Emerged as unheralded key player in growing digital royalties for songwriters in changing landscape
Since assuming the helm of Universal Music Publishing Group, chairman/CEO Zach Horowitz has not only improved profitability and grown revenue but also emerged as a key player in shaping the changing music publishing business model.
During the year, UMPG made two significant acquisitions: the BBC’s music catalog, which includes material from British TV programs like “Dr. Who” and “Planet Earth,” and the Criterion catalog, which includes Lee Hazlewood classics like “These Boots Are Made for Walking”; Jackson Browne songs like “Doctor My Eyes”; and tunes from Charlie Parker, Rosanne Cash and Rodney Crowell.
Beyond that, the company handled the publishing for the year’s biggest-selling artists, including Mumford & Sons, Adele, Eminem, Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus, while also handling it for breakout acts like Imagine Dragons, Miguel and Carly Rae Jepsen, and such classic songwriters as Paul Simon and Billy Joel. In a year-end note to UMPG staffers obtained by Billboard, Horowitz noted that the company had tripled Joel’s historical average from synchs in TV, film and commercials.
But beyond his leadership at the world’s second-largest publisher, Horowitz has been front and center standing alongside Sony/ATV chairman/CEO Martin Bandier (No. 5) in maneuvering for higher royalty payments from digital services. During the year, he cut deals with iTunes Radio and Pandora that supposedly allotted UMPG its pro forma share of more than the 4.3% of revenue that Pandora paid all publishers in its most recently reported fiscal year to as much as 10% of revenue.
Like Bandier and Sony/ATV, UMPG has also withdrawn its digital rights from BMI and ASCAP and now, due to rulings by the rate-court judges, is contemplating a complete withdrawal from the performing rights organizations if the U.S. Department of Justice doesn’t agree to amend the consent decrees under which the U.S. collection societies operate.
In fact, Horowitz cites this issue as the biggest challenge of the year, and says it will get even bigger going forward.
“With digital sales declining and paid subscription services growing, this is a very dramatic situation for publishers because the PROs are saddled with the consent decrees,” he says. Regardless of the outcome, Horowitz will play a key role in shaping the dialogue surrounding the issue.