Front row (L-R): Zach Horowitz, Chairman & CEO, UMPG Worldwide; Billy Joel; Lance Freed, President of Rondor Music. Back row (L-R): Michael J. Sammis, EVP Operations and CFO Worldwide, UMPG; Don Ienner, Consultant; Todd Kamelhar, Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman; Lee Eastman, Esq., Eastman & Eastman; David Kokakis, SVP/Head of Business Affairs/Business Development, UMPG.
The Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) and its subsidiary Rondor Music International have landed a big one. The companies have signed Billy Joel to an exclusive worldwide publishing agreement.
Rondor and Universal will supplant EMI Music Publishing in foreign territories in handling Joel’s catalog. And for the first time since Joel regained control of his music publishing in the 1980s, the artist’s camp is using an outside administrator in the United States to manage his song portfolio.
“There are few songwriters in the history of music that have created a catalog of such hits, depth and quality,” UMPG chairman/CEO Zach Horowitz said in a statement. “With Rondor’s distinctive focus and care, and UMPG’s global scale, administrative infrastructure and network of worldwide sync specialists, we are uniquely positioned to maximize the extraordinary opportunities that exist for Billy’s music.”
The game plan going forward is simple: its synchronization with a capital “S.” That’s because in the past, Joel’s songs have hardly been used in TV, movies and commercials.
“Its amazing to me that there is nothing is happening with the catalog in films, TV and commercial,” Horowitz says.
But that is in fact the case, he adds. It turns out that in the past Joel’s music has found its way into synchronization uses when music supervisors initiated the opportunity, according to UMPG executives.
Could it be because Joel regards his music as too personal and precious to have it used in commercials and movies? Indeed, that was a concern that the UMPG executives initially had and when they canvassed music supervisors on that point, they found that found most of them were under that impression. But if that was the case in the past, it’s no longer an issue now, Horowitz says.
“Joel regards his songs as his children, and as they grew up he put them through school, college and got them their first job,” Horowitz says. Now, he feels it is time for his songs to go to work for him.”
In addition to generating revenue, Horowitz says he believes synchronization will play a larger role for Joel’s catalog. Joel released his last album, “River Of Dreams,” 19 years ago, and while his music remains a staple at radio, it’s rarely heard on Top 40 radio, where new generations could be exposed to it. Horowitz says this is one reason why synchronization opportunities are so important going forward.
Moreover, the songs within the catalog easily lend themselves to synchronization opportunities.
“His songs are melodic and memorable, and he writes conversationally in universal themes that are timeless and borderless,” Rondor president Lance Freed said in a statement. “Billy’s music is as important to his era as George Gershwin and Irving Berlin’s were to theirs.”
Standards written by Joel include “Just the Way You Are,” “Only the Good Die Young,” “Movin’ Out,” “Piano Man,” “New York State of Mind,” “You May Be Right,” “Pressure,” “Don’t Ask Me Why,” “She’s Always a Woman,” “My Life,” “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “Tell Her About It,” “Uptown Girl,” “The Longest Time,” “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
In order to make sure that music users get the message, Freed says the company plans to have two events — one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast. They will aim to bring in music supervisor, advertising executives and the heads of music production at film studios to re-introduce them to Joel and his music, and let them know “Billy’s music is here, great, and available.”