Richard Stumpf has been a man on a mission since arriving at Imagem with the mandate to lead the Dutch-owned company into the U.S. pop/rock marketplace.
As part of that mission, Stumpf, who serves as president of Imagem Music USA, has been working to ensure Imagem emerges as a midsize U.S. music publisher. It would fill the void created by BMG Rights Management, when it acquired Bug Music, Stage Three Music, Cherry Lane Music Publishing and Evergreen Copyrights, among others. Besides BMG, Round Hill Music has also made acquisitions while Spirit Music and Bicycle Music continue to buy artist catalogs.
"With all of the acquisitions and the [BMG] rollup, the upper-tier indie-music publishing space is almost virtually vacant," says Stumpf, who joined Imagem in September 2010 after BMG picked up his employer Cherry Lane. "All that consolidation leaves room for other indie music publishers to come up."
Imagem had already made inroads to establish itself in the United States before hiring Stumpf. In 2009, it acquired the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, which owns the grand rights to such musicals as "The Sound of Music," "Oklahoma!" and "South Pacific."
Founded in 2007 by Dutch pension fund ABP and music publisher CP Masters, Imagem began by acquiring classical music publisher Boosey & Hawkes, Zomba U.K., 19 Music and other catalogs. Between those acquisitions and the RHO deal, Imagem already had offices in New York.
But the hiring of Stumpf has allowed the company to build its pop and rock catalog on both sides of the Atlantic. In turn, he has put in place an A&R staff of three: West Coast A&R creative director John Pikus, A&R manager Amanda Schupf and creative coordinator Molly Seel. It has also augmented marketing staff to work on the company's pop/rock catalog including a team of six working synch opportunities.
So far, the U.S. staff has signed deals with Elvis Presley Enterprises and the Sammy Cahn estate, as well as current songwriters like John Shanks, Mick Mars and joint ventures with Swizz Beatz, Ludacris, Linda Perry's manager Katrina Sirdofsky and Cantora, the company that invests in indie-rock-sounding bands and startup technologies. The company's latest signing is Mark Ronson, who has produced and/or written songs with Amy Winehouse, Robbie Williams, Lily Allen, Adele, Christina Aguilera, Kaiser Chiefs, Bruno Mars and Daniel Merriweather.
The Ronson signing was done in conjunction with Kim Frankiewicz, who joined the Imagem U.K. office as managing director in February, after 15 years with Universal Music Publishing Group, where her most recent position was VP of international.
"Her being in the U.K. makes it easy for me to sign acts here because managers know her and are comfortable that she will take care of their artists' songs over there. Mark Ronson is a good example of us working together; we tag-teamed that deal." Stumpf says that since he joined Imagem, the company's U.S. revenue from pop rock has increased by 10 times, but he declines to provide exact figures.
On the other hand, the company has invested heavily in signing new writers, bringing onboard about 20 such writers, with those signings spanning most music genres.
Imagem also has plenty of developing artists and with that level of songwriter, the company has "set up tons of writer mixes." As far as marketing goes, the Imagem synch team has delivered a Droid Super Bowl ad, which used a Hesta Prynn song, and a Honda Super Bowl ad, which used a Wakey! Wakey! track. Imagem even managed to get the French Horn Rebellion a gig scoring an indie film, "Love Magical."
The Imagem pop/rock system has about six staffers. In all, the company employs about 70 people in the United States. Most fill back-office administration positions, while about 20 specialize in grand rights and another 20 work the Boosey & Hawkes catalog.
In addition, Imagem USA helps market songs of acts signed in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe like Genesis, Phil Collins, the Temper Trap and Steve Robson.
Finally, Stumpf says that often nowadays "the labels are doing less and less, while the publishers are being asked to take on a bigger role. A lot of times, I feel we are being asked to help manage the artist."••••