Sony/ATV Publishing Exec Brian Monaco on the Super Bowl, Sundance and How to Get a Yes From Dylan

Brian Monaco
Allison Michael Orenstein

“A national or global television spot” brings the biggest bang, says Monaco, photographed Dec. 10, 2015, at his office in New York. “There’s many more platforms for [a synch] to be seen.”

There's no need to ask Brian Monaco which team he's pulling for at Super Bowl 50 -- the publishing executive is rooting for the commercials.

For Sony/ATV Music Publishing's worldwide head of advertising, film and television, the action comes off the field. Getting a song in a Super Bowl commercial is a publisher's holy grail, according to Monaco, and this year, Sony/ATV will have at least a dozen synch usages. (The synch fee for an iconic song, not including the master, can run up to $2 million.) At the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, this month, Sony/ATV will have at least 25 songs in nine movies premiering.

"Brian's the best at this," says Monaco's boss, Sony/ATV chairman/CEO Martin Bandier, "and it comes at a time that the synch area is more important than ever." Fiat Chrysler Automobiles chief marketing officer Olivier Francois, who has worked on multiple campaigns with Monaco, adds: "His ability to know what will 'pop,' and be ahead of it, is uncanny."

Monaco, 43 and single, came to Sony/ATV as part of the 2012 EMI Music Publishing acquisition. Prior to joining EMI in 2007, he headed his own management company for authors, politicians and media personalities. Now leading a global staff of 150 who represent the publisher's 3-million-song catalog, including copyrights from The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Queen and Taylor Swift, the avid horologist (The Wall Street Journal recently profiled his 30-watch collection) relaxes by playing squash. "It's like chess on speed," he says. "I love running around, forgetting about work for an hour, then getting back into it."

Do you increase rates for Super Bowls?

We do. A lot of it [depends on] the song. Is it a new artist that we're hoping to break? Or is it a truly iconic song that deserves to be paid a fair market value for that day?

Bob Dylan has opened up his catalog for synchs lately, narrating and appearing in a 2014 Chrysler Super Bowl ad. Why the shift?

He understands it's a nice way to get his catalog out to a broader audience. I was shocked that he said yes [to the Chrysler ad]. [Manager] Jeff [Rosen] has been so creative and interested in hearing every single [offer]. Instead of just saying no, he says, "Let's try to figure it out." It's still gonna be a premium, but if  Bob sees something and feels creatively that it actually works great for his song well he's willing to do it.

Conversely, you rarely hear Taylor Swift's music in commercials. Why?

The reason is that she has a bunch of brands that she signs deals with in the beginning of an album release. That exclusivity covers a lot of different things, [so] if she has a deal with Diet Coke, she can't do anything in the beverage market.

Is she gonna be in a Super Bowl commercial?

 I can't answer that (laughs)

Sony/ATV songwriter Leon Bridges has the end-title song in Sony Pictures' Concussion. How closely do you work with the film studio?

After the merger, our goal was to try to work as closely as possible with the other divisions of Sony. We've been talking about Ghostbusters deals with Lia Vollack, president of worldwide music at Sony Pictures, and some co-promotions because we have the Ghostbusters theme. We can be partners but make fair deals to protect our songwriters.

The options window for songs is shortening from one year to six or nine months. How does that affect you?

It's not even six to nine months. Sometimes it's three months, a week, one day. That's a big change. We have that with a few of our deals this year: a one-time broadcast at the Super Bowl. People are constantly refreshing the creative for the brands a lot quicker than they have in the past. It gives us way more opportunities to get our artists and our writers into big commercials.

What's the biggest lesson Marty Bandier has passed down?

How to price things in the marketplace. He is so well-versed in the catalog, because Marty was the first publisher to have a synch department. He put a lot of pressure on, but he's fair and fun to work with.

The Beatles' "All Together Now" was in a recent Kohl's commercial. How do you decide what to say yes to?

There is a weekly meeting [where] we make sure we do the right thing by The Beatles. We get tons of requests and we are often pitching The Beatles, especially for Super Bowl things, because you do need a big budget to work with a Beatles copyright. The Beatles don't usually approve [the use of] their masters.  We have rights over the re-records that are being made for these commercials as well.

Following its use in a GEICO commercial, Europe's 1987 hit, "The Final Countdown," reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Rock Digital Songs chart in October. How did that placement come about?

The agency approached us. At first, [lead singer] Joey [Tempest] was very protective of the copyright. When we talked about him being in [the ad],  he [said], "I don't want them to make fun of me." We worked through the process. [When] we finally got the piece, we went, "Oh, this is hilarious, this is going to be huge." Now they're gonna go on tour and they'll probably release a new album.

You had more than 45 songs in the first two nights of American Idol this season. How much will you miss that show? 

It'll be sorely missed. It's the original and they're the one show that has [had] artists come out of there that have gone on to become great big artists. It will definitely be missed and the people that we've worked with over there have been unbelievably good to us over the years. It'll be hard to see it go.

If you can only have a song in one, which do you pick? A national TV commercial, placement in a highly-rated series finale, or in a blockbuster film.

A national or a global television spot. That just hits so many people in so many different ways. That usually gets more eye balls and we enjoy that because it also goes online and in cinemas and there's so many more platforms for it to be seen on.

What is the most-requested song in the catalog?

Probably "Over the Rainbow." It feels like we get a call about it every month.

A version of this article was originally published in the Jan. 23 issue of Billboard.

Sundance 2016


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