The performing rights organizations -- ASCAP, BMI and SESAC -- play a crucial role in the financial health of the music industry, paying performance royalties to songwriters, composers and publishers. At each of the PROs, numerous female executives and staff contribute to their success of the mission of those organizations, protecting copyright and supporting the creative community. This year, the following executives were singled out by their respective organizations for the importance of their work and Billboard is honored in our Women In Music issue to recognize their contributions.
Senior VP of Communications and Media
For Lauren Iossa, senior VP of communications and media at ASCAP, the challenge of conveying information in the digital age to the PRO's members is clear. "You have to be always evolving," she says, "always looking at the newest place people are congregating in the online world, and finding a way to meet them there."
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Under Iossa, ASCAP's media channels, both traditional and digital, have hit new highs. ASCAP's Playback magazine has increased its ad revenue by 15%. ASCAP.com has 3 million monthly visitors with greater use of video. A monthly e-newsletter now reaches 170,000. And ASCAP's robust social media feeds engage members in advocacy efforts to protect copyright.
Iossa also oversees ASCAP's advertising, sponsorship, events and affiliate member benefit programs. She negotiated marketing and media partnerships in the past year valued at more than $650,000 with 40 media outlets, including the PBS TV series "Sun Studio Sessions."
But if asked to cite one highlight of the past year, Iossa focuses on ASCAP's eighth annual "I Create Music" Expo. More than 18,000 songwriters and composers have benefited from the expo's networking and education opportunities, including top songwriters in every genre -- from Tom Petty and Randy Newman to Justin Timberlake and Quincy Jones to Dr. Luke and Ryan Tedder.
"We made a big leap with the Expo this year," Iossa says. "It's attracting more people and more sponsors. Plus, we've had such incredible support from the top members of ASCAP who participate. It's become a high-level discussion and it's become very meaningful for our members who attend." The 2013 Expo takes place April 18-20 in Los Angeles.
Senior VP of Performing Rights
BMI senior VP of performing rights Alison Smith can describe her position succinctly: "My role is to make sure when songwriters write songs and composers score music for film or television programs that they, and their publishers, get paid for those performances -- when they are used in virtually any media now, across multiple spectrums."
But that summary belies both Smith's international recognition as a copyright expert and the complexities of royalty payments in the digital age. Or as Smith says, her reference to "multiple spectrums" is "definitely the add-in from years past."
Her responsibility also includes analyzing how such deals as the Sony/ATV-EMI merger will affect BMI payments. While she cannotdiscuss specifics, "as an overseer of both administration at BMI and distribution, that is very much in my wheelhouse, and I'm involved in virtually all those discussions from multiple angles."
This year Smith and her team also oversaw the introduction of a state-of-the-art cable TV royalty distribution methodology that weighs Nielsen audience data to help calculate payments and "has been extremely well-received," Smith says.
She can recall when PROs needed only to track broadcast performances on radio, network and local TV, and a handful of emerging cable outlets. Now streaming music services are the latest medium to draw Smith's focus. "We just got out our first Spotify distribution," Smith says, "and we're very proud of turning that around very quickly."
A BMI colleague has said: "Follow the dollar. The performing right income stream has represented the steadiest support for creators in the new Wild, Wild West music industry and Alison Smith is there, watching every penny."
Ellen Bligh Truley
VP of Corporate Relations
"Multitasking. It's all about multitasking," quips Ellen Bligh Truley, VP of corporate relations at SESAC, when asked about managing marketing, publicity, event production and digital communications for the PRO. In fact, Truley quickly credits her "wonderful team. That is critical to being able to juggle all those things at once."
At SESAC -- which counts songwriters from Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond to the Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons among its members -- Truley plays a key role in more than 250 SESAC-supported events and is producer of all SESAC happenings including its awards for pop, country, Christian, jazz, Latin, film and TV, as well as the annual songwriter boot camp.
She drove SESAC's branding at this year's Grammys on the Hill event and, also in the branding realm, helped close sponsorship deals with Land Rover, Maker's Mark, Icelandic Glacial Water and Red Bull, all boosting the PRO's profile.
Truley's department creates the award-winning quarterly SESAC magazine but she also has been deeply involved this year in the design and launch of SESAC's latest social media and mobile marketing initiatives.
And those channels were put to great use to convey SESAC's big news this year: its announcement that it has moved to monthly radio performance royalty distributions -- the only PRO in the United States to do so.
At the SESAC Nashville Awards on Oct. 28, president/CEO Pat Collins' reminder of the move was met with a "roar of applause," Truley says. "Then strategically, we put that on social media and it was on fire. I've never seen such a response."