Friday, October 19, 2012

Tronc Gives Sacem 'Shock Treatment'

(This story was initially published in One Movement for Music - Volume 2/Oct. 2012)

By Emmanuel Legrand

Jean-Noel Tronc cuts quite an unconventional figure for someone who runs one of the world's biggest authors' societies. The moment you are ushered into his office on the sixth floor of a modern building in one of the posh suburbs of Paris, the chief executive of France's Sacem starts the meeting by showing off a book about punk visual art and genuinely enthusing about some of the posters or record covers from that era. Not your expected table book in such an environment...
Jean-Noel Tronc (Picture: Jean-Baptiste Millot) 

Sacem is among the top five rights societies in the world in terms of revenues collected (€819m in 2010 or $1,062m) and it plays a central role in the French music industry. But it has the reputation of being a society slow to change and managed in quite a conservative way. So maybe having a punk attitude to drive change was part of the job description (“Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment,” would sing the Ramones!).

"Why Sacem?” reacts Tronc when asked why he took the job. “For a start I've always loved music, and working with one of the most important societies in the world, which is also at the heart of France's music eco-system, was an exciting prospect. I have utter respect for creators and publishers, and I hope that, with my background, I can contribute to a new, fresh vision to the challenges faced by authors' societies and the music industry in today's digital world."

Tronc, 46, is only the third chief executive of the society in over 50 years. The job was long held by Jean-Loup Tournier, who took over the society in 1961 and stayed at the helm until 2001 when he was replaced by diplomat Bernard Miyet, who stepped down in June 2012. Tronc held various positions in telecom and media companies such as pay-TV group Canal+ and Orange, France's leading phone operator. He also had a stint as advisor on digital issues to the Socialist then-Prime Minister Lionel Jospin between 1997 and 2002.

Sacem board members who were involved in the process of searching for a new chief executive were looking for someone with experience in other fields, especially media and telecoms, who could bring a new vision. "Miyet’s eleven-year tenure coincided with a remarkable stability with regards to Sacem's income,” explained Bruno Lion, MD of peermusic France and a board member of Sacem who was involved in the search process for Miyet's successor. “But we thought the times required a high-level manager with a different background. Tronc goes fast and appears, first of all, as a problem solver and a leader. I feel he will be an asset to Sacem's members and to the music community, in France and abroad.”

Going fast is what Tronc appears to be doing, indeed. After only four months on the job, he has refigured Sacem's management structure, accepted a pay cut compared to what his predecessor was earning, and swiftly pushed the society into the digital world. It is not that Sacem had not embraced the new digital world (it has licensed more than its share of digital services, including streaming service Deezer at a very early stage), but for Tronc it is more about positioning the society to be fully competitive, digital compliant and efficient, both at the service of its members and of its users.

“Service” is a word that comes high up in Tronc's vocabulary. “My main priority is to increase the level of service that Sacem can offer to our members and to the community of users in France and elsewhere," said Tronc. "If at this stage it is too soon to be specific, suffice to say that we are engaged into deep and significant reforms.”

In addition, Sacem also has to deal with changes imposed by the European Union in the form of a Directive (a legally binding document that applies across the Union) on collective management, which is likely to impose new rules on transparency and governance, and a new approach with regards to multi-territorial licensing. Tronc is aware that the new situation will create competition among societies to attract artists and publishers - and he wants Sacem to be at the forefront of the movement.

"With the new market configuration in Europe, societies like Sacem have to be prepared to face competition from other societies,” said Tronc, “and Sacem, which is already among the leading societies in Europe, will have a lot to offer. The new framework for rights societies as outlined by Brussels is going to be challenging but will also create a new, level playing field in Europe for which I do believe that Sacem will be well-positioned.”

As OMFM was leaving, Tronc pointed to the sad, worn-out old-fashioned green visitors' seats outside of his office that have been there since the dawn of time and joked that here, too, change was in motion as his team was digging into the Ikea catalogue to find new furniture. Sometimes the revolution is in the details!

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