The Hot Seat: Vincent Clery-Melin, Co-operative Music

Published in The Music Network

 

Frenchman Vincent Clery-Melin has headed-up the Cooperative Music network since it was launched by V2 Music in 2005. Initially a pan-European label licensing network, London-based Co-Op partners with some of the indie world’s coolest labels, from Wichita Recordings to City Slang, Moshi Moshi Records and Wichita Recordings. In 2007, V2 and its Co-Op business was sold to Universal Music Group for a cool £7 million.

Now owned by the world’s biggest music company, Co-Op’s ethos has remained truly rooted to the independents’ cause and in recent times the business has kicked big-time goals for the likes of Fleet Foxes and Phoenix. Now, Co-Operative Music has established a company in Australia, at the conclusion of a five-year relationship with Shock.

You’ve set up shop Down Under. What’s the overall vision for the Australian company?

With our team and the backing we have from Universal, we want to become a very significant player in the independent sector over there. All the labels we work with are very music- driven. We pride ourselves on not only being able to sell records, but the staff are doing that by respecting the ethos of the artists. I hope the Australian company can achieve what we’ve become at home in the U.K. — the best place to go to if you’re an independent label looking for a great success.

How many records will Cooperative Music Australia release each year?

When we worked with Shock, we weren’t always able to acquire or extend those rights for Australia. Now it’s becoming a bit more systematic, and people are showing interest in our new set-up. In Australia, our output has historically been about half what it was Europe, which over the last three years has grown to about 80 albums each year. We’ve just done an Australia deal with Kitsuné — the French label – who in the past we only represented for Europe. Given the first signs we’re seeing, we’ll quickly get to a position where we release as many records in Australia as we do in Europe. Maybe some labels will be interested in our set-up for Australia-only. From July, we’ll start by putting out records by Digitalism, the Black Lips, Is Tropical and CSS, among others.

Did the contract with Shock expire and you then decided to bring it in house with Universal distributing?

It’s what triggered it. But it’s more than that. Bear in mind, there are still a number of markets, like France, Belgium and Holland, where we’re still distributed by an independent and in those cases they’re the same independents we’ve been working with since we were owned by V2. For the last three-and-a-half years, Universal has kept true to what they told us at the beginning – that we’re very much a separate business within their organisation.

It’s not just about bringing in foreign repertoire from the independent sector; it’s also working the repertoire in a different way. Universal understands that. We sat down with them and agreed to do a distribution deal where Universal would basically do what an independent distributor generally does with an independent label. That is to provide the infrastructure, the administration, the sales, the back-office and their expertise.

With Shock, we’ve grown a lot in Australia; we broke quite a few artists, did a lot of business and brought in a few new labels.

What opportunities do you see here?

It’s a very interesting market for labels, and for alternative music. It’s a market which still has solid music retail which is supportive of independent music, which is not necessarily the case in other markets. Digital retail is very strong and you’ve got a small population with a high disposable income. Compared to Europe, Australia is per-capita probably the biggest market for a number of our bands, like Phoenix. It’s a great market for independent music and it’s helped by having a great number of media outlets which are excited about new music, starting with Triple J, community radio.

Over the years, even stations like Nova have embraced our repertoire, which is very hard to get into the commercial radio space in places like Europe. Obviously, the other side of the opportunity is completely A&R- driven. At the moment we deal mostly with European labels and with some U.S. labels. If we built a stronger presence for Australia, our partner labels like Bella Union and Wichita would have a bit more ammo for when they find new bands and sign them for the world.

Are there opportunities for Aussie bands and labels to join the fold?

Definitely. The original vision was to extend our business in Australia more systematically for our acts overseas. But through this process, I had tons of meetings and (discovered) there’s some exciting talent which can do really well through this kind of setup. As we’ve got a great international network, if we find the right bands or the right label, whose records could travel, we could also offer that as part of our service. We’d love to do that. We’ve always been interested by really good, exciting Australian talent. This setup could take it to the next level.

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The Hot Seat, Brett Cottle, CEO, APRA | AMCOS

Published in The Music Network

 

Brett, you’ve just returned from the World Copyright Summit in Brussels. What were some of the big themes?

The broader issues were the continuing issue of ISP liability, and the impact of file-sharing and other illegal content on the growth of legitimate services. There was talk about cloud-based services and what they mean in copyright terms. There was talk about pan-European licensing and internal industry issues, such as the idea of a central global database of musical works. If I had one criticism of the content, it was that perhaps that it was too Euro-centric and certainly not much attention paid to Asia. Surely one of the big issues for all of us is if and when Apple will launch its service across Asia, and what licensing arrangements will apply to that service.

What are the big challenges facing the Australian industry?

The fundamental problem is the seemingly inexorable decline of the physical product market. And the continuing fact that the digital business is not expanding at a rate which plugs the gap. Publishers are facing that same decline in their revenue. And they’re having to deal with a hell of a lot more data and micropayments. They’re paying out many more writers and dealing with much smaller sums of money. I’m not privy to how their sync licensing businesses are performing, but the general economy is probably placing a downward pressure on that area.

APRA recently announced a record royalty distribution. Is it all good news?

The business is still reasonably buoyant because it’s extremely diverse – our clients range from corner shops to concert promoters. But it’s going to get much tougher next year. The primary reason is the strength of the Australian dollar. We’ll see a marked fall off in revenue from overseas because of the strength of the Aussie dollar. NZ revenue accounts for about 10% of revenue within APRA and because the NZ dollar is relatively weak, we’ll see a decline in that part of our accounts. There are other problems caused by the strength of the currency, and they’re primarily to do with the downturn in the hospitality industry generally because of the great drop-off in tourist dollars being spent in Australia.

In the general licensing area, we’re seeing a high level of cancellation in the hotel area and a very difficult trading environment in the dance club area. Offsetting that, our market penetration generally in public performance licensing is still increasing. We’ve just agreed on a new tariff with the fitness industry; we’ll see a significant increase in license fees and we’ve got some areas of opportunity which we’ll be negotiating in the next year. We’ve also got to renegotiate our YouTube licensing agreement, beginning in July. That’s quite a big ticket item for us.

Which areas has APRA identified for royalty growth potential?

Digital is still growing strongly. We haven’t seen the levelling-off in digital sales as we’re seeing in the U.S. The opportunities that will arise for us will principally have to do with a re-evaluation of rights — getting new deals in other areas. And YouTube would be one example. And you’re shifting to a quarterly distribution cycle from a half-yearly? Yes. Our first quarterly distribution will be made in mid-August. We aren’t moving to a full quarterly distribution initially. We’re going to pay-out quarterly what we can readily do, which is about 60-70% of our total payments. The remaining areas of our distribution which for the time being will remain on a half- yearly cycle – for example television – will gradually move across to a quarterly cycle over the next 12-24 months.

EMI Music Publishing says its bundling performance rights previously represented by ASCAP with mechanical and synchronisation rights in a move to streamline licensing for digital music service providers. Will that help clarify the minefield that is publishing rights?

There is a lack of clarity on what the impact is. Once the rights are within the mandate of a collecting society, they’re available to license. All you have to do is comply with the terms of the relevant license scheme. But if the rights are locked-up back in a publishing house, of course that publisher can decide whether to license them or not. It’s difficult to see what the convenience for users might be, in the sense that the owner might decide simply not to license those rights unless a premium is paid.

What changes would you like introduced to the industry?

There’s only one – I’d like to see the issue of free illegal content online dealt with. The only way it can be dealt with is at the ISP level. And the ISPs have either got to adopt some sensible, responsible approach to the system of illegal content, or they’ve got to begin to talk to copyright owners about buy-in on the business models. And come up with some kind of licensing proposal, which will address the issue of the huge amount of content which gets traded for free.

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The Hot Seat: Philippe-Marc Anquetil, Phrased Differently

Published in The Music Network

 

Australian-born, UK-based songwriter and producer Philippe-Marc Anquetil likes to do things differently. Starting from scratch in the mid-noughties, his independent music publishing firm Phrased Differently can now boast credits in 30 No. 1s and more than 50 Top 10s around the globe. As a co- writer and producer, he’s had a hand in songs performed by Tinie Tempah, Sarah Connor, La Spina, Toho Shinki, Kumi Koda and local act Prinnie. TMN caught up with Anquetil to talk shop.

Philippe-Marc, you’re another Australian success story abroad. How did you get the ball rolling?

From 2000, myself and my songwriting partner Christopher Lee-Joe shifted up a gear. We built a studio in Australia and we were making good money. But it got to a stage where we left because we thought that would be the best way to develop our art. We came to London in 2004 with just a Mac laptop and we started from scratch. I started ringing all the managers and publishers in London, asking if they’d any artists who were interested in doing some free work, just to show what we had going. Then we would start charging.

The artist managers started banging at our door. We did it all from our wardrobe, where we’d set up a studio. Jessie J has recorded in there, as has Kelli (Young) and Jessica (Taylor) from Liberty X and Denise Pearson from Five Star. We’ve now got a new studio in Shoreditch, which we’ve expanded to five rooms.

Did you hit the awards parties for the networking opportunities?

We attended the ASCAP and BMI showcases. We needed an introduction for writing work, and these events were showcasing new talent that hadn’t been signed. Acts that were looking, but were on the brink.

When did things take off?

Particularly over the last 18 months. Most publishers start from success. You’ll have an album from a new artist which performs well and a publishing company pops up. We did it a different way. We teamed up with Hiten Bharadia, formerly of Universal. We all had the same love of music and love of writing music. Chris and I had our catalogue from Australia, and Hiten had his catalogue from the U.K. and we put it together and started the company. We started from almost nothing.

Our first success was Japan; we had a couple of huge singles right at the start of Phrased Differently and that got us going. We got a lot more work in Japan and Asia. When you write a song today, you won’t see any money from that song for at least two years. I wrote Invincible with Tinie Tempah and Kelly Rowland in November 2009. And that has been my biggest success as a single in England. It didn’t get released until December 2010, and I probably won’t see any cash from that until the end of this year. You just have to wait.

Your company has only 850 songs and five songwriters on its books. How big do you have to be before achieving critical mass?

When you start a business you need a lot of energy. We thought the best way to do it was to find the right sub-publishers around the world and really push them to get the right cut. It was all about introducing the right songs in the right place and getting the right cut. And we have loads of single-song assignments from songwriters around the world. If we hear that amazing song, we will do a deal.

Also, we’ve been commissioned to write songs for John De Mol’s Voice Of talent discovery franchise around the world. It’s an exciting time (Voice Of launched in the U.S with the show receiving more than 12 million viewers for episode one). We’re diversifying, not in the way that we’re just finding more places to sell, but we’re finding different ways to sell our songs.

Are you building the business?

We’ve just added an A&R manager. And our next goal is to expand into Australia. I’m hoping in the next year or so to be heading back to Australia and heading up Phrased Differently Australia. The idea is to have a team there which doesn’t just sell to Australia, but sells to the world through the international network we’ve set up.

Australia has an unbelievable amount of talent. It’s just unreachable to people internationally at the moment. The world is getting smaller. All we need is just key people to get those songs and those artists into the international scene. The whole international market wants new stuff. Australia’s music with an Australian accent will be a part of the international market soon enough.

Do you have any tips for Australian songwriters who might want to follow in your footsteps?

Persistence is key. And don’t expect to see results of the success for about two years. Also, you need to have more than a five-year plan. You need to be thinking five-years plus two. I’d also say write and collaborate with a lot of people. Other people will always come up with something different from yourself. And they will push you to another level.

 

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The Hot Seat: Shaun James, GM, XYZnetworks

Published in The Music Network

 

You left Warner Music seven years ago. What evolution have you seen in the label community over that time?

Certainly, the major labels have had to radically restructure their businesses. But labels are getting better and smarter at operating within the new paradigm. I don’t think you’ll find anyone, anywhere holding their hand up and saying, ‘digital sales has filled the hole. But it’s an ongoing process. By the nature of the business, it’s at the forefront of trends. That’s going to continue. And it’s probably going to accelerate, as we’re now moving into the cloud computing and digital storage. All those things are affecting not just music labels but broadcasters and a lot of media businesses.

Would you ever go back to the labels biz?

You never say never. Everything’s an evolution. We’ve certainly got some great challenges in front of us at the moment. Subscription TV is a vibrant place and it’s an area of the business which is very much at the forefront of technology. There’s a number of things coming into our world which will be very exciting over the next 12 months.

What are some of those exciting prospects?

Without giving anything away, it’s more the expansion into (new platforms). Foxtel has a number of IQ sets that are IPTV-capable and have a return path over the Internet. And there’s a number of technological developments coming along that will make the viewing experience for our subscribers even more engaging.

Is there scope to have a label within your group?

We’ve looked at it, but you have to be very careful about defining what business you’re in. We don’t see it as core to the business we’re in. But we are looking at the different ways that the content we create can be used and exported over a multitude of platforms.

You must have watched with some interest the sale of Warner Music Group?

It’s one from leftfield. But obviously (new owner Len Blavatnik) has run a number of successful businesses in a number of industries. He’s come into it on the basis that he can make a dollar rather than lose a dollar.

And some folks think he’ll bid for EMI and merge the two.

Who knows? There’s been ongoing speculation since the time I was at Warners about a Warner- EMI tie-up, a Warner-Bertelsmann tie- up. It’s a bit of a pastime in the industry. People love to speculate.

Are you hands-on with the programming at XYZ?

Absolutely. I love the fact we receive a whole slate of releases every week. I have daily conversations with our programming team, as I do with our production, our marketing, our sales team, our digital team. Part of what we need to do across the four brands (Channel V, V Hits, Max, Country Music Channel), which are all very distinct brands, is make sure that what we’re programming and what we’re outputting every day is as relevant and current as it can be to the respective target audiences.

How many clips come in each week?

It depends on labels’ release schedules. It might be a dozen one week, or 30.

The labels’ problems are well documented. I suspect YouTube is one of your industry’s greatest challenges.

You’re absolutely right. The market has increased and there are extra channels in the subscription-TV world. It’s a very cluttered space. We need to act as a trusted filter for the audience. We’ve seen a lot of consumer research that says many consumers are confused and in some cases intimidated by the sheer volume of choice. Trusted brands have a real role there in filtering and distilling this mass of content that’s available. It’s very much a two-way street. We want to engage with the audience and to the best of our ability we want to understand the audience and present programming options that are on-brand.

You’ve launched a new chart show. Why?

We looked around and no-one was really (doing it). We’re a video music channel, first and foremost, at Channel V. The music chart show is our attempt to put a stamp on it and say we’re the only broadcaster in Australia doing that. We take the information from a number of different areas. We think there’s a long- term future for a music video chart show. Our live 10.30am Saturday show The Riff on Channel V has been terrifically good for us. It’s building each week.

Labels in the U.S. are still bitter at allowing MTV to build a billion dollar industry on their backs without paying any fees. What’s the situation in Australia?

We’ve got broadcast arrangements in place with all the copyright owners. We recognise the value in copyright, and we recognise the fact that copyright owners need to be recompensed. There’s no doubt that our label and artist and management partners see the absolute promotional benefit in what we do. We also see the benefit in their content as well. We’ve got very strong relationships.

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