Sunday, April 29, 2012

Designing a new roadmap for artists in the digital era

by Emmanuel Legrand
[This story was originally published in Record of the Day.]

“The superstar age is dead, we are in the digital age.” So said a Twitter feed during the ReThink Music conference. Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber may disagree with this assertion but one thing is certain: artists are back at the core of the music industry. The dire situation in the recorded music industry has created a vacuum which has put artists in the driving seat. And it is not necessarily an easy ride. Two recent music conferences have widely reflected this new state of play. 
In Los Angeles, first, the 2012 ASCAP ‘I Create Music’ Expo (April 19-21) celebrated songwriters like no other event, drawing over 2,500 aspiring or established musicians for three days of master classes, workshops, discussions and showcases. It felt sometimes like a summer camp, with a high density of long-haired guitar players trying to learn a few basic business facts, and tips from elders. 
On the other American coast, ReThink Music 2012 (the brainchild of the Berklee School of Music and Midem held in Boston April 23-24) was attempting to draw the new music industry map. Theirs is a more business-driven conference, with a mix of artist-centric sessions, business discussions and presentations by academics.
Lesson No.1: Time to connect
If you haven’t connected with your fanbase yet, you are certainly an artist from the 20th Century. The new cycle in the industry is now the following: connect with your audience, build a fanbase, feed the fans, they become your story, an asset (volatile) that you can try to monetise and eventually that can get you to be signed by a label, and a major one if you are lucky (yes, they do still exist).
But the starting point is to engage in a conversation with you fanbase. Actor and musician Jared Leto from the band 30 Seconds to Mars, who had been a pioneer in using social networks to connect with his fanbase said at ASCAP Expo that these new tools allow him to have “a deep and meaningful conversation with [our] community around the world. It is inspiring.”
Lesson No.2: Let them find you
Karmin are a new band signed to Epic US after a bidding war. But they did not go after a label, they let labels come after them. And they went there on their terms (or so it seems). They are now adjusting to label constraints as much as the label is learning to deal with them. “One of the first things for us that was good was that we did not get signed to a label. It allowed us to experiment. Trying to market ourselves was the right thing to do. We never feel detached with the fans,” explained Nick Noonan, one half of Karmin. 
Several industry executives at ASCAP Expo echoed the feeling that if artists have what it takes, they will be found. “You’ve got a little bit of a story to tell,” said Greg Sowders, SVP and head of A&R/USA at Warner/Chappell Music. “It may not be a huge story but you have to have one like having a song recorded, have a cowrite, etc.” Monti Olson, EVP/head of pop & rock music, Creative at Universal Music Publishing Group added, “If you are good we will find you. In the end you will get your opportunity to present your music and if you are good you will get signed.”
“As an artist, you have no shortcuts: you have to put the work: learn about the splits of royalties, learn about publishing, get your hands in the dirt,” said Rob Stone, founder and co-president of Cornerstone Agency and FADER Media at Rethink.
Lesson No.3: Use the tools
Musicians nowadays need to be as techno savvy as they are good songwriters. Ian Rogers, who founded and runs Topspin, a service company for artists said at ASCAP Expo that there are multiple tools for artists to chose from (and not only his!) and invited artists to use them. “We all have more choice than ever in terms of what we have access to but  the single biggest innovation is that you can build a direct relationship with fans. It is really powerful. And if people are interested, do not lose them,” he explained. Indeed, the number and variety of digital services unsigned artists (and also signed acts) can tap into are constantly growing and covering a wider range of sectors. 
It was refreshing to hear at ReThink about a new platform like NuevoStage, for example, which provide bookings for mostly unsigned bands. The twist is that the concerts will only happen if the band manages to mobilise enough fans. Its founder Max Wessell, who won the Rethink Music’s Business Plan Competition in 2011, explained that his idea was to create a service helps artists find stage space in venues, and through the web site, fans pledge to buying tickets and in turn venues agrees to book the show. Active in the Boston area for the past few months with success, NuevoStage could be a brilliant addition to any city with venues waiting to be filled.
Lesson No.4: Anything can be monetised
Ian Rogers (again) highlighted the new mathematics for artists: “If you sell a $0.99c track on iTunes, you may have lost the sale of a t-shirt. And you may have lost twice: you got $0.70c from iTunes instead of $17, and on top you’ve lost the data because the data
stays with iTunes or Amazon.”
Kristin Thomson, consultant for the Future of Music Coalition, unveiled at ReThink a study based on interviews with 80 musicians which showed that US-based musicians, performers and songwriters could tap into 42 different streams of revenues related to their compositions, recordings, performances, brand, or knowledge of craft. “It is clear that artists’ access to market has improved,” she said. She added that the tiny streams on the edges are the ones that are going to be important in future.
Lesson No.5: Videos are the new A&R
So said Pitbull manager Junior Goris at ReThink. “This has taken the role of A&R. It has become a visual business,” he added. It is a fact that more and more acts are focusing on videos as a means to deliver their music. Karmin was one the acts that used video as a calling card and as a way to get a following. “The music space is very crowded and we tried to do something unique that sets us apart,” said Amy Heidemann, the other half of Karmin. “Social media and video, that was everything for us. Video is one of our biggest platforms.”
They got following on YouTube with a string of covers, and clocked over 100 millions views on the service. Karmin exemplify the ethos of today’s new bands: their story is one of ingenuity, hard work, mixed with a dollop of talent and “eating lots of spaghettis” as Heidemann said.
Rio Caraeff, president & CEO of VEVO said at ReThink, that the new platform, which has the ambition to offer videos to consumers anywhere, anytime, has moved videos from the promotional sphere to become a profit centre in their own right. “We thought that our videos had value but advertisers did not perceive music video as valuable,” he said. That perception has changed and Vevo generated $150m in revenues last year, with traffic reaching 45 billion streams.
Lesson No.6: It’s still about the songs
“I don’t see content creators,” said Paul Williams, chairman/president of ASCAP, to an assembly of songwriters. “I see music creators. It’s a noble profession populated with the most optimistic species on the planet. Not usually described as realists,” mused Williams. The Expo was indeed a celebration of music creators, especially songwriters.
Among the celebrated were Carly Simon, Peter Frampton, The Smeezingtons (Bruno Mars and his production and songwriting partners), Max Martin, Stargate, Trent Reznor and many lesser known songwriters. What all these artists have in common is a body of work and mastering the art of songwriting.
It is also an art form that is going through transformations. A lot of music is now created collectively, with a combination of people in charge of the beats, others for the melody, lyricists, and a producer to glue it all. Bruno Mars and his colleagues exemplify this new generation of acts who find they muse through collective work. “We have three minutes to tell a story, we don’t have the luxury of two hours,” said Mars. “It needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end.”

Other similar stories you might be interested in reading:
ReThink Music 2012 -- Things seen and heard in Boston
ASCAP Expo 2012 -- Things seen and heard in Los Angeles

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

ReThink Music 2012 -- Things seen and heard in Boston

by Emmanuel Legrand
ReThink Music is one of the new conferences on the music industry circuit. It is the brainchild of the Berklee School of Music and Midem. Held in Boston April 23-24, the conference aims at looking at the future of the music business. The audience is made of students, academics and industry professionals. Here are a few things seen and heard at ReThink Music 2012.
How can one work in the music industry?
Roger Brown, the president of the Berklee College of Music pointed out in his introduction remarks that the music industry has had “the most tumultuous ride” and the roller coaster ride is not over. While the situation for artists has changed and has put them in the driving seat, the industry itself is not in the same shape as it was a decade ago. Not only is the physical market in free fall, but the digital market, even if revenues are growing, comes with its own set of issues. Several speakers described the music business as a place where digital has made licensing deals increasingly complex. “We are all in the high-complexity low-margin business,” summed up Vickie Newman, president/North America for online service 7Digital. “We get a huge volume of micro payments making up for...nothing,” added Cathy Merenda, VP of music publishing at 20th Century Fox. “Any MBA will tell you this is not a business you want to be in,” mused Steve Masur, senior partner at MasurLaw. “You have to be a masochist to get into this business.”
No more lectures please -- we want solutions!
Seth Godin is often described as a marketing guru. He’s written a few books to that effect. And he can often be interesting when he sticks to his core topics. But do we need another lecture on the reasons why the music industry is in such a mess? We all know what happened and we have to get beyond that. His ReThink presentation was abundant on the reasons why the mould had been broken but thin on answers on how to build a new business from the crumbled walls of Babylon! But he did wear a funky jacket that won him kudos from the audience. At least he knows how to market himself.
Friction is the new F word
In the heydays of vinyl, in the world of scarcity described by Seth Godin, part of the fun was the friction, ie. the difficulty to access to music as you wanted and when you wanted. Expectations were high because you had to wait for the moment you went top the record store, and find a few gems that you would bring back home. Times, they are a-changing, right? Now, creating a “friction-free” marketplace for consumers seems to be the new obsession. It is as if the nanny-state syndrome had also trickled down to the music and tech communities. It has to be made easy! The experience has to be flawless! And if it is not, the fans will fly elsewhere, most likely on non-licensed platforms. Even the ‘old’ industry has understood that. “Our job is to monetise artists’ music,” said John Vanhala, in charge of digital and new business at Universal Music Group. “Our role is to go out and find friction-free ways to get music out.” 
Even the licensing process should be friction-free
One area where getting rid of frictions is paramount is in the licensing process. All the speakers on the ‘Licensing challenges in the global community’ at ReThink agreed that more needs to be done to make the licensing process easier and more transparent. “There is friction at the point of licensing,” said Steven Masur, senior partner at MasurLaw. “We want to license on all devices and around the world and our business is to have consistency, but the difficulties to go through that are immense: there’s labels, publishers, PROs, different models, different rates,” said Vickie Newman, president/North America for online service 7Digital. The real issue here, they explained, was first to streamline the process for the benefit of all stakeholders. 
And good metadata will help limit friction
One the key ingredient in the friction-free process should without any doubt good metadata, so that licensees know what they are licensing and the proper identification of works will allow a good flow of revenues between the licensee and the licensor. That is the theory. Because in practice, it is not there yet. As documented before, there are two projects of global registries, one is the GRD, which regroups the major publishers and several rights societies, the other being IMR, which is backed by WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organisation. 
“We are distributors, with tens of thousands of streams. It is all about data,” said Cecily Mak, VP/general counsel of online radio service Rhapsody, who welcome these initiatives.  But she expressed doubts at the pace they were developing. It has been going on for many years. “It is hard to predict when it will be of value to customers like Rhapsody,” she said. 
Mark Isherwood, co-founder Rightscom, and who is involved in the GRD suggested that the project was well on tracks and close to get into the next phase, which will involve IT specialists. “We are making sure that before we go to the next stage, everybody is comfortable with all the key issues,” he said. “We are dealing with people’s emotions and that takes time. There is no question in my mind that it will happen. The question is not if it will happen but how.”
Meanwhile Jim Griffin, an ardent proponent of the IMR, said the IMR will address the issue of all repertoires and all the different languages since it appears that the GRD will be strong with Anglo-American repertoire. “There is an enormous difference between the two projects,” he said but also admitted that at some point there will be a need to “synchronise the various efforts. The point is that we need a centralised database that represents the sum of all the information.”
And I do not resist the pleasure to mention one of Griffin’s quotes: “It is hard to imagine a sustainable economy of ideas without transparency.” It’s hard to figure what it really means but it sounds great!
Can too much friction create a culture backlash?
In a different session, Jochai Benkler mentioned the Digital Copyright Exchange proposed in the Hargreaves review in the UK as the possible way forward to facilitate licensing. For Benkler, “copyright needs to be important for B2B usage” but the friction about copyright at a consumer level must be ended. Incidentally, Benkler rightly said that the record companies’ misguided habit of suing customers and the war on file-sharers has created in return a “cultural backlash” which would explain the PIPA and SOPA debacles. “Don’t break the internet to save an industry,” said Benkler, “there must be a better way.”
Nothing’s worse than playing to an industry crowd
An the unfortunate victim of music professionals’ total lack of interest in her music was Alela Diane. The folk artist was playing at the Speakers’ Dinner at ReThink. Diane put on a brave face and tried to get people into her music but she was with the wrong crowd. Her music needs an attentive audience, one than can marvel at the subtleties of her guitar picking and connect with the pain in her voice and the depth of her lyrics. I wrote not too long ago that artists can revel in adversity but that was one gig too many for her. Why on earth was she ambushed into that hole? She deserves much better than a crowd only interested in networking, chatting and drinking. I felt sorry for her, and as a great admirer of her talent, I felt like apologising to her for the rudeness of the audience. And since I did not get to do it face to face, I do it here!
[Typed while listening to Alela Diane’s stunning 2006 debut album ‘The Pirate’s Gospel’ (Holocene Music)]

Other similar stories you might be interested in reading:
Designing a new roadmap for artists in the digital era
ASCAP Expo 2012 -- Things seen and heard in Los Angeles

Monday, April 23, 2012

ASCAP Expo 2012 -- Things seen and heard in Los Angeles

by Emmanuel Legrand

US performing right society ASCAP held its 7th annual ASCAP Expo ‘I Create Music’ event in Los Angeles April 19-21 at the Hotel Renaissance. The gathering is aimed as aspiring songwriters and artists who register to attend three packed days of seminars, workshops, panels, master session, showcases, in which professionals and fellow songwriters/musicians share their experience. Here are a few things seen and heard in LA.
Any piece of advice is good
For the 2,500 people who attend the event, ASCAP Expo is as much a networking and plugging opportunity as a learning experience, especially if tips come from other artists or business professionals. After sessions, industry executives are literally mobbed by the crowd trying to get access to people who could change their life to whom they could be in business with. So here we go, taken from the various session at the Expo.
From songwriters and performers:
“The musician is now in charge because he has the power to be re-tweeted. It’s exciting, the way it is going. You’ve got to do your thing on the internet, [but also] building a following live, even if you have to pay to play, which was unheard of in my days. If you are pushy enough, you can always find a way to get your music heard.” Peter Frampton, songwriter and performer
“Tools have emerged to streamline the process: we are all creators and about giving what people want. If you give people something they have a reason to share, they will.” D.A. Wallach, songwriter and performer/Artist in residence, Spotify
“We have a deep and meaningful conversation with [our] community around the world. It is inspiring.” Jared Leto, musician, songwriter, actor, performer (30 Seconds to Mars)
“A lot of musicians are enamoured with the sound and tend to forget about the song.” George Duke, pianist and producer
“We still like the musicians to play together: you can’t get that from a computer.” Lee Ritenour, guitarist and producer
“We have three minutes to tell a story, we don’t have the luxury of two hours. It needs to have a beginning, a middle and an end.” Bruno Mars, songwriter, performer and producer (The Smeezingtons)
“I like songs where less is more: these are the hardest ones to write.” Bruno Mars
“Every song has been a pain in the ass. So you just keep on. It’s the curse.” Bruno Mars
“My advice: be nice.” Ari Levine, producer (The Smeezingtons)
From professionals:
“It is about breaking down barriers: how do I get this particular production team, how do I get to know people. Make a name for yourself. And be perseverant.” Danny Strick, co-president, Sony/ATV
“Don’t kid yourself, we are for profit companies and our job is to find hits. You have to have realistic expectations. But if you are really serious, anything is possible.” Greg Sowders, SVP and head of A&R/USA, Warner/Chappell Music
“You will not fit with all companies. Do some research, try and find the company that might be of interest to you.” Greg Sowders
“You’ve got a little bit of a story to tell. It may not be a huge story but you have to have one like having a song recorded, have a co-write.” Greg Sowders
“If it does not grab you in the first few bars, forget it. Remember that we have to go and sell it to labels or music supervisors, so we need great hooks.” Lionel Conway, EVP, Creative West Coast, BMG Chrysalis
“If you are good we will find you. At in the end you will get your opportunity to present your music and if your are good you will get signed.” Monti Olson, EVP/head of pop & rock music, Creative, Universal Music Publishing Group
“Collaborative efforts, if you do it well, can be marvelous.” Monti Olson
“You have to have something that connects with people as a starting point. If you don’t have that, there’s no software that will allow you to connect [with the audience].” Ian Rogers, CEO, Topspin
“We all have more choice than ever in terms of what we have access to but the single biggest innovation is that you can build a direct relationship with fans. It is really powerful. And if people are interested, do not lose them.” Ian Rogers
“If you sell a $99c on iTunes, you may have lost the sale of a t-shirt. And you may have lost twice: you got $70c from iTunes instead of $17, and on top you’ve lost the data because the data stays with iTunes or Amazon.” Ian Rogers
“There are two types of music businesses: one who cares about radio and another that doesn’t. Having hits is very capital intensive, the other requires less investment.” Ian Rogers
Note to lyricists: the F*** word is no longer a no-go area
Thanks to a group of mischievous songwriters producers (The Smeezingtons, but more on them later), an unusual word heard a few times publicly was the f*** word, courtesy of Cee Lo Green. His smash hit called, err, ‘Fuck You’ (or ‘Forget You’ for the hearing impaired) did win a few ASCAP pop Awards, and therefore got mentioned quite a few times (and we assume with some delight by those who were doing so in public without being chastised). Even ASCAP VP or membership Randy Grimmett, in his interview with The Smeezingtons did use the word a couple of times, and managed to keep his composure. “We knew radios were not going to play a song with ‘Fuck you’, but we had to do it,” explained Mars. Glad they did it. Suddenly it became a cool word.
A message from Mars (and The Smeezingtons)
Staying with the aforementioned The Smeezingtons, a.k.a. songwriter/performer Bruno Mars, singer and songwriter Philip Lawrence and producer Ari Levine, they were the hot ticket in LA. Their interview session with Grimmett, before a packed audience of over 2,000 fellow songwriters was an amazingly funny piece of comedy and also a revealing exercise about the true value of creative collaborations. These three guys do have a wicked sense of humour and it was not difficult to see how they could interact in the studio by the way they behaved on stage with each other. They were taking the piss, making fun anything and delighting so the audience (and poor Grimmett was trying to keep some order in da house). I was not a great fan of Mars the singer, but seeing him with his pals cracking jokes but also taking seriously his songwriting, being so earnest, and obviously valuing the relationship with his creative partners (“These guys held my back”, he said about then after he got dropped from Motown) to a point that it made me seriously re-evaluate him. And boy, they rocked the house. Give them a comedy show!
Learn to say ‘No’
Peter Frampton gave a very open interview after receiving from ASCAP the Global Impact Award. The British guitarist and performer went through his career with Humble Pie and as a solo act. Of course, he talked about the life changing experience of having a multi-million selling album such as ‘Frampton Comes Alive!’ in 1976. When interviewer Nic Harcourt asked him how comfortable he felt when his career went into the stratosphere, Frampton was direct, “Very comfortable!”, adding: “Everybody wants you for everything over and over again. It is very exciting at the beginning.” 
But then Frampton was equally candid when he said that he should have not released the follow-up album ‘Im In You’ so soon after ‘...Comes Alive!’ because it was simply not ready. “We were so busy we did not stop for two years,” he explained. “There was a period when I wanted to stop touring and take time off and everyone in the team, management, agent, record company said you have to take advantage of this while your hot, and I thought that they know what they are doing. I did not feel good about going in the studio and do in three months what took six years to get on ‘Comes Alive’. I did not have good material. It was not time to record. I would have needed to take a year and do co-writing and stuff.”
Frampton was even more direct when he spoke about “that movie” (the dreadfully kitsch film version of ‘Sgt Peppers’ produced by Robert Stigwood, also featuring the Bee Gees). “In my gut I did not want to do that,” he told Harcourt. “The only reason was that Robert Stigwood told me that Paul McCartney was going to have the part that Billy Preston plays in the film. I said ‘If there is a Beatle, that’s OK for me and I’ll do it.’ Guess what? Paul’s not in the movie. A few weeks later, I went to see Wings at Wembley and then went backstage to see Paul, and said, ‘See you on the set then’ and Paul went ‘what?’. That’s when I realised that I had been lied to.”
There’s a lot to learn from these two back to back episodes in Frampton career, because he never really recovered from what appears now as major career mistakes. 
Registering with an authors’ society can be the start of a great career
At the ASCAP Pop Awards, Trent Reznor was present in the flesh, and without any of his stage histrionics, to pick up from ASCAP chairman Paul Williams his Golden Note Award, in recognition of his career. A tigthly edited video showed the different paths of Reznor’s career, from Nine Inch Nail to writing movie scores and was a reminder that Reznor was quite certainly one of the most challenging and innovative artists of the past 20 years. He may not be to everybody’s liking (I do!), but the way he carved his often brutal and disturbing sounds and visions is simply unique. Accepting his award, Reznor seemed genuinely pleased for the accolade. I just a few words, he recalled that his “first professional affiliation” was with ASCAP, and that it’s been “the longest one”. Something else to learn from: if you are a songwriter, your whole professional environment can change, you can switch labels, fire your manager, sign to different publishers, but your relationship with your author society will most likely remain the only stable fixture in your professional environment. 
A wardrobe malfunction will get you the right amount of press
If judging by the amount of stories her inches of skin have generated, it was a good PR move for Katy Perry to have a wardrobe malfunction... Check out her outfit on the red carpet before the ASCAP Pop Awards! Even the Sun talked about it (in a not so delicate way). It almost eclipsed the fact that she was there to pick up a few awards and to celebrate six No.1 hit singles in a row from her 2012 album ‘Teenage Dream’ (Capitol). Meanwhile, Carly Simon, Peter Frampton and Trent Reznor, who were also celebrated on April 18, got less media attention. So tip to the new generation: Take your clothes off if your are seeking for media attention. It also kind of works better when you have good hit songs too!

[Typed while listening to two brilliant electronic albums: ‘Iradelphic’ by Clark (Warp) and ‘Fin’ by John Talabot (Permanent Vacation)]

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Sony/ATV’s acquisition of EMI Pub raises questions

by Emmanuel Legrand

It would have been the perfect picture to symbolise the end of a certain world and the beginning of a new era for the music industry: the chief executives of EMI Music Publishing (Roger Faxon), Sony/ATV (Marty Bandier), Universal Music Publishing (the newly crowned Zach Horowitz, whose appointment as chairman/CEO of the company was announced that day), Warner Chappell (Cameron Strang), Kobalt (Willard Ahdritz) and BMG Chrysalis (Hartwig Masuch).

These folks were all in the same room indeed but never got on the same picture. They all had the occasion to walk on stage to get their pictures taken while picking up accolades at the ASCAP Pop Awards show, held in Los Angeles on April 18 and organised by the US performing rights organisation, but never together. Yet the interaction between all of them is going to reshape the world of music publishing.

The news that the European Commission had cleared the $2.2 billion proposed acquisition of EMI Music Publishing by the consortium of investors led by Sony/ATV had not been made public yet, but there was already a sense that the tectonic plates in music publishing had already moved.
Faxon and EMI’s whole US creative team led by John Plat took the stage to celebrate their 11th year as Ascap’s Pop publisher of the year. Probably for the last time. But it was a well deserved celebration and a reminder that EMI Music Publishing was a tremendous creative force in the industry. 
Now the power at EMI will be shifting to Bandier. “Marty is a very sharp operator, and a very good dealmaker” an American publisher tells me, “but Faxon did a great job at EMI. He had a good understanding of the big picture and he has been able to really grasp the importance of the creative side of this business.”
Now that the deal has been cleared, it is time to ask a few questions about what will happen next. First, the Commission’s decision could still be challenged in court by some of the parties opposing the merger. Sony/ATV’s promise to dispose of a few catalogues (among them  Virgin Music Publishing UK, Virgin Europe, Virgin US, and Famous Music UK, which Marty Bandier acquired when he was running EMI) has certainly helped soothe the concerns of the regulators and allowed the process to go through without having to go into a full investigation.
EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia described the Virgin and Famous catalogues as “valuable and attractive catalogues containing bestselling titles as well as works of successful and promising authors”. He added, “I am therefore satisfied that the competitive dynamics in the online music publishing business will be maintained.” 
This simple (simplistic?) comment shows how lightly the investigation process has been carried through by the Commission. The new entity will weight 31 to 33% of the global publishing business and the Commission is “satisfied” with the selling of catalogues worth a few million euros without looking further on the deal? The magnitude of the transaction would have certainly warranted a full investigation focusing on the impact that the new combined player would have had on the market. 
Last week, an investor’s document unveiled by the New York Times suggested that about 60% of EMI’s work force would be lost once the merger completed, raising concern among staff at both EMI and Sony/ATV. It prompted Bandier to send an email to staff saying that the document reflected a situation from a while ago and did not reflect today’s situation. Bandier also said that we was going to try to keep the best people from both companies. 
This process will take time and that will have a crippling effect on the way the company will operate for a while, according to people who are familiar with these processes. Some people I spoke to in Los Angeles regard the acquisition of BMG Music Publishing by Universal as a possible benchmark in terms of integration and disruption, with the difference that it was a straightforward acquisition followed by a merger. “This will take at least two years to settle,” said a publisher.
Because it is a consortium of investors buying into EMI, Sony/ATV cannot integrate the new catalogue as if it were a simple acquisition, the way Universal did when they acquired BMG. Sony/ATV will administer the catalogue against an administrative fee. This raises several issues. One of them being -- who sets the fee? Is Marty Bandier going to make a deal with Bandier Marty? 
And, as all publishers know, how do you keep the value of the catalogue growing and not devaluing? The only way to do it is, of course, to have the best team placing songs, but it is also about rejuvenating the catalogue through new signings. And there again, if it happens, who will make the decisions as to which act goes where, Bandier Marty or Marty Bandier? And will the Sony/ATV’s cheque book compete with EMI’s?
Meanwhile, there will certainly be a wave of catalogues, currently administered by EMI that will not feel at ease in the new structure and look for new partners. Most admin deals include an ownership clause that gives the opportunity to opt out if there is a change in ownership.
Then there is the state of the European digital licensing deals. EMI, through CELAS, is going through a jv between PRS for Music and Gema in Germany, while Sony/ATV has a central licensing deal with Gema. The consensus is that the deals will not change in the coming future, until probably the deals expire. It is quite certain that Marty Bandier will carefully evaluate the pros and cons of each deal and see how he can extract the best deal for both catalogues. And any PRO that will manage to capture this deal will probably be well off for a while in the same way that Sacem is guaranteed a certain level of business with its deal with Universal Music Publishing.
A publisher present at Ascap Expo was smiling when he said to me that he was planning to be quite busy this year and the years to come picking up all sorts of publishing catalogues searching for admin deals. Another surmised that BMG Rights Management, Kobalt and a few other publishers would be extremely busy pitching these catalogues in the months to come. “It’s a great time to be an independent publisher,” said a publisher with a smile.