The financial health of the music industry is linked, in large measure, to the payment of performance royalties to songwriters, composers and publishers by the three performance rights organizations -- ASCAP, BMI and SESAC. The strength of those PROs, in turn, results from the dedication of many female executives and staff who contribute to the mission of these organizations, protecting copyrights and supporting the creative community. Once again this year, Billboard honors executives from the PROs who were nominated by their respective organizations and chosen for recognition here.
Lynne Lummel, Senior VP of distribution and repertory, ASCAP
Lynne Lummel ensures that ASCAP members get paid correctly, and on time, for the public performance of their musical works. Sounds simple? Let’s be precise. As senior VP of distribution and repertory, Lummel oversees the processing of 250 billion domestic performances and 128 million international performances each year for 480,000 songwriter, composer and publisher members, plus foreign affiliates, according to ASCAP. But some performances are easier to track than others. This past year, Lummel led efforts to improve ASCAP’s ability to detect musical works—mostly instrumental—on radio, TV and cable, even when voice-overs or sound effects are mixed with the music. The Production Music Assn. praised her “vision and leadership” for increasing identified performances by a remarkable 150%. Then in March, Lummel led ASCAP’s satellite radio survey expansion, resulting in 18,000 additional members getting paid and an additional 3 million performances processed. And on time? Always. Even when Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012, shutting down the ASCAP offices for five days. Her thoughts as the storm approached? “‘My goodness, we have distributions that need to go out. We have performances that need to be processed,’” she recalls. But not all of ASCAP’s initiatives in recent years have been technological. For six years, the company has been proactive in allowing employees to telecommute and work off-site, which proved foresightful, as staff worked out of their cars or coffee shops. Lummel says, “We hit our deadlines and we didn’t miss a beat. I do need to give credit to the ASCAP team, the people I work with and our technology partners. They are invaluable to ASCAP being successful.”
Catherine Brewton, VP of writer/publisher relations, BMI
Honored in this Women in Music report for directing BMI’s office in Atlanta and the PRO’s R&B/hip-hop department nationally, Catherine Brewton acknowledges that she came to BMI with “great shoulders to stand on.” Frances Preston was “one of the most incredible women in -music that I’ve encountered,” Brewton says, paying tribute to the late BMI president/CEO who led the organization from 1986 to 2004 and died last year. “She embraced rhythm and soul at a time when some of our other competitors didn’t.” Under Brewton, who was hired by current BMI president Del Bryant as VP of writer/publisher relations, BMI was ready as Atlanta emerged in the ’90s as a creative center. “It was one writer, one producer, one artist at a time,” she says of building BMI’s strength in the R&B/hip-hop community. While based in Atlanta, Brewton works with BMI colleagues in New York, Los Angeles, Nashville and London to bring top songwriters to the PRO. She has anchored BMI’s relationship with DJ Khaled, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne, and facilitated recent key signings including Future, Austin Mahone and Nicki Minaj. But undeniably a highlight of the year for Brewton was her role as executive producer of “BMI Trailblazers of Gospel Music Live 2013,” released in partnership with eOne Music. A recording of the Trailblazers event in January, honoring gospel pioneers Edwin Hawkins, Lady Tramaine Hawkins and Kurt Carr, the CD hit the top 10 on Billboard’s Gospel Albums chart and is the first for a PRO. “For me, I’ve found the greatest joy in pushing the envelope and looking at how can we do better,” Brewton says. “This has been a great journey, and I’m excited about what’s ahead of us.” Preston would be proud.
Ellen Bligh Truley, VP of corporate relations, SESAC
SESAC songwriters and publishers during the past 12 months witnessed something ground-breaking in the realm of radio performance royalties: payments coming every month. The news that SESAC has moved to monthly radio performance royalty distributions—the only PRO in the world to do so—was announced Oct. 28, 2012, by president/CEO Pat Collins at the SESAC Nashville Awards. That initiative made the past 12 months “a pivotal year for us. It was huge,” says VP of corporate relations Ellen Truley, who was responsible for getting the word out on the change—“launching it, marketing it, promoting it. We used social media as our big punch to get the word out and the response we got was overwhelming.” Communicating that change was but one task in the past year for Truley, who is responsible for an array of global marketing, publicity, event production and digital initiatives for SESAC. She is executive producer for all of the PRO’s award shows, and oversees all aspects of the creation, development and execution of more than 250 SESAC-supported events. “What makes it enjoyable for me is working with a diverse level of artists as well as genres, everyone from icons like Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond to these fast-rising groups like Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers,” she says. For major SESAC events, she greenlit the booking of such member talent as Usher, Kenny Chesney, Michelle Williams, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Russell Simmons and Ronnie Dunn. In the foreseeable future, SESAC expects to expand this past year’s major initiative to offer monthly distributions of royalties from other performance platforms beyond radio. Truley says, “It’s exciting to work at a company that’s forward-thinking and always looking into the future.”