Hits are the heart of her business, but nontraditional opportunities are the lifeblood
During a year marked by the continued integration of EMI Music Publishing within its ranks, Sony/ATV scored phenomenal success with songs by Pharrell Williams (“Blurred Lines,” “Get Lucky” and “Happy”), A$AP Rocky (“F***in’ Problems”), Mozella (Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”), Drake (“I’m Coming Home”) and Pitbull (“Timber”). Plus, “90% of the songs on Billboard’s Hot 100 list last year were written by writers other than—or in addition to—the artist who performed the song,” co-president Jody Gerson says. “That’s a great thing for songwriters.”
Hand in hand with those highlights came what Gerson calls hers and the industry’s biggest lesson of the past year: that every crazy deal out there isn’t worth making. “I looked at a lot of insane deals with artists and writers,” she recalls. “Had I made those deals, I would have been sitting on mounds of unrecouped balances. We sign from the gut. But I want to sign writers who want to be with us, who recognize that we really do add value.”
Moving forward, Gerson notes that this added value is tied to the opportunities as technology marches forward from digital to streaming. “Streaming is the present and the future,” Gerson says. “Until it reaches critical mass, there’s not a lot of money. Making deals that benefit songwriters is an enormous challenge that’s not clearly defined yet.”
What is defined is the need to take a holistic point of view beyond scoring a hit song. “While that’s fine, we have to think and work harder outside of the box,” Gerson says. Aside from several Broadway shows, Sony/ATV is partnering with Sony Pictures Television and Sam and Dan Weisman to develop a non-scripted series about songwriters.
“In case you haven’t gotten the memo, the business has changed,” Gerson says. “It’s about taking advantage of synergies, looking outside the traditional ways we’ve made money. I see growth in creating opportunities through film, TV, apps and other media, because songs are the fabric of our lives.”