Business

How We Work Now: Sound Royalties President Michael Bizenov

Michael Bizenov
Courtesy of Sound Royalties

Michael Bizenov

In a new series amid the coronavirus pandemic, Billboard is asking individuals from all sectors of the music business to share stories of how they work now, with much of the world quarantined at home and unable to take in-person meetings, attend conferences or even go into the office. Submissions for the series can be sent to HowWeWorkNow@Billboard.com. Read the full series here.

This installment is with Michael Bizenov, president of royalty-financing firm Sound Royalties.

Michael Bizenov: I moved to Florida almost 21 months ago to become president of Sound Royalties, so our home is here in West Palm Beach. We still own our old house in New York, primarily due to the prep it takes to get a 98-year-old house ready for sale. My wife had to run back to New York in early March to take our dog for chemo. So she couldn't travel -- neither the wife nor the dog! My older daughter lives in her apartment in New York City, and my younger daughter lives in New Orleans, where she goes to school. They were all within two days of coming here when the world closed. We've all been apart since early March.

It's really funny; in many ways, being apart has made us closer. I can say that about my family and I can say that about my company. My family will put the computer at a seat at the table on FaceTime and we'll have an hour-and-a-half dinner together and I'll be eating in Florida and they'll be eating together.

I'm working in two different locations in the house. I have an office set up in what would've been a bedroom. In the main living area, I have a half-wall that I call my standing desk, and it looks out into the sunshine. At least I get to see the outside.

We have just under 50 people at Sound Royalties, most of whom work here in West Palm Beach, in an office. We have a call every morning: "What's going on? What are the issues? Let's talk about the customers that are in need." Every morning two different people do what we call a "share." They talk about something they've learned about working from home, or something that's making them feel uplifted or happy. Then we let them -- and in many cases, we have to force them -- to do a "brag."

In the beginning it was really cute, everybody bragged about their colleagues or their team. We were like, "We understand this is really hard, we want you to talk about yourself." Everybody has different challenges, from the parents who are doing home-schooling to a couple people who had family members who did get sick. They're all just working hard and doing such good work.

We made a $20 million pool of money available at no cost to music creatives. We hear the stories of what's happened to them, how they went from having contracts in place and building their life around their income streams -- and all of a sudden, they disappear. We've tried very hard to be there in terms of customers who need new money as well as those already in our books.

Because a lot of our customers are under stress, we want to make sure that we can be as responsive as possible. People need this cash as quickly as they can get it. We hired a few people virtually and trained them virtually. That was new.

The world is going to change. It depends where you are. If you have to take the subway in Manhattan and go into a skyscraper with an elevator and you're on the 30th floor, oh yeah, there's going to be evolutionary change there. I talk to my people and a lot of them are dying to come into the office because they miss the interaction, but a lot of them have talked about, "Well, maybe we can have a little bit of a balance."

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