offer worldwide deals and not only compete with the likes of Kobalt and BMG but, in some territories, we actually administer their catalogues. It is this global reach which distinguishes Peer from many of its independent competitors.”
He continues: “As an independently owned company which is still run by Ralph Peer II (the son of the founder), together with his daughter Mary Megan Peer, we have a very clear strategy which is to offer our writers and sub-publishing clients a hands-on-focused service and to build long-term relationships. When we sign a writer we do so out of the belief that we can work together and enhance their career; we don’t just chase the charts, although building market share is important in this digital world and fortunately we have our fair share of chart success. We had cuts on some of the biggest albums in the world last year from Drake to Ed Sheeran and so I think you would agree that we are holding our own among our competitors.”
Nor are PeerMusic alone in holding their own. Another key player in the independent music publishing world is New Songs Administration. Its founder/owner John Fogarty is nothing if not honest when he talks about the challenges in the sector. “If you don’t have a catalogue of well-known works or publish well-known writers, it is very difficult,” he tells Music Week. “Trying to get covers on songs by new or unknown writers is very difficult no matter how good a song is.” With that said, however, Fogarty has navigated this to enjoy some huge success recently.
“I think that my biggest achievement in the past 12 months was acquiring the Lynn Hatch Music catalogue from songwriter/artist Jerry Keller,” he explains. “The catalogue contains a couple of ‘gold nuggets’ with Jerry’s own recording, Here Comes Summer, which he also wrote and which was a major international hit in 1958, including the UK where it was No. 1, and Andy Williams’ Almost There which was a major UK hit, reaching No. 2 in 1965. This song was written by Jerry with Gloria Shayne. Jerry also wrote the English language versions of the songs comprising the score of the great classic French film Un Homme Et Une Femme.”
As Fogarty sees it, his job as an independent publisher requires, somewhat fittingly, independent thinking.
“I operate in a different way, identifying songs that I think that I can increase revenue on,” he explains. “When a fund is looking at a catalogue, I doubt if anyone there is saying about a particular song, ‘Oh I haven’t heard that in some while and I think that we could get some new covers with it.’ My guess is that they are looking at numbers with a calculator. Least of all, I doubt that they are considering the songwriters or their families and people behind the songs. Rather, I think that it is just another asset purchase for them.”
Again he points to success with Jerry Keller, and the personal touch that led to the deal.
“The catalogue was not on the market, but I had known Jerry for some time and approached him and struck a deal,” he adds. “Of course, Jerry will retain his writer royalties and I hope to make him some decent money going forward, particularly from syncs.”
Another notable independent publishing powerhouse is Sentric Music Group.
“We co-exist and believe independent publishers hold our own in the sector,” is CEO Chris Meehan’s overview of where they fit into the wider publishing ecosystem. “As a smaller company, we can be far more agile in our approach to doing business in 2019. We’re able to service our clients quickly and efficiently with our proprietary technology. This, coupled with our team of passionate music executives, means we are able to be hands on to meet the relationship requirements of catalogue owners on a personal level. We’re always digging deeper to add value to our clients’ work creatively at all levels, from direct artist development to wider catalogue reinvigoration.”
Meehan seems particularly excited about the potential in the market in 2019.
“For us, the key trends at the minute are stemming from growth within the sector,” he explains. “Consolidation of digital revenue collections from the likes of AMRA are allowing us as publishers to have increased visibility when it comes to digital royalties, which in turn gives us the ability to identify new revenue streams for our clients. Independent publishers are fighting for increased transparency on the data we receive and gaining momentum on the drive for data parity with other sectors of the music industry. The groundwork laid here means a shift in what is expected from streaming services, as well as setlist reporting and music recognition technology being developed.
He continues: “We’re also seeing a lot of catalogue shifting and merging within the sector along with investment, making it an exciting time for our creative teams. Independent publishers are now getting the opportunity to develop and give added strength to new or existing copyrights that have previously been stored away.”
Meehan can point to a number of recent Sentric success stories.
“2018 was a landmark year for us at Sentric as we inked major deals with respected brands – Black Rock and IQ Music – to bring them under the company banner and establish Sentric Music Group,” he explains. “A joint venture with Riptide Music Group in LA has also seen the operational and creative expansion of Sentric in the US. In 2018 the company saw 85% y-o-y revenue growth with significant success credited to the sync department which has seen a 42% y-o-y growth. Notable placements from the team include Nick Waterhouse’s track Katchi used on a global Dolce & Gabbana perfume ad and attention to evergreen copyrights has seen Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbusters reinvigorated on the latest Halifax advert. We’re also excited to have renewed our songwriter agreement with Joe Hammill of Cattle & Cane.”
It perhaps goes without saying, then, that the picture emerging of the independent publishing sector is that it is one with opportunities everywhere. That does, it seems, have to do with the way the majors and independent publishers interact.
“Increasingly, we see the bigger companies wanting to invest in writers and artists who are the finished product, already ticking all the boxes when it comes to social media and streaming figures,” begins Alex Kassner, head of legal and business affairs, Kassner Associated Publishers – another big player in the indie publishing sector. “That leaves a huge space for the indies who are ready to develop and nurture raw talent and want to help build a project from the ground up. I also think you are seeing more indies looking outside the traditional publishing markets to try to find opportunities in a less saturated space, both in terms of territory and business models.”
Kassner also stresses the opportunities that lie in new territories.
“We noticed a few years ago that there was a real lack of options when looking for independent representatives for our catalogue in Scandinavia, with most of the players having been bought out in recent years,” he says. “This led to us thinking about opportunities for setting up our own operation in the territory. Around this time we met with Kai Robole, a Norwegian publisher hugely respected for his A&R achievements through his company Waterfall Music, where he had developed world-renowned songwriters such as Ina Wroldsen and Caroline Ailin. He was in the planning stages of starting a full service independent publishing venture in the Nordic region which could rival the majors when bidding to sign rising talent.
“These conversations saw us work with him and others to launch Arctic Rights Management at the end of 2017, a company in which we are a shareholder,” Kassner continues. “We also provide a UK sub-publishing service for some of its repertoire. The last year has seen the Arctic Rights catalogue grow exponentially, including internationally successful cuts recorded by artists such as Dua Lipa, Olly Murs, Clean Bandit and Alan Walker. It has been extremely gratifying to see the company flourish and we are also excited about how our own catalogue may perform in the Nordic territory now it can benefit from the focused attention an independent can provide.”
There are, of course, myriad other things to contemplate in the market right now. If there is something approaching a general consensus on the EU Copyright Directive it would be the words Kassner uses – “cautiously optimistic” – that seem to hit the nail on the head. Although he does stress that, “There is still a lot of scope for the tech companies to undermine the purpose of the legislation through legal manoeuvring and lobbying when it comes to implementation at a national level. The work starts now in ensuring the final result is a financially rewarding victory for the creative community.”
“My take on it is that songwriters and publishers have to continue to fight for fair remuneration,” adds Fogarty. “For instance, in the USA, the statutory royalty rate hasn’t changed for years.”
When the subject is broached with PeerMusic’s Nigel Elderton, he notes that the success of the Copyright Directive will “provide a more level playing field and generate much needed revenue”. He also demystifies some of the fears out there.
“Far from breaking the internet as some have claimed this Directive will help creators and rights owners produce more world-beating music which in turn will feed the online ‘pipes’!” he stresses. “I believe that we will now begin to see greater co-operation across the creative industries with online services which will ultimately be to the benefit of all, including the consumer who will see even more choice and exciting new artists and writers emerge.”
He adds: “The MMA similarly promised to herald in a brand new era for creators in the US and across the world. The recent appeal by Spotify, Amazon and other digital services (with the notable exclusion of Apple) has really dented our expectations and I am still trying to understand why these companies feel that ‘screwing’ writers and publishers in this way is either acceptable or productive in the long run. Their services depend on the creativity and the content that our writers and publishers produce; without new music they do not have a sustainable business model. I am personally very disappointed by this retrograde step.”
The sync world is another area everyone is keeping a close eye on. Alex Kassner, for one, notes the “significant” sync fees that have come in “from places such as Chile, China and Russia and we had our first ever sync in the Lebanon”.
Elderton says PeerMusic represents close to, “500,000 works in many territories” and points to their recent acquisition of Accorder Music as giving them access to over 100 production companies who want access to their repertoire which they, in turn, administer their rights including the theme music to many well known TV shows such as The Chase and The Great British Bake Off. Nor are they the only ones placing more importance in the sync world.
“Sync is very key to what I do, but I have some very well known songs which are attractive for syncs,” says Fogarty. “ Obviously having a share of Uptown Funk I have seen some extraordinary sync activity. However, it is very, very tough to get sync activity for lesser known works and indeed, even when I push relatively well known works it is hard, because music supervisors already have, in my experience, fixed ideas of what they want.”
Fogarty continues: “I am very proud of a recent sync for our A$AP Rocky featuring Rod Stewart song, Everyday, which was recently used in an Indian rap-flavoured movie, Gully Boy. Everyday was produced by Mark Ronson and samples Rod Stewart’s vocals from the classic recording In A Broken Dream – NSA owns both master and publishing. So a rap god samples a rock god and the work gets into an Indian movie based around rap which shows that music has no boundaries – Rod goes to Bollywood!”
One thing Meehan stresses is the importance of recognising the potential value in all copyrights, not just the “obviously syncable” ones.
“Whoever successfully solves the Rubik’s Cube that is micro-licensing to user-generated content platforms is destined to be a king within the industry,” Meehan predicts. “It’s easy to turn your nose up at a licence fee of £1, but when three hundred hours of video are being uploaded every single minute on YouTube alone, there is a huge untapped market there. We’re working closely with several partners to try and monetise it properly for our writers.”
Yet, just as revenue streams continue to grow, so too does the market continue to consolidate. One thing that’s striking is that indie publishers plan on remaining just that: independent.
“I’ve already sold my previous company, Minder Music, in 2015,” says Fogarty. “Now I’m focused on acquiring works and building a new catalogue. I have no intention of selling anything at the moment.”
“There’s a lot of interest in the independent sector which, if you’re a growing international company in that space, will naturally attract all kinds of offers,” says Meehan. “At the moment, it is far more exciting to be a part of the sector than to sell. I think that strategic offers of global alignment are interesting and will continue to be ones that will be attractive to Sentric when they are on the table. We are here to empower and enable the creatives we represent, and that needs to be reflected in the deals we make and the partnerships we form.”
At Kassner Associated Publishers, it’s not just an indie affair – it’s family.
“We are always being asked whether we want to sell but we are a family business in its third generation and would love to continue to a fourth,” says Kassner. “There is so much history underpinning what we have built here over 75 years and if we were to sell that would be extinguished overnight, so we intend to keep it going for as long as possible.”
“We seem to be approached more often than ever these days,” concurs Elderton. “We have picked up a number of very important catalogues over the last few years and I probably get a call once a week on average from a lawyer or writer who is in the process of moving their catalogues and looking to put them with an active publisher with whom they can form a long term relationship.
“PeerMusic has been in business since its inception in 1927,” he concludes. “With our international footprint, our own state of the art royalty and copyright systems (IRIS), excellent staff and executives, we are very well placed to benefit from the fall out of rights that inevitably happens when there is consolidation in the market.”
So, yes, as Martin Bandier said, it may well be a “competitive” business, but by the sounds of it, indie publishers are punching above their weight.
THE FINAL ACCOUNTDOWN
Colin Young, founder and director of the Music Week Award-nominated chartered accountants and registered auditors, CC Young & Co, explains the importance of good accounting for indie publishers in 2019 and beyond….
“Good accounting for the independent publisher comprises three elements: 1) Completeness of income. 2) Timely delivery. 3) True and fair royalty statements. When I consider completeness of income to the songwriter, I view the objective of a good publisher to extend beyond the accounting on net receipts basis. I maintain that the obligations include ensuring a completeness of income. The publishers needs to effectively register the song, get out there and collect the income. Effective publishing is not a passive pursuit.
“With the advent of streaming, the billions of transactions multiplied by 17 bits of data attributable to each stream, multiplied by two as a consequence of part of the stream being classified as a mechanical, and part of the stream being classified as a public performance, mean that accounting is a challenge.
“The process of royalty tracking requires diligence, technical ability, sophisticated software and a big, big server. Only then is the publisher able to identify errors and omissions and ensure their remedy and the collection of outstanding royalties. This procedure requires a want for detail, a lust for numbers and a good accountant.
“Timing is everything. Delay in collection will harbour deficiency of income. YouTube strips the data after 30 days. No claim, no revenue.
“Don’t assume the PROs are accurate, timely or complete. Often the initial registrations are inaccurate, sometimes as a consequence of a failing of registration by the publisher. Sometimes as a consequence of the transfer of registration data between reciprocal PROs, sometimes a failing between PROs to declare the income data accurately.
“The delay in distribution of royalties to the songwriter delivers unnecessary financial strain and is often indicative of poor accounting as a consequence of insufficient resources. As a rule of thumb: if they’re late twice, audit.
“The collection and distribution of royalties needs to be accurate, complete and in accordance with the songwriter’s agreement. For an independent publisher to be a credible and attractive proposition for future songwriters, the royalty accounting needs to be prepared with the fundamental objectives of producing a statement that is true, fair, accurate every time and delivered on time.”