Publishing Briefs: Elizabeth Matthews Rises to CEO for ASCAP, Sony/ATV Not for Sale

 Courtesy ASCAP
 Beth Matthews, incoming CEO of ASCAP

Billboard's Ed Christman rounds-up all the big news happening in the music publishing world. 

-- Elizabeth Matthews has been tapped as the new CEO for ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, replacing John LoFrumento, who retired on Dec. 31.

Matthews, who joined ASCAP as executive VP & general counsel in 2013, previously held that position at Viacom Media Networks since 1998. Since joining ASCAP, she led the development of a six-year transformative strategic plan that anticipates the future competitive landscape and changing needs of ASCAP members and customers. 

"ASCAP is an expansive, forward-looking and adaptive service organization that successfully built and grew the market for performance rights for songwriters and publishers in the United States," Matthews said in a statement. "As new media platforms transform how we listen to music, it is critical that we evolve our own business models and update outdated music licensing laws to better reflect the reality of today's music marketplace." 

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She takes the helm at a crucial time as the organization will likely be dramatically reformed regardless of which way the Dept. of Justice proceeds on an industry push to change the consent decree that govern how ASCAP operates. That review is expected to culminate in a DOJ decision probably during the second quarter of this year.

"Now, more than ever, songwriters and composers need an advocate we can trust to ensure our work is valued fairly in a rapidly changing music marketplace," ASCAP president and chairman Paul Williams said in a statement. "What we do is vital to the future of music. Beth's experience in the global multimedia content sector, her deep understanding of the complexities of the music business and her passion for protecting the rights of music creators make her singularly qualified for the CEO role."

Prior to working at Viacom at the then named MTV Networks, Matthews worked in the intellectual property and corporate groups for Chadbourne & Parke and the business technology group for Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.

-- After leaks in December that Sony Corp. executives were internally considering a sale of its music publishing operations, Sony/ATV chairman Martin Bandier issued a memo to concerned Sony/ATV staffers on Friday saying that the company is not up for sale.

Within the memo, Bandier said, "I have been advised by Sony Corporation that Sony/ATV is not for sale and I can well understand that given we have just had our best year ever both creatively and financially and without a doubt we are the world's leading and best music publisher with more great things set to come over the next 12 months. Who wouldn't want to own a company like that, including Sony Corporation?"

In its most recent fiscal filing, Sony/ATV was up about 6% on a revenue basis for the first six months of its current fiscal year, to about to 32.7 billion yen from 30.9 billion yen in the prior corresponding year. In its most recent fiscal year ended March 31, 2014, Sony/ATV's annual revenue grew to about $664 million for the year ended March 31, 2014, up from $560 million in the prior year.

The apparently contemplated sale was leaked via e-mail that digested that Sony Entertainment CEO Michal Lynton and Sony Corp. of America president Nicole Seligman and Sony Corp. of America CFO Steve Kobe would handle the details of a potential sale.

An earlier e-mail on the topic Sony's CFO Kenichro Yoshida raised concerns about the music publishing business, "which has a rather complex capital and governance structure and is impacted by the market shift to streaming."

Not only was that talk news to Sony/ATV staffers, it also caught Sony/ATV joint venture partners by surprise, sources say. Since Sony/ATV is a 50/50 joint venture between Sony Corp. and the Michael Jackson estate; and since its ownership of EMI Music Publishing is as part of an investor consortium, Sony has contractual obligations that outline how those investment could be unwound, sources say. As it is, sources say that Sony hadn't reached out to its publishing partners by the time that the Bandier memo was issued.

-- Ole acquired the 2101 Songs catalog, which includes such songs as Nicki Minaj's "Starships;" One Direction's "Live While We're Young;" and Jennifer Lopez's "On The Floor" from Nadir Khayat and his RedOne Productions

"ole is very pleased to have been chosen by RedOne to cultivate such a great catalog of songs written by great songwriters," said ole VP of business development David Weitzman in a statement. "ole will work hard to honor and promote this body of work."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but sources say that Khayat was initially looking for about $7 million and suggest that the sale came in at the $5 million-$6 million range.

-- Warner/Chappell Production Music, which includes 615 Music and Non-Stop Music,  has acquired the music assets of Frank Gari Productions and Gari Communications. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"Gari is a well-known and trusted source for the world's most recognizable news themes," Warner/Chappel Production Music president and CEO Randy Wachtler said in a statement. Wachtler described the acquired Gari assets as the "undisputed champions of news theme music…I look forward to offering our clients an even wider array of first-class music, and to working with the talented Gari team to soundtrack fantastic television."

The Gari catalog includes the Eyewitness News theme package, and the NBC Collection, according to the announcement. 

-- Reservoir has hired songwriter and music publishing executive Hussain "Spek" Yoosuf to serve as senior VP of creative and A&R. Yoosuf, who signed to Warner/Chappel in 1997, has written and produced on several projects by Reservoir songwriters/artists including Nitin Sawhney's Beyond Skin album. In addition to writing and producing, Yoosuf has also been a part of the Canadian hip-hop act, Dream Warriors and the jazz-rap collective Us3.

Prior to joining Reservoir, Yoosuf founded two music publishing firms serving the Middle East territories, Fairwood Music in 2008 and PopArabia in 2011; and prior to that he worked for ole, serving as that publisher's U.K. and London representative.

Terming Yoosuf an accomplished and versatile executive, Reservior COO Rell Lafargue said in a statement, "Not only has Spek been extraordinarily successful behind the desk, but he's also done it on the mic, behind the board, and onstage worldwide, which brings a special insight to our songwriters as they build careers with Reservoir."

Yoosuf will work in the Reservoir's New York City headquarters and he will report to Annette Barrett, who leads Reservoir's creative team and holds the title of managing director in the firm's London office. Barrett was the executive who signed him as a songwriter to Warner/Chappell. She said in a statement, "A history like Spek's, with its range of experience and insight, is rare and valuable in this role."

-- Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), has appointed Liz Fischer as VP of corporate communications and marketing. She reports to BMI CEO Mike O'Neill.

In addition to overseeing the functions named in her title, Fischer's responsibilities include media relations strategy and advocacy communication, corporate and digital marketing and social media programs. 

Prior to joining BMI, Fischer spent nearly 19 years at NBCUniversal in a variety of communications roles most recently as VP of communications for NBC News. Prior to that she was VP in NBCUniversal's corporate communications department.

"[Fischer] is a seasoned communications leader whose experience is a terrific fit for this role, particularly during this time of exciting transformation in our industry," O'Neill said in a statement. "I know she will be a key player as we continue to create awareness of BMI's value in today's digital marketplace and our mission to serve songwriters, publishers and the diverse businesses that play their music."

-- Kobalt Music Publishing has signed Shane McAnally, the ACM songwriter of the year winner for 2014, to a worldwide administration deal. It covers his works penned from 2009-2012 and all new works written since July 1, 2014, including such titles as Kenny Chesney's "Somewhere With You;" Luke Bryan's "Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye;" Lady Antebellum's "Downtown;" and Miranda Lambert's "Mama's Broken Heart."

"Kobalt's model is one that is often imitated, but has yet to be perfected by anyone else," McAnally said in a statement. "The combination of their incredible creative team along with the accuracy and reach of their collection methods, make them an undeniable perfect partner for me and the Smack family."

Besides McAnally-authored songs, the agreement also includes his publishing company SMACKSongs, which currently represents such writers as Matthew Ramsey, Matt McGlinn and Jo Eldrige, and is helmed by Michael Baum.

"We started this journey with Shane in 2009, and to be a part of the profound impact he has had on contemporary country music and help him continue to expand his career as both a writer and producer is thrilling," Kobalt senior VP of creative for Nashville Whitney Daane said in a statement. "His talent and passion for music are inspirational."