[00:00:00] Speaker A: Bob to the Music Industry 360 podcast. I'm your host, Vanessa and today we're going to be touching on a topic that we've discussed in the past which is publishing. But we're going to talk about some new features that are going into the publishing program here at Symphonic but also just news about publishing in general that's in the music industry currently. And today we have our resident expert as I like to call him, Randall Foster who is now the vice president of business development and the general manager of our newly opened Nashville location here at Symphonic. Randall, if you can just give us a brief overview of your career and your history but then also what you'll be doing for Symphonic.
[00:00:51] Speaker B: Okay, sure.
I started out in the music business about 16 years ago. Seems like an eternity at this point.
I'd gone to school at the University of Miami and studied music business and my first gig was at MTV Latin and it was a rights management gig where we were doing copyright research for a number of things and that was a short term engagement. And shortly after that I landed a job at a company called Naxos which is the largest classical record label and distributor in the world and started out in a sales marketing role. But my background and my interest in things like licensing and in the larger record business model led me to pursue more of a business development track with them. And so in that role I ended up running business development for the company which is kind of a catch, all encompassing term that we can get into here in a moment. But at the same time I also ran their licensing business which had a lot to do with copyright and knowledge of when things go into public domain, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I did that for almost ten years and we built a really robust business with lots of avenues that we were cashing in on and it got the attention of a great music publishing company called Ole. And Olay was a young company at the time, not unlike Symphonic. It was about ten years old at that moment and the CEO reached out to me and asked me if I'd like to come on and assist them in their sync licensing division. And so I joined Olay in 2014 as head of All Things Creative for Licensing. And so that meant I was working with video game companies and film and television production companies and movie trailer companies and things like that and really kind of led the creative charge. So my clients at Ole were companies and they were songwriters.
As a music publishing company goes, I listened to an awful lot of music and I gave a lot of feedback on does this work? Does this not work? What are the keys to getting songs that will work in these places? And it was a really fun five years fast forward to about a year ago I started talking to Jorge Brea and discussing Symphonic and Symphonic's business and got very excited about this Young Hungry company. And those discussions kind of rolled into how do we find a way to work together? Because we all like each other and at the end of the day we just want to work with people we like, don't we? I mean, that's kind of the goal in life, right?
We talked about a number of things. One of his wants and needs was to develop a publishing company. And coming off of five years in the creative space and publishing I knew a thing or two about that.
[00:03:53] Speaker A: Yeah, just a little.
[00:03:55] Speaker B: So he and I kept talking and we found that in the expansion of Symphonic it made a lot of sense to open a brand new office in Nashville. Nashville is the epicenter of music publishing. Every Performance Royalty organization in the United States. And by Performance Royalty organization, I'll name them. Just so that our listeners know what I'm talking about. ASCAP BMI CSAC. All of these companies have their headquarters in Nashville.
Every major music publishing company has their headquarters. For better or for worse. In know they've got offices on the coast to deal with pop and rock and hip hop and things like that but they all have a presence there. Music publishing is really in the lifeblood of that city. And so if you're going to go it in the music publishing arena it makes a lot of sense to go where all of your peers are.
In addition to that, as we got to know each other we talked quite a bit about the talent pool in Nashville. And when people think of Nashville, they think of Twang and they think of cowboy hats and cowboy boots unless they've been there and they've really been in the trenches. And if they've been to Nashville what they'll find is that there's a robust music industry there that is not just country and the likes of Jack White Kings of Leon are there. Justin Timberlake just bought a house outside the city. He's doing a lot of work there developing acts, et cetera.
There is a vast, vast community of musicians there that have nothing to do with country. And so that, for us, as we were discussing really brings an opportunity for Symphonic. In addition to there being a vast community of great musicians and great songwriters there there are only a handful of distributors who've really paid attention. And that's where we come in.
And Symphonic putting down roots in Nashville. If the response I've gotten from the community thus far and I'm on day four of my tenure here if the response I've gotten from the community thus far is any indication, nashville is going to be a robust place. For us to do business because there's a real need for a company like Symphonic that specializes in white glove service and taking care of our clients to come in there and put a tent pole down and really stake a claim to the land. And so that's my role, my role as a business development guru, if you will. I tried for that in my title but they wouldn't give that to me. Instead, they insisted on Vice President of Business development.
[00:06:38] Speaker A: That's a lot to fit in an email signature.
[00:06:41] Speaker B: It is. I was also going for Minister of Business Development but they thought that was too religious in business development. This is a term that's very catch all. And so what Symphonic will find, and what I think people are finding is I'm really inserting opportunity and opinion into a number of departments here internally.
My charge is to see if there are ways we can do things better and find if there's any pennies we're leaving on the table before we walk away. And so it's great, it's a lot of fun. I described it yesterday as running through the forest, shaking trees to see what opportunities fall out of them.
And that's really my charge at this point is to look for opportunity, whether it lie in publishing or whether it lie in our traditional distribution business or sync and licensing and really, as a fresh set of eyes and ears, ask myself, are we doing this the best way we can? And if we aren't, then okay, how do we address this and improve our processes?
And it's a lot of fun. It's a lot of fun. So far, the team here has been so gracious to me and yourself included.
It is just a dream for me to be here and to be able to help this amazing company and amazing team grow to the next level and be a part of that story is beyond a blessing. So thank you for the podcast and for having me here.
[00:08:20] Speaker A: And we're done.
[00:08:21] Speaker B: No, I'm going away now.
That's my larger role. But coming off of five years in music publishing, I understand there's a void in the knowledge base here in music publishing. And from talking with clients and with internal contacts here, I understand that maybe there's a possibility that our clientele either hasn't paid full attention to music publishing or has a question or two about, well, I've got my music publishing, I'm registered with BMI.
That's not the whole story.
That's not how you do music.
So hopefully we can dispel some myths and empower our friends and clients and listeners to have a little bit more knowledge in that space and maybe even come to us and allow us to help them make more money, which at the end of the day is the goal. We love music. Music is a passion and it always will be and it is an art. But the sad thing about art is if art does not find a way to fund itself, art goes away. And since the beginning of time there have been benevolent people who have put their money into art and assisted artists, the starving artist model, if you will, in succeeding. And one of the things we can do here is assist our artists in being as smart as they can in the ways of this business so that they can succeed. And so I think that this podcast and what we're doing here is fantastic. And I hope that this information helps someone somewhere down the road.
[00:09:54] Speaker A: Definitely, yeah. So let's go ahead and then get into the topic. Like I said before, we've had an episode on this and like I was telling you before, we recording is that I don't remember too much about publishing.
I think if you're not looking at it every day or something, you just forget that knowledge about what's the difference between I remember the composition has a different I remember the rights. There's different types for publishing and sometimes I get it mixed up with licensing, which we can talk about those too, and how they're related later. But so just to start out, though, so what is publishing? And why should artists care about it.
[00:10:31] Speaker B: So much from a 10,000 foot view, without getting super technical and saying things like composition publishing when you as an artist, I'm going to approach this from the point of a producer artist. From the point of who? I know we have a lot of producer artists here. We have DJs and whatnot that write a track and they produce it up and they get it where they love it. And they come to us and they say, hey, man, this track's a banger. Can you guys distribute it? I'm going to be playing it on dance floors across America, across Latin America, as it were.
As a DJ producer or as an artist producer, when you create a song, there are two elements to that song and it's really important to sever those elements in your head so that you understand that there are ways to monetize those elements separately to help you make money. And at the end of the day, that's what we're doing. We love our art, but at the end of the day, we'd like to support ourselves with our art. So those two elements of that song are broken down into the master or master recording, which is the actual tangible sound you hear that sound that's recorded that we distribute to Apple and Tidal and Spotify. That sound is your master recording. That master recording. However, without a composition, which I said I wasn't going to say, but golly liar, that master recording without the underlying song doesn't exist. There's nothing there. So the underlying song has some inalienable rights that are attached to that. The minute you complete it, as protected by US and international copyright laws, the minute that is in a fixed form, it is what we like to call a copyright. And that copyright is exclusively yours. As the producer creator of that copyright. That copyright.
What that really says is for your entire life and then 70 more years. Read into this, your grandkids will make money from this for your entire life and 70 more years, you own the rights to that song, and anyone who plays that song owes you. Anyone who wants to use that song in a film or TV show owes you. And those uses generate royalties. Now, the royalties might be an upfront royalty. They might involve performances and be a performance royalty. When that song is sold online or streamed online, it will generate a digital royalty. But the royalties are all attached to the publishing. Yes, there are royalties on the sound recording side of things, but if you're ignoring the publishing side of things, you're really leaving money on the table.
And at this point, if we wanted to talk about the mechanical royalty every time a record is pressed yes, a record. I know we're a digital company, but in this day and age, the quickest moving area of the music business, physical product wise, is records.
[00:13:36] Speaker A: Yeah, they're coming back.
[00:13:37] Speaker B: When a record is pressed, that generates what's called a mechanical royalty. So for every song on that record, you'd get almost ten cents. Now, it doesn't seem like a lot, but it adds up really, really quick. My mentor in this business used to say, publishing is a pennies business. And it is. It's a pennies business. It's about collecting pennies. But guess what? When you get 100 of those, you got a dollar. And when you get 100 of those, you got $100. And when you get 100 of those, you got a lot of money. And so it's really important to be a good steward of your business and to pay attention to the public dollar and not ignore it. Because at the end of the day, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table. The other reason you should pay attention to it now and not later is that those things do not pay in arrears. They do not pay after the fact. If you are not registered with your performance royalty organization, if you're not collecting these things actively, internationally, that money is gone.
[00:14:32] Speaker A: Yeah, you don't get back pay no for that.
[00:14:34] Speaker B: Not at all.
[00:14:34] Speaker A: I think I do remember that from the last discussion.
[00:14:37] Speaker B: Not at all.
Being smart about it now and paying attention to it and being a good steward of your own business now will pay off in spades down the road. And so that's why one of the reasons why we're really looking heavily into the publishing space as a company is because we do know that we have a lot of clients who already do this and are totally set up. But there is a swath of clients that, for whatever reason, have not fully taken advantage of this. And I know that not to single anyone out. I know that a good number of our latin clients just aren't collecting. Just aren't collecting for whatever reason. And so if we as a company and if I as an individual, just company can come in and help educate and help also help provide a platform under which you can collect your money and really begin to check all the financial revenue, completeness boxes off in your life musically, then this is just another way we can super serve our clients. And that's really my charge. On the publishing side, let's help these folks find their money. Let's help them collect them and let's help them get paid.
[00:15:58] Speaker A: And that's not something that they can just be automatically enrolled in when they sign up with Symphonic. Because you're saying that artists can get into publishing on their own. They can go through I mean, we're getting ahead of ourselves. They can go with a publishing administrator, but they have to agree to it. It's agreement right between us and the client.
[00:16:19] Speaker B: Yeah. Again, as I said, as soon as the music is made, essentially publishing is created. Whether or not that publishing is I just did quote marks. I did air quote marks on a podcast, ladies and gentlemen, I forgot what kind of thing we're doing here. As soon as that song is created, essentially those rights are there. Now, whether you leave them on a table and walk away or leave them packed away and don't think about them or whether you get out and you actively register with your local performance royalty organization and attempt to start collecting in all ways possible, that's on you. So in a publishing administrative situation, an administrator is just what it sounds like. It's someone who does the work for you who has no vested interest in the ownership of the product. They simply take revenues from point A, make sure they're yours, collect them actively and make sure that you get paid. And so at Symphonic, we really have kind of two publishing models. We have an administrative model which says you, as artists don't want to share your copyright with anyone. You want to own it yourself or you, as record label, want to own it yourself. But you do need some help. You need some help and some expertise in collecting those revenues.
That's where we come in. And we're able to do that in an efficient, effective manner. And by those revenues, I mean in the publishing space. The majority of the revenues are broken down into performance royalties which are both digital and terrestrial. So somebody in a bar or restaurant plays your song that generates money. That generates money. And that money needs to come to you. So we work with the performance royalty organizations internationally to make sure that that is collected and to make sure it's collected in a direct manner. There are affiliate agreements between those. And you may say, well, I belong to ASCAP. Why would I need an administrator? Because I'll just get paid from ASCAP. And that's fine. But when your song plays in Italy, that Italian performance royalty organization collects money and then they pass it to the next person who collects a couple of pennies off the top and they pass it to the next person. These affiliate situations end up with your money changing hands about three or four times over the course of about six months before it finally gets to you. And there's a lot that's left behind. By having a publishing administrator with direct international connections to these you cut the middlemen off, you go direct to the source, you get your money and at the end of the day, even with an administrative fee, you lose less money in the transaction. And so performances are only one piece of the pie. In addition to that, there's film and TV synchronization licensing which basically says that anytime your music is used on a film or TV show or something like that, in a broadcast sense, there's money to be made. And it's not just money made on the front end but there's money that's going to be generated in the performance situation on the back end. And so having an administrator who understands that and who can go chase that down and who can negotiate the upfront monies for you in a positive manner because they happen to know industry standards is really a benefit to you as artist and composer and musician. And so that's another area where we're able to assist. And the other area that is most profitable in this space is the mechanical royalty space and mechanicals come in digital and physical form. And you may say, well, I don't press CDs, I don't press records, I don't have mechanicals. But yes, you do. The digital service providers all pay mechanicals. And so we in essence come in and collect your monies for you in every way we can and we remit those monies to you. Now, there are other ways that we can collect money and and we won't go into them heavily because I don't think it will apply too much to our clientele. But there's also the print publishing, right, which says that if somebody wants to make a piano book with your songs in it, they've got to pay for it. Those are kind of secondary and tertiary lines of business too often. Yeah, but at the same time, it's our job to oversee any and every way people would use your music and make sure you're getting top dollar for it. So as I said earlier, there's two ways to do this. We just went over the administrative side of this thing. The administration has to happen no matter what, no matter who owns your content. The second way to do this and the second thing we are doing in establishing in Symphonic in our Nashville office and beyond is we're building an actual publishing company. And so by that, what I mean is we are in a position where we are acquiring intellectual property.
We have money set aside. And if you're an artist and you're going on tour and you just need a little bit of extra money for the tour, this is something where we can talk about a strategic relationship here and say, well, you need money so that you can rent a tour van and do all the things that you have to do to go out and earn money. Let us help fund that and in exchange give us a portion of your publishing.
We're able to, in essence, help fund a tour help fund the next recording session or help you buy a new house and in exchange we receive all or a portion of those publishing dollars.
This is very new to this company and I'm very new to a lot of our clientele. But four days in we've already got an artist that we're doing this with who was at a watershed moment in her career where she needed to go on tour and she needed some extra funding to assist in that and where she really wanted a partner.
What I've picked up on here is a great deal of our services are built on partnership.
She came to me via her management and said look, we need to do this.
We want someone who has vested interest in this music so that we know that it will be first and foremost on the front of their mind. We want someone who has experience with the film and TV industry who can help this along and who has some skin in the game.
We did a publishing deal with her and without going into any of the details we are essentially partners at this point with her on that portion of her music. We're also her distributor and we're helping out on that front. But it's really a way to double down with Symphonic and kind of up the ante in this relationship. And I'm saying this and as a listener, you may think well, if I don't do a publishing deal with them maybe they don't care about me. And that's not the case at all. Our traditional business model has nothing to do with ownership and we are about building and helping independent artists succeed.
However, in the publishing model if there's a way that we're able to work with you in a capability that you don't already have for yourself that, for us is very exciting and it allows us to take your music and pitch it for film and TV. It allows us to ensure that your music is getting collected internationally from all of the performance royalty organizations and really to chase down those missing pennies for our clientele and at this point, our partners.
[00:24:10] Speaker A: So is the publishing company that you're talking about is that going to be separate from using Symphonic as a publishing administrator?
[00:24:17] Speaker B: They're kind of part and parcel to one another.
It is a standalone division of Symphonic.
The same division that stands alone as a publishing company also stands as an administrator. And we have partnered with a fantastic company called Songtrust who has got a robust back end for this and who has already been in the business and already put this administrative piece together. And with them we're able to go and collect monies internationally. On behalf of our clients, I want to say whether you're an administrative client or a publishing client the level of service doesn't change. The level of service doesn't change, the ownership changes and the monies you received up front change. Administrative clients don't receive money up front. Administrative clients come in and we take a percentage of the business in order to offset our own expenses much like a distribution client and we remit all the other monies to the client on the publishing front. Very similar, except we have got more skin in the game in that.
And again, the service is the same.
Our care of the intellectual property is the same. The question is, are you in a financial position where you need assistance, where you need extra money to go finish that album? Where you need to sell off a piece of your catalog so that you can afford to do something else? That's really where the publishing piece of this comes in, in the full publishing spectrum.
[00:25:57] Speaker A: So can I assume then that any client can sign up to be part of the to have Symphonic as a publishing administrator? But do you do, like for the publishing company side of things? Is that a case by case basis since it's giving money up front?
[00:26:11] Speaker B: Very much. And it's a scenario where it all has to be vetted on the administrative front, we're happy to administer and to assist pretty much anybody who comes through the door. If you need help, we're here to help you on the publishing front because it requires us to put our own money up front and effectively put our money where our mouth is. That's something that is on a case by case scenario, all of the terms are negotiated and are negotiable.
There's ways to carve things out, if that makes sense.
We're in the business of helping artists and so we're going to cater that and make that deal the best it can possibly be on a case by case scenario for our artists and partners.
[00:26:58] Speaker A: Do you have to be a Symphonic client to use Symphonic as a administrator?
[00:27:02] Speaker B: Absolutely not.
[00:27:03] Speaker A: Okay.
[00:27:04] Speaker B: They are mutually exclusive of one another. I mean, obviously it's nice to have that. And one of the benefits of that is that all of your payments will come from one source if you do that right now. As services we can offer our clients, we have our traditional distribution. We have a sync company called Bodega Sync which is ran by fantastic people with great knowledge in that space. And we have our publishing entity. All three of those deals are standalone deals. If you want to come in and do a sync deal, but you've already got distribution and you're just not interested in moving, we're not going to turn you away, especially if you come in with fantastic music. Publishing is the same way, distribution is the same way, but the inherent benefit of getting one royalty statement from one source and having all your monies come in from that source is pretty valuable.
I'll also note, and this is something that I didn't know before I joined the company, and I just learned this from our CEO, jorge Symphonic, since its inception, has never made a late payment to a client.
[00:28:08] Speaker A: Yeah, I think can you believe that? Yeah, it's a record we stand by.
[00:28:13] Speaker B: There are very few companies in this business who can make that claim. Very few companies in this business, and it's not their fault. There's things that come up, technical issues. But if I could do all of my business with a client or with it with a service that has never made a late payment to a client and know that I get a statement and a check on time, from one source. Instead of having to chase down multiple statements and checks for me as an artist, that saves me time. That allows me to go and focus more on my art. And so I think that's a huge benefit, but they are all mutually exclusive. We do not force anyone to come in and do all three or two of the three. You don't get better terms if you do all three. We are going to treat you fair on every business front we can.
And each one of these things are negotiated separately and live separately. But your money and your statements will all come from a singular source, which I think is a great benefit.
[00:29:15] Speaker A: So you mentioned Bodega and licensing. So how does publishing and licensing work together? Like, how does publishing affect licensing?
[00:29:22] Speaker B: Well, back to those rights that you have the minute you make your song in licensing. And I think a later podcast, I think we're probably going to do something around licensing we talked about with our colleague John Mizrahi from New York. But when the song is created, you've got the master and the publishing. And assuming you have control of both of those things, when someone wants to use it, they have to license it. And in that there's a whole process that's involved and them coming to you even to use it, still is a back and forth process. It involves an intense negotiation and it involves a lot of terms and issues that I don't think our average listener probably has the bandwidth to deal with or has the experience to deal with. And so the publishing portion of licensing is just half of it, the master portion is the other half. And Bodega is capable of doing that on both fronts for clients.
And so the interplay there between having someone. In your corner, who knows your rights, who also knows industry standards and norms, who's able to negotiate those numbers up for you but not kill the deal in the process. I think is a great, is a great value. The other side of this is active pitching for opportunities.
And again, this is not native to publishing alone. This is Publishing and Masters and this is a service we can provide in that space that allows us to go out and look at the market at large and say, oh, so and so is Music supervising a program or a show that's utilizing a lot of Latin trap? Well, we have got gobs of Latin trap and great trap at that. So let's pitch that over there and see if we can find some opportunity for that. And that's the other side of the licensing coin. And so if we are administering your publishing, you are in essence gaining a negotiator with years and years of experience in that space who can go to market and ensure that you're getting top dollar for your product. You can do this yourself. You can absolutely do it yourself. But I find that most artists I know are in their best space when they're paying attention to their art and doing their self the greatest service by doing that rather than actually trying to negotiate the finalities and the small points of a sync license in the middle of their day.
[00:31:59] Speaker A: Yeah. And what I'm wondering is because publishing, they can register on their own, like you were saying, but with licensing, you'd want to go with somebody who has those connections too with the music supervisors, right?
[00:32:11] Speaker B: Absolutely. And there's no way to register for licensing.
[00:32:14] Speaker A: Yes, you have to go through a company yeah.
[00:32:16] Speaker B: That doesn't exist. Again, you can do this yourself, but you can also fix your toilet yourself, but you're going to call a plumber, you know what I mean? In the same way, I know my own limitations and there are many things that I will do myself.
However, there are a number of things that I'll let an expert do for me because I know that the end result is going to be better and that if I do it myself, I'll probably screw it up.
And that's just one of those places that a great licensing representative or a great publisher can do on your behalf. Again, if you are attached to us or another licensing company, we can still administer your copyrights. It's just we at the end of the day will be the ones responsible for monetizing, collecting and getting that money to you. And so licensing and publishing do go hand in hand, but licensing affects the master side as well. And so something to pay attention to, definitely.
[00:33:18] Speaker A: All right, well, I think that's a good start of the knowledge for people. But if they do want to read more, I know that we have an extensive knowledge base at our help center, which is at Symphonic Help. You can just search either publishing or search licensing. I was actually looking up just as prep work for this podcast. So we do have some nice articles back there. You can also [email protected]
, we have articles about that as well. And I know that we have the recent posts about Bodegasync, what they can do for you as well, which is Bodegasync.com, too.
[00:33:50] Speaker B: S-Y-N-C.
[00:33:54] Speaker A: So all that knowledge is out there for people to read up on and decide what you want to do. But definitely you should get into publishing. You should check out licensing and make sure you're not, like you said, leaving any revenue on the table.
Cool. All right, well, let's go into our wrap up chat then. Company News for Symphonic. We recently shared how Vibes of the Bay 2019 planning has started. Vibes of the Bay is our local performance year that we do here in Tampa. It gets bigger every year. This year will be our fifth Vibes of the Bay and we just showcase local talent. And it's a great showcase. I'm probably not explaining it very well, but we do have a nice again with that Simblog.com post about it. And we're actually looking for suggestions for local artists to showcase in this. So welcome to check that out. And obviously, as we know, we had the new Nashville office, but we also have an office now that we just opened in Columbia. So we're constantly so, Randall, one thing that I always do is I always torture our guests and ask, what music are you currently listening to right now? Like, whatever pops into your head.
[00:35:03] Speaker B: Oh, that's not nice.
That's like asking me to pick my favorite child.
[00:35:09] Speaker A: You can say like, I've had people say it's just a genre. Like, hey, I'm listening to a lot of pop music. Right. Know they don't want to call anybody out.
[00:35:15] Speaker B: Well, yeah, right now I'm diving into a lot of alt pop, kind of left of center.
It's a space that I'm really keying in on in the Nashville music scene. And it's something that sonically really speaks to me.
That and classic hip hop outside of that mumble rap stuff that we're hearing on the radio these days.
[00:35:36] Speaker A: Yeah, I always listen.
My fallback is every day when I'm getting ready, I listen to Muse because I'm a big Muse fan. But lately I've been listening to one of our clients, Laura Murano, who's a pop artist from show Austin and Allie. But she has a song out right now called Not Like Me. And we just distributed her Lyric video for her too, for that. So that's why it's in my head. But it's a very catchy song and it was co written, I think, by Jason Maraz. So that's a big call out there. So good track. Check it out.
And all right, so I think that'll wrap everything up. So. Thank you, Randall. For being on and thank you for taking on all the responsibilities you're doing. And I can't wait to see what comes out of it.
[00:36:17] Speaker B: Well, thank you so much. This is an exciting time for myself and Symphonic, I think.
[00:36:21] Speaker A: Definitely. And all right, we'll see you guys next time.