The Hot Seat: Bart Cools, EMI

Published in The Music Network


Bart Cools is a 20-year veteran with EMI. He’s a survivor. He’s also tasked with overseeing the music giant’s most recent global initiative, the EMI Dance Network, an A&R and marketing network for dance music. Dance music is big business, and EMI is a big player. Its roster includes frontline signings such as David Guetta, deadmau5 and Swedish House Mafia. It’s anticipated the EMI Dance Network will be key in breaking EMI’s latest signings, which include Eric Prydz, Nervo, Goldfish, Sebjak and Wally Lopez. Cools has been around dance music since today’s clubbers were in nappies. In the mid-90s, Cools worked closely with the likes of Daft Punk, Massive Attack, Chemical Brothers and Air. Amsterdam-based Cools is also an ambassador for the EMI Australia- developed She Can DJ competition, which has gone global in 2012, its second year. TMN caught up with Cools on a recent visit to the Australian company.

Let’s talk about the EMI Dance Network, which you oversee. Why start this thing now?
One of the side effects of being good at dance music is that a lot of people have started to sign dance around the world. So we wanted to be ahead of the curve and foresee the pipeline issue that we’re going to have. We sat down at the end of last year, and looked at our rosters and our catalogue. We figured we’d have to be more proactive and see what we had to do to keep our competitive advantage. So we pooled all the talent we have in A&R and marketing into managers and bookers. Dance is traditionally a single track-based business and the culture itself is at the cutting-edge. It’s often said dance music suffers the greatest damage through file-sharing. Yes, partly it is a track-based business. Yes, we’re selling a lot of tracks. But we’re selling albums as well. We’re not in the business of immediately signing the next Romanian track and spreading it around the world. We’re best at artists and developing careers. Yeah, there’s a lot of file-sharing and track sales that have been affected. But at the same time with the arrival of streaming services, Spotify in particular, there’s a lot of streaming income to be had. Obviously that’s going to hit in Australia next. It’s amazing how much hidden income there is. The same goes for payments related to club play. And in almost all cases with EMI signings of DJs and dance artists we don’t have them just for records, we also share income on live, merch and brand partnerships. It’s a much wider business than just the track, releasing the track and comp-ing it out. There is a lot of money to be made, a lot of profit to be had, if we do it right.

You mentioned multi-rights deals. Is that something you’re actively pursuing?
Yes. All of our new artists have in some way, shape or form, a multi-rights deal. Not the ones we signed in the ‘90s. Depending on where the artist already is and what he or their management has done themselves, there’s no standard multi-rights deal. They’re all tailor-made to the artist and the levels of income he or she already has. All those deals have some element of non-record income in it.

Are there any Australian signings you’re particularly keen on?
We’re working with Alison Wonderland and Minx, who came out of She Can DJ. Minx’s first track comes out in June. The Australian team signed Aston Shuffle initially for Australia, but they’re also very interesting for us. The next Empire of the Sun album is massively important for EMI. Here in Australia, we sold more than 1 million albums. Definitely there’s a lot of work to do in the UK, US and Germany. Australia is very important for us. We’re carefully looking at the Australian market to see what we could do more, both incoming and outgoing.

She Can DJ was a rare example of an Australian-created project which went global. What was it about the project that resonated?
I was pleasantly surprised by the level of passion and commitment they put into it. And of course the concept. There were no women on the Top 100 DJs list that DJ Magazine published last October. We decided we could find some media partners in Europe to see if we could replicate She Can DJ. It exploded. In Holland we’re looking for the funding to make it into a TV format and have a run of She Can DJ shows culminating in the Amsterdam Dance Event. We’ve started talking with some TV production companies to see if they could help us develop a format around this. There will be a lot more countries coming in, and obviously we’ve got part of the rights.

It was interesting to see Universal recently announced its own Electronic Dance Music label, PM:AM, particularly given their planned acquisition of EMI.
Without knowing what’s going to happen, the only thing we can do try to work with and for our artists as best as we can. We have to do a job. All our artists have one career, and you can’t sit back, and wait-and-see while all those careers go to waste. The best way to get through the next few months is to do it as good as possible and keep doing it.

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