What did you wake up thinking about this morning? What I think about mostly is how to make the SONGS experience the best it can be for our writers, employees and licensees. We are in a people business, not just an asset business. Our relationship is equity. A huge portion of my time and energy is focused on that.
What will define your career in the coming year? I tend to think in cycles rather than years. In this cycle — which is a growth cycle where we are signing higher — profile songwriters-what will define our company will be our ability to preserve our culture and service commitment to our writers. As the world accelerates around us and as our company’s velocity has increased, the key is to make smart music decisions and keep our heads down and focused. If we can do that, 2014 will be a threshold year for SONGS. 2013 was the kind of year where we signed songwriters like Diplo, Lorde and the Weeknd and had people saying, “Who is this publisher?”
Describe a lesson you’ve learned from a failure. The very first deal our company did in 2004 was a complete disaster. I remember saying to [colleague] Ron Perry, if this band is signing with us — we were a new company that hadn’t done anything yet — there must be something wrong. It turns out the band’s manager had taken a loan out from the record company, which would be paid off against the mechanicals. But since their songs weren’t being played on the radio, the only revenues that would be coming in were the mechanicals because they sold something like 50,000 records. Fortunately, we made our claim right away to the distributor, who was paying the royalties, so we got paid. The distributor got our claim and paid us before they got the memo to hold the mechanical royalties. I left it to the manager to explain to his client what he had done. The lesson we learned is if you are a publisher, you have to be on top of your claims. That is the nuts and bolts of your job. When you take over a song, get those claims out the door, stat. That’s your writer’s money.
Name a project that you’re not affiliated with that has most impressed you in the last year. Ariel Rechtshaid is an incredible writer and producer who has been making records with insane verity, depth and breadth for quite some time. He produced Haim and Vampire Weekend and is breaking big. He is a really good writer, and I think he will make his mark on music this year.
Who’s your most important mentor, and what did you learn? Mike Selverne, our longtime counsel, possesses daily wisdom to a degree unheard of in the music business. Roger Faxon has given me great advice and been very helpful to me in my career. He helped me get my first industry job. Ralph Peer is the person I turned to most for trade-wide issues. He has great experience and a young mind.
Name a desert island album. The Clash’s “London Calling” — it’s perfect. The only problem is there is no love songs on it except for “Lover’s Rock.” So my wife will have to be on the island too.