Sunday, May 22, 2011

Casablanca Media Publishing founder Ed Glinert dies

By Emmanuel Legrand

Like many in the music industry, I have been saddened and shocked by the news of the sudden passing of Edmund Glinert, founder of Canada’s largest independent music publishing house, Casablanca Media Publishing.
Casablanca's founder Ed Glinert

Glinert had a stroke at the end of last week and died on May 21 in Toronto, after been pronounced legally brain dead.

Glinert was a 40-year veteran of the music business. But it was only after a long career as an entertainment lawyer that he started looking at music publishing because he was “bored” of being a lawyer. He saw “real opportunities” in publishing, and in 2001 with his own money and some financial backing he set up a company, Casablanca, that grew to become Canada’s biggest indie publisher.

He was an influential member of the Canadian music business. He was an active member of the Canadian Music Publishers Association (CMPA) and was a board member of Canada's authors' society SOCAN. He was a regular speaker at Canadian Music Week and other industry forums. 

I met him a few times, last in 2010 at Canadian Music Week. He always came across as an extremely knowledgeable and amicable person, who was known by his competitors to be a tough negotiator.

Glinert was very dismissive of the new wave of investors in music publishing, who only viewed it as an investment opportunity. “I was approached by banks but they view publishing as something you put money in, buy catalogues, milk them for three years and then sell them -- It’s nonsense,” he told me in 2009 when I interviewed him for a feature on Canada’s music publishing scene for Impact. 

But he was equally dismissive of publishers who did not provide proper admin services. “So many publishers who buy catalogues have no administration to back them. I started building my administration infrastructure and then went on to buy catalogues or sign creators. I think I have one of the best reporting system in the world,” he proudly stated.

Indeed, his real strength was in administration of catalogues and as such he signed many big names such as Carlin, Bug, Windswept or Fox to administer them in Canada. His pride was to “take good care of their catalogues”.

It was only a few years ago that he started signing new talent directly and building a roster of songwriters (Brandon Chandler, Winter Gloves). “I felt we were not ready,” he said. “We have now started building our own roster, but you cannot sign 40 writers, you’ve got to be reasonable.”

Like many successful entrepreneurs in music publishing, he was courted by would-be buyers, but he always resisted the temptation to sell. “I keep being approached by people who offer me money to buy my company,” he told me. “But I am not interested. I want to keep looking for new people, new writers. I am interested in being a publisher. A real publisher is someone who is on the ground and who works the songs; and you have to be transparent.”

A perfect definition of music publishing from a true publisher, who paid as much attention to the creative developments of his signings as he would to the management of his repertoire. He will be missed.

A funeral service for Ed Glinert will be held on Monday May 23 at 2:30pm at Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel in Toronto.

Glinert’s business partner, Casablanca Media Publishing Vice President Jennifer Mitchell sent the following mail on May 21:

Dear friends,

It is with great sadness and shock that I share the news that Ed Glinert passed away this morning.  Unfortunately the extent of the damage from his stroke was too severe to recover and he was pronounced legally brain dead.

The family, knowing that Ed would never want to be kept alive on machines,  has made the decision to make him an organ donor so that he might help countless other people live full and productive lives.  I think everyone that knew Ed’s generous nature would agree that he would have wanted that.

Ed was not only my business partner, but a true friend and mentor, and it is no exaggeration to say that I will miss him tremendously.  I’m sure most of you feel the same way.  Ed’s life may have been cut short, but he managed to touch a lot of people lives in that time, helping them in various capacities and generously giving his time, knowledge, advice and compassion to his friends, colleagues and even strangers wanting advice on how to break into the music business.

The family will be holding the funeral service at Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel.  Details regarding the date and time will be confirmed  by notice on the Benjamin’s website but at the moment it looks like either Monday the 23rd or Tuesday the 24th   (you can also leave messages of condolence on the website).  The family will be sitting shiva following the service and burial at 11 Wembley Road, Toronto.

Donations in Ed’s name can be made to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada  or the Hospital For Sick Children which was one of Ed’s favourite charities.

This is truly a great loss – and I don’t think words can really adequately express the extent to which Ed will be missed by his family, friends and colleagues.


Jennifer Mitchell
Vice President
Casablanca Media Publishing
151 Bloor Street West, Suite 701
Toronto, Ontario. M5S 1S4 

Update (October 28, 2011):
This post has been seen over 2000 times since it was first published in May 2011. This shows that Ed was really a unique and much loved individual, and a great music publisher too. I have been digging in my notes and here is an edited version of the conversation I had with him in March 2009 for a profile on the Canadian market that I wrote in Impact:

> On starting Casablanca:
“I’ve been 40 years in the business. About ten years ago, I had enough being an entertainment lawyer so I looked at publishing and saw real opportunities. I started with my own money, had some backing, but no hedge funds. I was approached by banks, but they view publishing as something you put money in, buy catalogues, milk them for three years and then sell them. It’s nonsense! On the other hand, you have so many publishers who buy catalogues but have no administration to back them. So I started building my administration infrastructure and then went on to buy catalogues or sign creators.”
> On music publishing:
“A real publisher is someone who is on the ground and who works the songs; and you have to be transparent. I think I have one of the best reporting system in the world. We do administer other companies, such as high-end indies like Carlin, Bug, Windswept, Fox. Some knew me as a lawyer and knew I’d take good care of their catalogues.”
> On A&R:
“Until last year we did not sign directly artists. I felt we were not ready. We have now started building our own roster, but you cannot sign 40 writers, you’ve got to be reasonable. I have people with good ears and I am not going to tell them how they feel about it, especially if it is not my taste, but it does not mean that I cannot make decisions by myself. We signed 23-year-old Brandon Chandler, after seeing him at SXSW. He’s a great performer. He has all the making of a star. We also signed Winter Gloves from Montreal. They play a hybrid electronic/rock. They have a unique writer in Charles F, very European-style. They also have an ability to co-write, which is great for a publisher.”
> On growing the company:
“There are opportunities in the Canadian market, but only of a certain scale. So if you want to build a strong company you have to look around. But I do not believe in opening offices everywhere. If you are Warner/Chappell that’s OK, but with my size…no! In terms of growth, I have bought a few catalogues and will buy more. I keep being approached by people who offer me money to buy my company. But I am not interested. I want to keep looking for new people, new writers.”

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Labels are not dead, yet – They’re morphing

By Emmanuel Legrand

Strange, isn’t it, how perception is changing about record labels? Once vilified as an anachronistic leftover from a bygone 20th Century business model, the tide is now changing and labels are finally viewed for what they are – useful service providers for artists and career enablers.

The difference from before is that labels were omnipotent, and were the single most important piece in an artist’s set up (not least because they had the money!). You could have a career as an artist without a very good manager, but you were toast if you had no label. Nowadays, artists need strong managers to coordinate and aggregate around them competences. And that’s where labels still have relevance.

There is know-how in labels that artists can still rely on. “A label invests, provides skill, provides contacts and provides context,” according to Martin Mills, chairman of Beggars Group, which includes Adele’s label XL Recordings, as quoted in the report written by BPI chairman Tony Wadsworth and Eamonn Forde for MusicTank. Made public on May 13 at the Great Escape convention/festival in Brighton, the report addresses the issue of labels in the digital age.

Wadsworth, who was chairman/CEO of EMI Music UK until the Guy Hands regime got the best of him a couple of years ago, was in Brighton to talk about his report (‘Remake, Remodel: The Evolution Of The Record Label’). The document is definitely worth reading for anyone in this business (costs £45). It provides an open and honest assessment of today’s situation in the UK, and most of its findings can be extrapolated to other territories.

MusicTank chairman Keith Harris is keen to emphasise that for the first time there is an snapshot of the changes that took place in the business (from a UK perspective). The report, he says, will help understand better the situation, and identify where real efforts need to be made. In his introduction speech, Wadsworth said labels have been changing and adapting to the new digital paradigm, even if sometimes they did it reluctantly. [The Guardian ran a rather positive story based on an interview with Wadsworth before the publication of his report]

While stating that labels do now venture in more areas than ever before, and have acquired skills in many different fields, and are for more open to unusual licensing deals than before, he admitted that it would take a while before the system fully adjusted to the new dynamics in the market and to the new business models.

Wadsworth was rather candid in his answers to the audiences’ questions. He did accept that labels were slow to measure the role and importance of the digital revolution in the early days, and he seemed to agree that they had not been a good job at exploiting the various streams offered to them, but he was equally adamant that labels, especially majors, were learning fast and were more open that ever before. [This vision of labels adjusting to new market conditions was embraced at various occasions during the Great Escape. On the panel ‘What digital?’ Omnifone director of licensing Jezz Bell stated that “majors were more receptive to new models these days” and were not adverse to risk-taking.]

In a question about how the possible forthcoming merger between EMI and Warner would affect market conditions, Wadsworth took the view that it would probably be better for the market if rather than having two super majors (Universal and Sony) and two mini-majors (EMI and Warner), there was a third with equal share. According to him, this would create a better level playing field in the market that would be beneficial to all, including indie labels. That view will certainly be challenged by the likes of Impala…

One of the most interesting aspects of the report is the chapter on the relationship with artists. This is probably the most significant change in the music business. And the report does not hide any of the aspects of the evolution, from the empowerment of artists to Warner’s admission of systematically asking for expanded rights in its contracts.

At the session on ‘The music company of the future’, Martin Goldschmidt, chair of the Cooking Vinyl Group, was refreshingly blunt in his assessment of what labels and artists can find in each other. His cue was that “nobody forces you to sign a [360 degree] deal. It is not a moral issue, it is a negotiation!” What will make the success of the relationship between artist and labels are the services that labels can offer and the end results. As a result, Cooking Vinyl has re-tooled its structure to offer more services to artists in a more open philosophy. As a result, he said Cooking Vinyl had for more projects recouping their investment and making money for both the label and the artists than ever before.

On the same panel, two managers said were also more open to give more rights to labels if they were adding value. One even floated the idea that another level in the relationship between the artists and their labels as “service providers” could be to create companies in which artist, manager, publisher, label and agent would all be shareholders and would contribute to the overall wealth of the company. Goldschmidt labelled the idea interesting but, always the practical man, he also asked “how does it work in terms of margins?” In other words, who gets paid for what?

On a panel moderated by yours truly (‘A&R is dead – Long live A&R’), panellists agreed that although their influence has diminished, labels could still play a major role in the A&R process, not least because artists need feedback and guidance, and also champions to help them go through the creative process. But it has to be a two-way relationship.

What we are seeing now is the beginning of a new era where labels and artists have common interests and do try to find ways to achieve together the same goals. In the old days, artists signed to labels for a big cheque and their job was to deliver the music, and labels would make superstars (or not) of them. Today, markets conditions forced labels to re-evaluate their role and artists to look at them in a different way – no longer as banks but as service companies  and if labels cannot provide these services, they will be history. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

World Copyright Summit: 3 Questions to David Touve (Washington and Lee University)

By Emmanuel Legrand

David Touve is an interesting character. He is Assistant Professor of Business at the Washington and Lee University in the US. He is one of these academics who tries to put some sense into the digital maelstrom that has hit the creative industries over the past decade.

His thinking is unconventional, yet he has not embraced the 'copyleft' mantra that is affecting so many of his peers in the academic world. Probably because he is an economist, he understands that trends are difficult to identify and that beyond the surface of things there are more complex forces at work.

David Touve at the World Copyright Summit in 2009
Recently, he went into predictive mode when he suggested on Twitter that recorded music would bottom up in 2011. Well the year is not over yet, but judging on the frenzy surrounding the music business at the moment, there are obviously a few people (Russian billionaires among them!) who believe that there is still life in this business. And digital sales seem to be growing. So he may be correct in the end.  

I have been in touch with David for over a year now to discuss a possible presentation from him at the World Copyright Summit. Discussing issues affecting the creative industries with David is always stimulating. He takes his cue from different angles to create some interesting and thought-provoking theories. Two years ago, at the World Copyright Summit in Washington, DC he partnered with PRS for Music chief economist Will Page to explore a touchy subject: "Should rights societies pursue equity?". It was witty and entertaining.

This year, he will make a special presentation about new ways to capture value in a digital eco-system on Tuesday June 7, 2011 at the World Copyright Summit in Brussels. In line with the slogan of the Summit ("Creating value in the digital economy -- Create - Connect - Respect"), we asked him to think off the cuff and come up with a few ideas about how could the creative industries capture some of the revenue streams that for the moment seem to elude them. With just a few weeks to go before the event, David is putting the last touches to his presentation and we asked him what he would be focusing on.

Q: What are the main issues that you wish to address in your presentation?
David Touve: The main ideas I would like to address would be:
(a) Where do we see evidence of the "value" of creative works online?
(b) How are people paying for this value? Whether that payment is direct or indirect, passed through to rights owners or not passed through.
(c) Where might we go from here? Not through some crystal ball answer, but by analysing data (from the past) to try to understand what works or doesn't work, while looking for stones that have yet to be turned.

Q: Do you think that the creative industries can develop viable ecosystems in the digital economy?
David Touve: Absolutely. Far too many people equate "digital economy" with the sort of loss of control to which the creative industries cannot adapt. Yet, these industries have historically adapted and survived without having truly strict control over the distribution, performance, and at times even the business models employed in the experience of creative works. However, I am not going to claim the industry will grow by 100% if it follows some three-step process outlined in last month's edition of Harvard Business Review. Looking to the future, certain sectors of the creative industries may not be as grand (in monetary terms) as previously experienced or conjectured. In fact, a sort of deflating has already occurred for the recorded music industry, by way of downward pressure on prices, unbundling of albums, and slow leaks through piracy. To be clear, a smaller industry is not—de facto—an unviable industry.

Q: You said a couple of years ago that the decline of the recorded music industry will bottom up in 2011... Do you still think it will?
David Touve: Let me begin by admitting that I broke my own rule by producing a prediction. However, I reckon there are a number of reasons to believe that the bottom in recorded music revenues could occur this year (or at least sooner rather than later). Stated in more "researchy" terms, there are a number of reasons to believe that the likelihood of an upcoming incline may be overwhelming the likelihood of further decline.
First, the so-called "Happy Doomsday" scenario. Frankly. if 2011 is the bottom it may still be a rather hairy one, with revenues significantly below those of 2010. Yet as the industry falls further, the likelihood of a subsequent rebound can increase—in the same way that the depreciation of assets in a stock market crash can provide the fuel for a subsequent and solid rally.
Second, recorded music (or any recorded creative work) is neither a buggy whip nor a floppy disk. Music is still in high demand and shall remain in-demand. Therefore, the recorded music industry will not likely die. Instead, the industry will adapt to the market as that market operates.
Third, I believe that experimentation is subtly overwhelming maximisation as the dominant market posture, placing the industry on the verge of discovering and also accepting, for lack of a better term, "carrotsticks." Don't think too hard about that metaphor or, like most metaphors, it will implode. Simply put, however, carrotsticks are not sticks disguised as carrots. Rather these are carrots prepared in a way that makes them more palpable, portable and easily enjoyed.
Experimentation, rather than maximisation, is absolutely necessary at this point given (a) how difficult it is to predict the success or failure of emerging services and (b) how quickly and emphatically these services, if successful, can grow.
Finally, I do feel that this industry is moving beyond the ideological stalemate over how music (or any creative work) "should" be purchased or enjoyed. Hopefully, the industry will now be able to now tap into the larger pool of services, whether now licensed or unlicensed, through which creative works could be and are already being enjoyed.
To the extent that the industry does not follow through on expanding experimentation, however, instead choosing to bake maximization into contracts and renew stalemates, post-2011 could very well offer just a repeat of the prior decades downward sloping income experience.